Renter's remorse.
June 23, 2012 11:28 PM   Subscribe

I just signed something a few hours ago to rent a room, and already, I'm regretting it. Is there any kind of "buyer's remorse" grace period in the state of California? I haven't given them the first month's rent or security deposit, yet.

Today, I had to make a decision regarding a room I was interested in renting. I'm kind of terrified now. The reasons as to why aren't really important -- I'll just say I've found I dislike the atmosphere. I have a tendency to make stupid decisions when I get really nervous, and I think I just made one.

It's a month to month agreement, so after a month, I can leave, but the other room I was going to rent was with a friend and he won't be able to hold the room for me as he needs rent on the fifteenth of every month, and I won't have the money to give him any rent by the fifteenth so he can hold it for me until I'm free in August.

My question is, is there any kind of "buyer's remorse" grace period in California that will allow me to back out of a room rental agreement, or am I screwed? I haven't given them the deposit or the first month's rent, yet, though, we scheduled it for tomorrow night.

Did I just make a somewhat expensive mistake I'll have to live with? Is this a painful learning experience? I feel like a damn fool.
posted by Redfield to Law & Government (9 answers total)
why don't you just call them and tell them? you are getting really worked up, it'll be ok.
posted by facetious at 11:44 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing is you don't know for sure what you are until you talk to the people you just signed the rental agreement with. Call them right away tomorrow (after 10am) and ask if you can reconsider.

In the mean time before morning, I have a pdf for you to read: CA Tenants Guide to Residential tenants’ And Landlords’ Rights And Responsibilities.
posted by carsonb at 11:48 PM on June 23, 2012

I don't know of any remorse period on a rental contract in California (or in any other state). That doesn't mean one doesn't exist, just that I haven't heard of one. In short, yes, you are obligated to legal documents you sign. You should read what you signed and determine if there is a provision allowing cancellation prior to providing a deposit. I doubt there is, but it's good to know what you just signed.

You could break the lease early and your landlord would have to make a good faith effort to rent the unit. However, you would be liable for rent up until the time the landlord rents the unit. This process would likely not endear you upon the landlord.

Like facetious said, the best avenue here is likely just to be to call the landlord and work this out with him. Consider preemptively offering a token amount of money (say a week's rent) to cancel the agreement. Forcing the issue on the landlord by breaking the lease will not go well; landlords do not like uncooperative tenants.
posted by saeculorum at 11:51 PM on June 23, 2012

I think it depends on what you have signed, and, this sort of sounds like a sublet situation, not a landlord agreement, which tend to be more informal. IANAL or a tenant's rights expert, but until you actually give them the money, it's quite likely you're free to bail. Maybe you would need to pay an initial deposit (not a whole months rent, but a couple of hundred bucks), but I would be somewhat surprised if that's the case. I think saeculorum's suggestion to offer a week's rent as compensation for the inconvenience of cancelling is a good one, but before doing that, explain you have changed your mind and ask what backing out entails. If you meet resistance, offer the week's rent. You may lose a little money, but I think you can change your mind. If it comes down to this & you can afford it, paying double rent for a month and never actually moving into this first place might be worth securing the better living situation, but don't offer this unless you are pressed or find yourself backed into a legal corner.
posted by katemcd at 12:23 AM on June 24, 2012

You have not given them any money yet. I was a landlord on CA. You are fine to tell them you changed your mind.

Legally speaking, money seals the deal. No money, no deal. It's that simple.

Get it?
posted by jbenben at 1:09 AM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

From the perspective of the landlord, the cost of trying to collect the one month rent is not likely worth it. They would likely be reasonable if you approach them trying to back out. Explain that a place with a friend just came up and that you regret it but you have to back out of the agreement. I wouldn't frame it as a request but still be apologetic.
posted by jamincan at 5:51 AM on June 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

[IANALawyer or Landlord and I don't live in CA, but I have experience with this in other states.] Start with them, seriously. Almost any contract can be broken if both parties agree. I wouldn't start worrying unless you actually get a negative response.
posted by sm1tten at 9:58 AM on June 24, 2012

Best answer: There's the legal obligation, the moral obligation and common sense. First, read the agreement. You signed the agreement, and they might be able to enforce it in a court, but it's not worth their time & trouble, so that's not generally an issue with roomies. If they turned away other potential tenants because you had a deal, then you have some moral obligation to compensate them for time & trouble. Most likely, they will not want a roommate who doesn't want them, so you call, you talk to them, and everybody agrees to back out of the agreement. If they have been put to a *lot* of time and trouble, or lost rent, you agree to give them some compensation. Maybe 50 bucks if the rent was 100/week, or you agree to use your mad skills to fix somebody's bike, or whatever.

Any time you are going to sign something, read it. A roommate agreement should be written to be easily understood. It's really good practice for when you have to sign something more complicated. Negotiating out of it is also good practice.
posted by theora55 at 1:20 PM on June 24, 2012

Response by poster: All right, thanks, everyone.

I'll try to talk to them and hope they'll be understanding.
posted by Redfield at 3:29 PM on June 24, 2012

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