You can rent it. Actually, we rented to someone else, sorry!
July 29, 2007 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Does my friend have any recourse in a situation where he was told he could rent a place, attempted to discuss the rental with the landlord over a period of two weeks to no avail, and then was told the place was rented to someone else?

A friend of mine was going to move into a place but had some reservations he wanted to discuss with the landlord. The original landlord (Landlord A) was in the process of selling the place. So my friend first thought he was dealing with Landlord B, but then that deal fell through and another buyer emerged (let's call him Landlord C).

Landlord C said to my friend "Hey, I think I'm buying that place. Are you still interested? You could move in August 1st if you want."

My friend said "wow, that's news. I didn't know that this change had taken place. Yeah, I'm still interested but there are things I'd like to see fixed. When can we discuss it?"

Landlord C then goes out of town and doesn't return a few more email inquiries about the status. Then on July 21st, Landlord C gets back in town and says to my friend "I'm back in town, ready to discuss the rental." My friend then makes several attempts to contact Landlord C, all to no avail.

Finally, today, Landlord C says "sorry, we rented it to someone else. I thought you weren't interested."

Is there anything my friend can do in this situation to force Landlord C to rent to him instead?
posted by Hat Maui to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oral Contract
posted by koeselitz at 2:51 PM on July 29, 2007


If there was nothing on paper and no formal agreement except a "we'll discuss it when I get back," Landlord C is under absolutely no obligation to rent to your friend.

posted by disillusioned at 2:52 PM on July 29, 2007

Probably not, unless he can show that Landlord C was discriminating against him (race, sex, etc.). It seems like just a (mis)communication problem - is your friend sure he'd want a landlord who can't keep track of emails/phonecalls?
posted by rtha at 2:54 PM on July 29, 2007

Is there anything my friend can do in this situation to force Landlord C to rent to him instead?

Probably not. Even if he could, it would be a bad idea.
posted by almostmanda at 2:55 PM on July 29, 2007

And the Arizona Tenant/Landlord Law says that an oral contract is as good as a written contract if the lease is less than 12 months. But is there any way that what 'Landlord C' told your friend could be construed as a lease? I don't know.
posted by koeselitz at 2:55 PM on July 29, 2007

However, this is clearly not a simple case. At the very least, in almost every kind of business transaction, oral contracts are as binding as written contracts.
posted by koeselitz at 2:57 PM on July 29, 2007

Annoying, but probably not much legal recourse. It's not clear that your friend had any kind of oral contract with landlord c-- if your friend had found an apartment in the last few days with someone else, could the landlord have sued him for breach of contract?

I think this is why rentals typically have signed rental agreements along with deposits, because both parties want to keep their options open until a firm agreement is reached.
posted by justkevin at 2:59 PM on July 29, 2007

I should say: the reasoning behind this is that, when someone says "the apartment is available to you," or "sure, you can have cats," or "oh, well, you can pay the rent whenever you want," and then goes back on their word because it "wasn't in writing," they are quite obviously breaking a very real contract. This is not only bad business; it's just as bad as breaking written word. Writing doesn't have some magical property for making things true.
posted by koeselitz at 3:02 PM on July 29, 2007

"Yeah, I'm still interested but there are things I'd like to see fixed" clearly indicative that there is no contract yet and you're still in the negotiation stage.
posted by smackfu at 3:15 PM on July 29, 2007

Agree with smackfu. There are no terms agreed to, and therefore nothing to enforce, oral or otherwise. If your friend thinks that the reason the landlord didn't get back to him is because of race or religion or nationality or something like that, then there's a fuss to be had, but without clear evidence of animus, best to chalk it up to a miscommunication and move on.
posted by commander_cool at 3:22 PM on July 29, 2007

No contract was formed, oral or otherwise. Agreeing to discuss possibly agreeing in something is not the same as coming to an agreement. Further, even if you were to see the landlord's offer as some sort of unilateral contract/offer, your friend coming back with conditions for acceptance nullifies the initial offer and at that point it was up to the landlord to accept your friends counteroffer.

And as someone mentioned above, the statute of frauds precludes oral contracts a year and over. So if it was to be a year lease, then it had to be in writing for it to be enforced.
posted by whoaali at 3:44 PM on July 29, 2007

Not a lawyer, but pretty sure there's no contract here:

Offer: I'm buying the place, are you interested?
Counter-offer: yes, but there are a few things I'd like to discuss.

No acceptance of the original offer, so no contract.

On preview, what whoallli said.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:21 PM on July 29, 2007

oral contracts are great - trouble is they seem weak as hell unless you have some kind of proof - and you usually don't!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 4:28 PM on July 29, 2007

No lease, no rental. Sorry.
posted by ilsa at 4:36 PM on July 29, 2007

Just go ahead and best smackfu's and whoaali's answers.

What you've described doesn't even border on a contract.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:41 PM on July 29, 2007

Trust me, you don't want a landlord who doesn't want you. That way lies pain, my friend.

Bummer about the missed opportunity, but don't waste any time trying to force the issue unless justice absolutely requires it (e.g. illegal discrimination).
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:57 PM on July 30, 2007

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