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Help! Questions About First Time Rental

JustStartingOutJustStartingOut Posts: 2Registered User New Member
edited November 2012 in Parent Cafe
Hello Parents. I graduated from college in May and moved to California for my first job.

Here's my problem in a nutshell. I moved into a house with other young adults who had dealt with the owner and rental agency. They signed the lease, we all moved in September 1, but I was never given a lease to sign, (although I do have an email that states rent and security deposit amounts). My security deposit and three rental checks have been paid on time and have been cashed. Now the landlord and rental agency say there is no lease, claiming the landlord never signed it and now they refuse to provide a copy of what roommates signed. Landlord wants a new lease with increased rent.

We realize the roommates should have been more proactive re: lease. But, since 3 rent checks have been cashed, there is an email that states amounts, and they neither returned nor disputed the lease within 15 days, we feel that we should not be forced to pay higher rent.

Each time we have tried to talk to the owner or rental agency, they have literally yelled at us, calling us dishonest, manipulative, etc. We would like to stay in the house, pay the rent we agreed to, and leave after the one year is up.

Can we be evicted? How can we proceed if they claim they do not have a copy of what the roommates signed? Would the Housing Authority be able to help us, or would we have to consult a lawyer?

We aren't really sure what to do... It's very upsetting! Obviously, it has been a great lesson for what not to do next time. Any advice, guidance?
Post edited by JustStartingOut on

Replies to: Help! Questions About First Time Rental

  • sseamomsseamom Posts: 2,129Registered User Senior Member
    I urge you to read the thread about rentals elsewhere in this forum and get professional advice-the housing authority might be a good start. Reading the other thread which focuses on landlords will give you an idea of what you're dealing with. Good luck!
  • busdriver11busdriver11 Posts: 7,878Registered User Senior Member
    Wait a minute. Don't your roommates have a copy of the lease that they signed? And it should be signed by the lessor also. If they have a copy of their lease, with the lessor's signature, how can that not be enforceable? I can see how you might have some sort of issue, but how can they raise the rent on your roommates with a signed lease?

    Seems like if there is no valid lease involved (I'd keep any written emails or records of what they are saying), that you could just decide to leave....with no notice. Maybe even not pay rent for a bit. In a situation like this, I don't think I'd want to stay with landlords like that. There is something screwy going on here, and I would be outta there as quick as I could. Very lengthy process to evict people, and they'd have to go to small claims court to collect anything.
  • JustStartingOutJustStartingOut Posts: 2Registered User New Member
    No, they didn't get a copy of the lease they signed! (I just found this out.) I never got a lease to sign. There was a lot of confusion re: moving in -- a lot of renovations needed to be done since the last tenants left the place a mess. The verbal understanding was that the house would rent for a set amount, with each roommate paying a certain amount. The roommates who did sign *thought* they were assuming responsibility for the entire rental amount and would find 2 more renters they would be compatible with to live in the other rooms.

    Yes, we now know how unwise it was to enter into such a hazy situation (young, trusting, and dumb!). Still yet, we paid a lot of money to move, have just gotten settled -- and it seems overwhelming to try to find another affordable place, get U-Hauls again, re-do utilities, etc! We'd like to stay, if possible, for the full year.

