Moving into an apartment with no lease?
May 3, 2010 10:07 PM   Subscribe

Please offer advice regarding a bizarre rental situation--my prospective landlord wants me to sign as a cosigner rather than signing a lease.

Here's the situation. There are five of us--all grad students--who were looking to move into a house. The landlord required that we all get cosigners, which I thought was weird given my age and good rental history. But we dutifully all got our parents to serve as cosigners.

Three of the guys had already signed a lease, so I thought it was just a matter of time until I saw one. The landlord has now requested that the two of us who remain sign as cosigners on the lease, instead of as tenants. (He says "there isn't enough space on the lease.")

This strikes me as solely in my worst interests. I would have none of the legal protections of a tenant, but all of the obligations. Furthermore, the cosigner agreement clearly states that there is no term to the agreement; as long as the *tenants* (i.e. not the two of us who are cosigners) live there, all of the cosigners remain guarantors for the lease. This means I could move out and still be legally liable for a place I wasn't living in. Finally, I believe I would be living there illegally, which could pose problems from both tax and visa perspectives. (I am not an American citizen.)

So MetaFilter, what should I do? I'm actually wondering what could possibly be the motivation for this move. Is it that the house has some legal capacity that the landlord is not able to exceed?
posted by dubitoergosum to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Tell the landlord to draw up a lease with room for five people.

Or, actually: Run, don't walk, away. Someone who would pull this kind of move is not the kind of person you want to be renting from. You haven't signed anything yet- go rent from someone else.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:15 PM on May 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

Have you explicitly told your landlord that this arrangement doesn't work for you? Does he still insist that you follow through with it?
posted by halogen at 10:16 PM on May 3, 2010

i would guess that he only has permits and what have you to rent to 3 people. he's trying to circumvent the law by putting you as co-signers.

if things seem sketchy in your living situation and you haven't signed anything, count your blessings and get the fuck out. other wise you'll be back here within 3 months with a story that starts "when we moved in things we weird, but i over looked it. sense them insane things A, B, and C have gone on."

especially with your non-citizen status, pay a little more, take a less good place, and find somewhere on the up and up.
posted by nadawi at 10:18 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Where do you live?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:20 PM on May 3, 2010

There may be a local zoning ordinance that limits the number of unrelated people who can live together in a dwelling. It may be that the landlord is asking you to sign as a co-signer as a way to get around this- otherwise it doesn't make sense.

If that is the case, though, that ought to be pretty easy to find out. Your university probably has some kind of a housing office that can answer that question for you, and may be able to point you to a law clinic that can give information specific to your jurisdiction. Without knowing where you are, it is hard to give a more specific answer.

Regardless of jurisdiction, I think that your instincts are good- the lease is for your protection, and you want to be on it.
posted by ambrosia at 10:20 PM on May 3, 2010

This landlord does not sound like a good person to rent from. These are exactly the type of warning bells I wish I had listened to before I rented from my crazy stalker landlord. Run away!
posted by Violet Hour at 3:52 AM on May 4, 2010

Tell him he puts you on as tenants or you don't sign. I would start looking for alternate living arrangements anyway. That is shady.
posted by ishotjr at 6:54 AM on May 4, 2010

Also, this kind of doesn't make sense. There should be one lease that is printed out that should have everyone's names on it that everyone signs. How can he have had only some of you sign the lease so far? That's bad news, don't rent from this guy. I hope your other roommates can break the lease they've already signed.
posted by ishotjr at 6:56 AM on May 4, 2010

If you're really in a bind, demand a new lease with room for all of you. If you can, get another place to stay. This sounds like a huge red flag. But don't sign on for what the landlord is currently proposing; it's a huge mess waiting to happen.
posted by asciident at 8:20 AM on May 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I'm going ask him about getting a lease with five tenants, but I find this whole situation fishy enough that I'm not sure I'd proceed anyway. If I do walk away, I will encourage the other guys to try to break the lease, because I don't know how you advertise on craigslist for illegal tenants who can't sublet.

Internet fraud -- I live in Massachusetts, in case that matters.
posted by dubitoergosum at 8:28 AM on May 4, 2010

I rented as a college student in Worcester, MA, and indeed, only three names were required on a lease, so that's how many of us (five friends in a group) ever *needed* to sign when we rented a big apartment together. But the landlords never had a problem when more than that *wanted* to sign. Now there is a law that prohibits more than three unrelated people living together in Worcester, as others have alluded to above. THat's what it sounds like is happening to you. A simple google search can answer whether this is true where you are.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:18 PM on May 4, 2010

« Older How do I become a better writing tutor/coach for...   |   How can we get California citrus back in New York? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.