Is an email binding?
March 23, 2011 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Can someone renew their lease via email? In California.

I've been living at a house for almost 3 years. I signed a lease for the first year, but haven't signed since then. I knew this was always an unconventional arrangement. I assumed I could move out whenever without being liable, however, he says that I am bound by an email I sent agreeing to another lease. Is this possible?
posted by garuda to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The terms of the lease may determine this. I've only signed a lease once, but it explicitly states that it automatically renews unless I or my landlord informs the other party otherwise within a specific timeframe. You explicitly renewed; the usual "check with a lawyer" caveat applies, but if you want a non-lawyer's answer: yes, an email can absolutely be binding.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:34 AM on March 23, 2011

What does your original lease say about what happens when that lease runs out? Some leases say that they renew automatically, while some say that they become month-to-month.

What did your email to him say? Were you like "I, garuda, hereby renew my lease with Landlord as of such-and-such date"? Or were you like, "Hey, I haven't received a lease renewal yet, could please mail it to me because I do intend to renew"?
posted by thebazilist at 11:37 AM on March 23, 2011

Response by poster: There is nothing in the lease with regards to renewal. The only official lease I signed was through september 2009.

The email went as follows:
My answer is that I would like to stay here for another academic year, if it isn't too late.

To which he replied:

Delighted to hear. You may indeed. I’m confirm with a written extension shortly.

I never heard back from him after that wrt this.
posted by garuda at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2011

IANAL but I don't think that's going to stand up in court. I've been sued by a scummy landlord in the past (for something unrelated) and beat him in small claims without a lawyer. Don't get intimidated.

I did find this in here:

If the rental agreement is oral, the landlord or the landlord's agent must give the tenant, within 15 days, a written statement containing the information in the foregoing three bullet points [as in the rental agreement]. The tenant may request a copy of this written statement each year thereafter.
posted by MillMan at 12:12 PM on March 23, 2011

All my leases in CA have transferred automatically to a month to month lease after the first year (so your situation doesn't actually seem unconventional).

That email doesn't seem to be a contract it seems to be an indication of a desire to start a new contract there are no terms discussed. But IANAL.

Find your local tenants right org, talk to them.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:15 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You also appear to have stated interest in "an academic year" which might not be a calendar year. I'd contact a lawyer familiar with landlord-tenant law to review your circumstances and your original lease agreement which might have language specifying how renewals are supposed to be done. Because of the way you wrote the email, and because his response seems to indicate some further action was supposed to occur, it's not clear that this is an agreement. A decent lawyer should be able to demonstrate enough ambiguity in these facts to negotiate reasonable terms for a walk-away.
posted by Hylas at 12:38 PM on March 23, 2011

"My answer is that I would like to stay here for another academic year, if it isn't too late.?"

If this is what you said, and nothing more, then regardless of what CA law considers signing a lease, you didn't sign a lease or even suggest you had intent to sign a lease, you asked a question.

Regarding the technicality of the lease itself - I can only speak about NY, but in housing court here, without a signed lease with your signature and the landlords, there is no lease.
posted by jardinier at 12:49 PM on March 23, 2011

I can only supply an anecdote: I've been in my house for 10 years. After year two, the landlord asked if I wanted to stay. I said yes, and she said she'd work on getting the renewal to me. (She lived 100 miles away and was going to mail it.) She never did mail it, and I never did follow up.

Despite the fact that we communicated by email about renewing, the fact that a new lease was never signed basically meant that my lease reverted to month-to-month.

It didn't matter at the time, but I got screwed in the end. About 7 years later, she decided that I would be responsible for the entirety of the city services bill. (She had always paid everything but the water consumption.) Because I had no lease in place, but was technically month to month, there was nothing I could do about it.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:04 PM on March 23, 2011


If you feel like it, and something comes in the mail for you to consider - worry about it then.

But by law, you are now month to month indefinitely or until you give notice.

Read the pertinent tenant reg on the CA.GOV website!
posted by jbenben at 8:09 PM on March 23, 2011

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