Renting without a signed lease. Can I still move out?
November 5, 2008 11:44 PM   Subscribe

I have been renting a room in a house for 2 months, but did not receive the lease until a few days ago, and want to know what my rights are. The situation is complicated, see extended explanation.

I came to California for a couple days to find housing in the summer, and needed to leave with a place to leave.I found a house with two people living in it, and 2 more were going to move in eventually. It seemed like I was not interacting at all with the landlord, and the roommates were looking for someone to move in, but I wasn't completely sure. I gave rent and a deposit to one of the roommates to hold my spot, but never signed a lease.

When I moved in a month passed before I met the actual landlord who came for me to sign the lease. I asked for a copy and it took a couple weeks for him to deliver it.

Now I have found out it is a year-long lease, and was expecting month-to-month. I never talked specifics with the landlord. What are my rights?
posted by noahdubya to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you signed a year-long lease, you signed a year-long lease.

You've committed to a legally binding contract.

Depending on your locale, or the wording of the lease itself you may have ways out of it. If your landlord is an individual owner, rather than some corporate or real estate entity, he may not care if you break the lease as long as give notice. Most rental agreements allow for the possibility of subletting - bringing someone in to assume the remainder of the lease term... that always seems to be an option for most places.

That said, your question is fairly confusing. What's all this about other people moving in? Why did it take so long for the landlord to show up? Is the lease you signed different from the copy the landlord produced? Does the landlord have your deposit?

You haven't provided a lot of clear details here, but I don't think any of it changes the fact that you signed a year-long lease...
posted by wfrgms at 12:30 AM on November 6, 2008

wfrgms, it's not clear that he actually did sign a lease.

noahdubya, did you sign the lease and not realize until later (when you received your copy) that you'd signed a year-long lease? Or have you not signed yet?
posted by hattifattener at 1:05 AM on November 6, 2008

If you haven't signed the lease then you either try to negotiate a month by month with the landlord or move out. If you've signed the lease already check to see what it says about breaking the lease early.
posted by missmagenta at 2:47 AM on November 6, 2008

For information: the title of this question is 'Renting without a signed lease. Can I move out?'

The answer is yes, if you have not signed a lease you can move out.
posted by jacalata at 5:01 AM on November 6, 2008

missmagenta gives good advice - negotiate. If the landlord won't budge on the length of the lease, and you're comfortable with the idea of it, you could ask that the lease allow assignment or subletting.

In the interim, check with your local landlord-tenant association or any state resources to see what rights and responsibilities you and your landlord have in situations where you haven't signed a lease. It's not a free-for-all; if there's no written lease, state law fills in the blanks for you. You are leasing the place - you have paid rent and received lodging. Don't assume you can leave without notice and that the landlord won't have any recourse. Check into it.

By the by, if you do successfully negotiate the terms you want, you'd do well to make sure they're *in* the lease, and not an agreement you came to orally or over email. Leases often (actually, every lease I have ever read, on my own behalf or for friends) include an integration clause, which states something along the lines that the lease is the complete and final statement of the agreement. If what you agreed to isn't in the lease, it doesn't count when the chips are down.
posted by averyoldworld at 6:17 AM on November 6, 2008

if you have not signed a lease you can move out.

In most places - maybe everywhere - you have to give notice even if you're on a month-by-month, no lease arrangement. Generally that can be 30-days or so.

In short, the OP sounds like he is at a loss for details and he should probably talk to his landlord ASAP.
posted by wfrgms at 1:11 PM on November 6, 2008

What is your specific question? If you want to move out and haven't signed anything, you're fine, though you'd probably want to give a month's notice for legal reasons and just simply to avoid a dick move. If you have signed the lease, you can probably get out of it if you find someone to replace you.

I was in a situation years ago in which I moved into an apartment, signed a one-year lease, and after two months had the opportunity to move in with a friend at a different place at half the price. I talked to the landlord if he would let me out of the lease and he said no, which was his legal right; I was legally obligated to pay another 10 months of rent. So I advertised the apartment with flyers all over my neighborhood and was rather lucky that a woman called, interested in the apartment. I went back to the landlord and explained that I wanted out, she wanted in, and he had no problem with that. I moved out, problem solved.
posted by zardoz at 4:58 PM on November 6, 2008

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