Begging landlord for written lease agreement

madeleine_in_mdMarch 7, 2005

3 Months ago we moved into a condo and have been asking the landlady for a written lease since BEFORE we moved in. To date, we still have not seen a lease. Last month we wrote up our own lease but she refused to sign it saying that she needed her lawyer to read it over first. Last month we asked her again for a lease (my children's school also needs a copy) but she won't give us one. I am very concerned that our agreement for 12 months lease will not be honored because on Saturday she told us that an appraiser was coming to inspect the condo. Now I am nervous that we have just moved in and if the condo is sold we will have to move out because there is no written agreement. What can we do?

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Is she the owner, or just a manager?

What did the ad that led you to the place say? 1 year lease or month to month? You can use that against her if you have to.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 10:20PM
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I would think that, if it were up for sale, most prospective buyers would be interested in a building that had committed units, so the lease would be to her advantage, unless it was to be sold to be torn down.

The appraiser could have nothing to do with the place being sold. Maybe it is for insurance reasons?

Just to be on the safe side, start looking for a new place to live. And, on the bright side, if you find something, you will not have to worry about breaking the lease

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 8:13AM
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a former landlord did a very similar thing with us and we never did get the lease. however, we were ok with the fact that we were not tied down by a lease and decided to enjoy the fact that we could move anytime. we found out that the landlord also started returning people's security deposits and not renewing leases (although it was pretty common where we lived that leases became month-to-month after a year anyway). we had the "insurance appraiser" come for a visit, but i don't believe that it was an appraisal for insurance anymore. we eventually found out that the landlord had been in the process of selling the building. in this case, because it was such a tight market, i believe that prospective buyers would have been more interested in a building without committed units, because they were then free to raise the rents, which they did immediately, by 25%. i agree with Mike__Pam that you should start looking for something new unless you're ok with the month-to-month for a while -- i wash we had begun looking sooner because we found something much nicer and cheaper...

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 10:37AM
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The only leverage you had was your first payment to her--unfortunately, you went' able to use that to force her to honor her agreement in writing.

I don't know what you do now, unfortunately.

Except that the only leverage you would have now would be to stop being her tenant. So it might be worth looking again, and then you can call her and say, "I have a lease in my hand for another apartment, and I'm going to sign it and leave, if you don't bring me over a lease tomorrow night." If she wants the money to keep coming in, she'll give in.

I don't know if you could deposit rent money into an escrow account until you get a lease, or not. Because she might just say, "since you made such a stink, I'm not going to sign one ever, and I'll go back on my word."

I think I might see if legal advice would be useful as far as whether your own testimony to what your verbal agreement was. (would your school accept a copy of a utiliity bill?)

Is this landlady someone who owns a single unit, and is renting it out? I get that impression, because I'd think a management agency would be more likely to have a lease, for their own protection.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 4:07PM
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Thank you to everyone for your responses. She owns the condo and when we first went to see the place, she also waived the deposit saying that it just puts a strain on a person's budget! This generosity of spirit was amazing to us because the condo is really lovely. The reality is that there are a things wrong with the condo, and it is becoming apparent that she is not going to repair them (we have been asking about this, too.) There is a huge chunk cut out of the carpet in the master bedroom and the majority of the lights and light switches do not work. The light in the closet sparks and catches fire when you switch it on! The smoke detectors were ripped out from the ceiling and they have been damaged and need replacing. I am starting to wish that she had taken the deposit so that she had the money onhand to do the repairs!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 1:43AM
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umm, whether or not she has the money from a your security deopsit, and whether or not a written lease exists, i think that there are laws in most places that require the landlord to have installed and functioning a certain number of smoke detectors in a residence (although it's often your responsibility to supply them with batteries)...seems even more pertinent in light of the fact that your light causes fire.....

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 8:52AM
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Stop paying your rent.. You do not have a lease.. What is she going to do??

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 1:09PM
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Ohh and even if she had the deposit.. Doesn't mean she would of used the money to fix your unit...
I personally would start looking for another place to live... Because it is not safe for your children... What if there WERE a fire..

And if your bent on staying.. Pay ten dollars and get a smoke alarm and hang it yourself.. Ten dollars for the safety of your children is nothing....