    Can a landlord and rental agency just decide to wait 3 months and THEN tell tenants they didn't accept the lease terms they initially offered? The rental agency says there is no lease since the landlord didn't sign on -- but, we've been here 3 months already!
    Again, we have paid our rent on time and our checks have been cashed.
  • bookwormbookworm Posts: 4,872Registered User Senior Member
    I think Legal Aid has attorneys that specialize in renting apartments (at least they do in my county). Call them.
  • 50ishwoman50ishwoman Posts: 74Registered User Junior Member
    Check with your local free legal advice center. The closest University probably has one, or the city does. You'll not have to pay for this legal advice then. My advice is to look for another place to live since it sounds like your landlords aren't going to be doing you any favors. I live in a large university town, and there are a lot of unsavory landlords who will take advantage of students who don't know the ropes. Yes, you guys made mistakes moving in, but I'm sure you've learned from that. I personally would find a better place to live, as I wouldn't trust the landlords for the next 10 months or so. Since there is no written lease (the landlords seem to say) I believe you are on a month by month lease by default. Therefore, they can kick you out or you can leave with one month's notice. I personally wouldn't trust them anymore, and consider this mistake as learning in the school of hard knocks.
  • GladGradDadGladGradDad Posts: 2,794Registered User Senior Member
    Are you sure you want to have to deal with this apparently dishonest and disreputable landlord for the remainder of the 1 year lease and maybe beyond? I use the term 'lease' loosely since there are no signed copies available. How do you know the roomies even executed the paperwork properly to begin with? I think you should seriously consider finding another place to stay that has a professional and decent landlord and pay close attention to the lease this time, including reading all of it, understanding it, and retaining copies of the signed document. It'll be a hassle finding another place and moving but potentially less hassle than staying where you are.

    If you want to fight the LL on this you might want to do a search for something like 'renter legal assistance' and see what results. There may be free resources in your area. Keep in mind that even if it goes your way the LL might make things unpleasant for you if of that mindset (toilet break? they'll get around to fixing it in a week or two. ditto with any other maintenance item).
  • dadx3dadx3 Posts: 1,502Registered User Senior Member
    If the landlord never signed the lease you do not have a lease. You have instead been what is effectively a month-to-month rental, where either party can change the terms (raise the rent) or terminate the rental, probably with 30 days notice. The fact that the landlord / rental agency has been cashing your check probably has no bearing on whether or not you have a valid lease - you would have to have a copy of the lease signed by both parties to show that there actually is a lease in effect.

    You need to figure out if the higher rent the landloard now wants is still a fair amount for the rental, or is it more than the market or more than you guys can pay? Understand that if you all sign a new lease you'll be dealing with the landlord / rental agency for the duration of the lease.
  • acollegestudentacollegestudent Posts: 1,025Registered User Senior Member
    I will say this, a month-to-month has its advanatages. When I decided to stay in my apartment longer than one year (I never got a copy of the original lease - I know better now), the landlord never sent me a lease to sign, and I prefer it that way. I like having the freedom to be able to move out whenever I want to. Now, my landlord has never raised the rent on me so far. Also, it's an old building that's not maintained all that well, so I think how he treats the leases reflects in how he treats the building.

    My point is, if you like the apartment and the price and the freedom of month-to-month, go with it. Just remember, the landlord is not locked into anything either, and he does sound dishonest. You can also try to negotiate the new rent. I have successfully gotten lower prices on rent before starting a new lease.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Posts: 11,545Registered User Senior Member
    dadx3 is correct. If there is no lease it is a month to month rental situation. i'm not sure what you would have expected the landlord to 'dispute'...you are the ones disputing. I would definitely call your local housing authority and find out what rights you do have but ultimately it sounds like you will either need to find another place or negotiate a lease at some term that is agreeable to the property management company. Some housing offices will offer mediation which my be an alternative, but go in with your eyes open as the outcome could be you sign the lease at the higher amount or you move out. The fact that they have cashed your checks is probably not relevant in the absence of a lease. All that supports is that you rented the place word of mouth that month and the landlord by cashing the check tacitly agree to the amount you paid. If you want to stay you might do the research for a negotiating position on what the value of your rental is in that neighborhood at your square feet, bedrooms, condition of unit, etc. Your landlord could post an eviction notice, but understand your rights regarding that before he does this. As tenants you might want to look at the costs involved with leaving...if you are going to forfeit deposits for utilities, internet, etc. or have new deposits at a new address you might weight those costs against the rental upcharge the landlord is asking for. If it gets ugly you won't be able to use them as a landlord reference.

    Acollegestudent..the landlord might not be willing to continue the month to month...that might not be an option. There are pros and cons to month to month for a landlord AND a tenant. We do them sometimes but generally it's with a desirable tenant who is looking for a short term situation and it's all pretty upfront -- we have an equal number of tenants who sign a lease and move out in the dead of the night during the term of the lease.
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