Is a verbal agreement in a lease/renting situation valid?
July 25, 2013 8:54 AM   Subscribe

If I sign a lease for 12 months but a verbal agreement was made that I could hold it for 10 months and at that point be released, ie. the landlord said that I could leave after 10 months without any contractual obligation - is this valid? What if at the time of my duration, he says no? .. I'm a student renting from a Landlord and the written contract is for 12 months. But per our conversation and e-mail it is ok with 10 months and once I found out more information about my summer, I may go with the 2 additional months. Just can't find a place that will rent for just the 10 month school year.
posted by proficiency101 to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Having email proof may help, but you really want to have it in the lease that you sign. If he says it's too much work to change the standard lease contract, offer to do it yourself.
posted by Etrigan at 8:58 AM on July 25, 2013

Yeah, asking about the enforcability of an oral lease is very much asking for legal advice. The short answer that is applicable regardless of the jurisdiction is Etrigan's -- it's very much a good idea to add this to your written lease.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:01 AM on July 25, 2013

Check for an "entire agreement" clause in the lease. That is a clause that says that everything pertaining to your agreement is in the lease and no other negotiations have any legal effect whether written or oral. If you want the option to get out at 10 months, you probably should amend the lease.
posted by payoto at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2013

All I can say is that the one and only time I had an oral lease (the term was for the school year) it ended up in court over an issue that was not contemplated by either side beforehand. Although we won (the school year ended at graduation not the end of classes) it was a Pyrrhic victory. So not worth the hassle. Assume if it is not in writing and it is really to your benefit that it will not be enforceable.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:09 AM on July 25, 2013

Response by poster: I think that is a good idea to ask if I can change the lease to 10 months. Should I ask via e-mail or via phone?
posted by proficiency101 at 9:10 AM on July 25, 2013

What you want to do now is put it in writing and get an option for the ten months.

Yes, this is the proper approach.

The problem here is that some landlords are reasonable but too lazy to change their lease template even if they're willing to terminate the lease early, and some landlords will promise to let you out of a lease early but then once the longer period is in writing will try to fuck you and hold you to the full term.

If the landlord is a reasonable person they will work with you on this minor item that takes no money and minimal time to complete.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:20 AM on July 25, 2013

I work in an area that has a lot of verbal contracts that may or may not be followed though on. If I have a verbal conversation (which is often a stronger negotiating position) I IMMEDIATELY follow it up with a friendly email: "Dear Sanjay, great talking to you today. I am glad we have agreed to amend the lease from twelve months to the mutually agreeable ten months beginning on noon, Sept 1 and ending at midnight, July 31st. The apartment looks great and I am looking forward to making it my home. If you have any need to reach me, my contact info remains..." If I have had previous dealings over email with them I tend to make it part of the same thread so there is proof it was a valid email address that they had responded from before. If I can think of an innocuous clarification "can I get the keys at noon from your home or at the apartment" that forces them to respond, all the better.
posted by saucysault at 9:27 AM on July 25, 2013

Nope. You can't orally amend a written contract. Have a written addendum and have him sign it, if he's sincere, he shouldn't balk, if he does, he didn't plan to honor his agreement anyway.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:45 AM on July 25, 2013

Get a written lease.

I once had a verbal agreement with a landlord in Charlotte that allowed me to leave all of my things in the living room of the apartment I was moving into in May, so that I could fly across the country to work in Seattle until August, and then move my things into the vacant room. This agreement also let me sleep on the couch in the living room for the two weeks in advance of my departure flight. Unsurprisingly, after a few days, the tenants of this apartment weren't into me sleeping on their couch, and wanted to kick me out. The landlord took their side, and I had no leverage. Seriously, I got a phone call one morning that was like "you need to get your things out of this apartment by tomorrow afternoon," and that was it. I stayed with some friends that lived in the same apartment complex who leased to a different owner, and I ended up moving in with those friends. It worked out, but I would have been really fucked over if this decision to break the terms of our verbal agreement had been made while I was 3000 miles away. I would have been fucked over if I didn't have friends living in the same apartment complex. I would have been fucked over because I trusted someone with a verbal agreement instead of a written agreement.
This was my first experience with the "real world" moving out of the dorms in college.

Lesson learned:

Get it in writing, or you've got nothing at all.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:16 AM on July 25, 2013

In some areas verbal agreements like this are actually banned by landlord tenant laws that were put in place to give people defense against shiesty landlords who would constantly try and pull shit like this.

Google "landlord tenant law $city" AND THEN "landlord tenant law $state" to get an idea.

But really, don't do this kind of thing ever. It's slumlord 101 and I'd be suspicious of any landlord who tried it. It might be helpful to you, but all they want is to get you out and a new tenant in early so they can jack the rent up to match market changes and maximize profit.

Be wary of any landlord who tries to get you out of, or "lets you out early!" On a lease. They have ulterior motives. Some of which might just be "being a business owner" type stuff, some are scummy.

Normal, decent landlords don't allow this kind of stuff. It could open up trouble for them since you have a written contract saying you can stay if you change your mind after saying you'd move out, even at the absolute last minute. I'm just warning you, no not-sketch landlord would probably agree to this.
posted by emptythought at 11:43 AM on July 25, 2013

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