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 2:00PM
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"majority of the lights and light switches do not work. The light in the closet sparks and catches fire when you switch it on! "

Call the city and have the place inspected! Landlords are required to have certain things WORKING ... like lights and plumbing.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 8:56AM
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I would move with no questions. I will not live somewhere that is not safe.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 5:41PM
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A year later... and I am so frustrated now!

After repeatedly begging the landlord for a lease and for the repairs to everything and also being penalised right through the summer by the condo management company (we were restricted from using the swimming pool and tennis courts etc because we did not have a lease in place) we did exactly what everyone suggested and gave two weeks notice and left. That was six months ago.

Yesterday, we receive a summons to appear in court for $1800 unpaid rent!!!! I do need to say that in the 9 months that we lived in her condo, we also never received a single receipt for the cash she insisted on getting for rent and her lawyer knows this because we spoke to him about it when we were still living in the condo.

How do we go about sorting this fiasco out? What are our rights regarding this?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 4:38PM
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I'm not sure about the specifics of the summons to court -- I think you should answer the summons to court and bring with you a copy of your notice to vacate, as well as any documentation of where you've been living since you moved (lease, mortgage, etc.). If that $1800 includes rent that you've already paid, you may have a problem -- I don't think you should have paid cash. If they wouldn't accept checks, you could have gotten money orders. Or not handed anything over without a receipt. Do you have bank statements showing the regular withdrawal of the amount of cash required every month for rent? Do you have documentation of informing her lawyer that you never received a receipt for rent? (why were you talking to her lawyer even before moving out?) I think you could possibly get stuck paying this amount of rent, buthopefully someone else has a better suggestion. Out of curiosity, what sort of documentation does she have that you lived there, if there's no lease?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 8:25PM
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what happened to my answer? I know I posted it!

If you didn't have a lease, you may have been considered "month-to-month"--which means you would properly have give 1 month's notice, not 2 weeks (apt's are different from jobs). So it's possible you will be liable for an extra month's rent.

The idea is, you give notice on Nov. 1 that you're moving out at the end of the month, and you pay Nov. 1's rent. If you give notice on Nov. 15, you're supposed to give a month's notice, so you'd either pay half of Dec's rent, or you'd pay all of Dec's rent.

So maybe you'll get stuck paying for an extra month.

I bet there'd be ways for her to make a court accept that you had been living there.

But I would also bring any documentation you had, even if it's just notes (and maybe even this post) that indicated the problems with the smoke detectors and the wiring. Bring any notices from the Condo management (or ask them to re-provide them, somehow). And ask the judge to reduce the amount of money you would pay bcs she was in breach of contract, not having provided you with the full value you expected.

And I'd make the point as well that you'll expect her to report this income to the IRS, despite the cash payments. And I'd insist on a receipt.

But the first thing to do is find a tenant agency--nearly every state has one that deals w/ tenant/landlord law--and find out what your status would have been, whether month-to-month applies, and what the state's default view of that is. Bcs that's all that's governing it.

You can also argue that, by not providing the lease and thereby robbing you of the value of using the condo services, she was in breach of contract--documenting that in any way that you can would be useful. If the by-laws indicate that non-leaseholders may not use the facilities, you can make HER bring those bylaws.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 2:53PM
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contact an attorney right away. In my state verbal leases are enforcable. In others they are not. I wouldn't be so worried about the cash payments. You should be able to prove withdrawls or whatever. AND the judge should realize if you were not paying cash you would have been evicted a long time ago. Even if its a verbal lease its very hard to prove who is right and who is wrong. Your word aganst the lanlords.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 5:18PM
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Look up the "Residential Landlord and Tenant" laws for your state: That is ALL that applies.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2006 at 9:36PM
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Good luck :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: NYS Tenant's Rights Guide

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 6:25PM
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well, NYState laws are interesting, but our poster is from Maryland.

Try the Maryland's Peoples Law Library
and the Housing section thereof

You will find stuff like this:
A lease for a term of 1 year or less is valid whether it is written or oral, but any lease for more than 1 year must be in writing and signed by the person creating it if it is to be enforceable. (Md. Code, Real Property, Sections 5-101 and 5-102)

From their summary:
n month-to-month or week-to-week tenancies where there is no written lease and no code requirement, state or local, relating to notice from tenant to landlord, the common law requirement is that the length of notice must be equal to the base period of the tenancy, such as one week or one month. The Maryland Code is silent on this issue, and the few reported cases do not give clear guidance. If there is any question at all about the actual term of the tenancy, tenant should give notice for the longer period of time.

Oh, and---she owes you money!!
(Maryland Code, Real Property, Sec. 8-205)

Whenever tenant makes a rent payment in person, the landlord or landlord's agent shall give tenant a receipt if the tenant makes payment in cash or requests a receipt.

In addition to any other penalty, if the landlord fails to provide a receipt as required by this section, s/he is liable to the tenant for $25.00.

(Maryland Code, Real Property, Sec. 8-208.3)

Every landlord is required to keep records showing the dates and amounts of all rent paid to him by each tenant, and also showing that a receipt was given to tenant for each cash payment of rent.

(if you're in Anne Arundel county, the receipt for cash must indicate what time period the cash covers.

Also, re: the smoke detectors. How did you notify her? bcs you can point out, to her and her lawyer, that she can face civic penalties of $1,000. (Unless the place was a 1, 2, or 3-family dwelling built before 1975, in which case YOU would be responsible for the smoke detectors)

(Maryland Code, Article 38A, Secs. 12A and 13)
...the landlord is responsible for installing the smoke detector and, upon notice in person or upon written notice by certified mail from the tenant, the landlord is responsible for repair or replacement of the detector. If tenant personally notifies landlord of a mechanical failure, landlord must give tenant a written receipt acknowledging the notification.
A person who knowingly violates this law or any regulation promulgated by the State Fire Prevention Commission will be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 days, or both. Each day that a violation continues after knowledge or official notice that it is a violation, is a separate offense.

You might draw up a nice, formal letter detailing these events--"In a phone conversation in the two weeks after we moved in, we notified you verbally that the smoke detectors were not working. Maryland law requires you to have provided us w/ written acknowledgment of this. and says that violators of this law will face these penalties..."

Then say, "All this information will be certain to come before the judge, and it seems to us that you run a real risk of paying more in penalties than you would collect from us--and it is quite possible that you would not collect from us at all. We wonder if perhaps it would be in your own best interests not to pursue this matter."

Let's see--$25 per month paid to YOU for the 9 months of not giving you a receipt is $225. $1,000 for one single day of not installing smoke detectors. Plus her lawyer's fees.

Go get 'em, tiger!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 9:49AM
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Thank you to everyone for your invaluable input. I will keep you posted of the developments.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 2:44PM
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Hello all
I need help landlord never gives receipts for rent,what can I do?Is there any legal action I can do or she has to abide by during lease agreement.
thank you for all help,David

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 1:10PM
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Don't give her the money. Without receipts you can't prove that you paid anything if you end up in court, but unless she gives you receipts she can't prove you didn't, however, by continuing to live there under the circumstances you could still lose (by not being as smart as you should be and moving).

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 6:01PM
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Oh puhleeeeze. "Don't give her the money" is not a good answer.

The dated cancelled checks are your receipt as proof of payment.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 2:42AM
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That assumes they're paying by check, which may not be the case.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 4:37AM
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Then instead of saying 'Don't pay', you should say 'Don't pay with cash, use a check'.

By not paying at all, you'll get evicted.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 9:03AM
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Most of my tenants pay by check and use that as the receipt. If they ask for a receipt on top of the check, I'll gladly issue one. (A receipt booklet runs about $4 at Office Depot and lasts well over a year, and it's carbon-less copies so tenant gets original and one stays in my receipt booklet).

If you're paying in cash, you could buy the booklet yourself, fill it out each month (name, address, amount paid, and for "Rent of location ________ for month of ______). Ask her to simply sign it when you pay the cash, and tell her you need it for your tax records. (I had seniors that asked me for receipts as proof for their tax returns, even tho they paid by check, and I was happy to oblige.) If she refuses to sign something showing you've paid, I'm wondering if she's somehow avoiding putting that as income on her tax return?

If she refuses to give you a receipt for cash, absolutely start paying by check immediately, and make sure your checking account shows your address on it. Write in the memo section that's it rent and specify the month, such as "December, 2007 rent, Apt # 2A".

The only time I will not take a check is if a tenant has bounced them on me. After the 2nd bounced check, they can pay by cash, money order (you'll have a copy of that for your records) or cashier's check (you'd also have a copy to keep for your records). So you could try those alternatives as well. I would deal in anything but cash if she continues being difficult, so you've got proof of giving her something every month. Sounds to me like she's up to something fishy with the IRS.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 8:35PM
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