Does a tenant have any legal recourse against a former subletter with no written sublease or landlord approval?

My girlfriend lived in one room of a 2 bedroom apartment for several months under a verbal agreement with the legal tenant. There was no sublet agreement with the landlord. She was recently forced out under bad terms (though she did nothing wrong) by the tenant signed on the lease. She was planning to send the keys to the leasing office of the building, but now the tenant is threatening to call the police and report that she stole the keys. Does the tenant actually have any legal recourse against my girlfriend? Would it be better to mail the keys to the tenant or the leasing office?

Asked on June 1, 2009 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.H., Member, California Bar / M.H., Member, California Bar

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The tenant may have civil recourse despite the lack of written agreement if the tenant and your girlfriend had a contract - that is an agreement between the both of them for services in which consideration was provided.  Consideration, a central element of contracts, means that both received a benefit under the terms of the mutual promises made (fee in exchange for living space).  The tenant would have a very difficult time, though, proving the terms of the agreement without anything in writing in that both your girlfriend and the tenant's testimony would constitute evidence of the terms.  Hence tenant's word versus your girlfriend's.

Tenant may not legally falsify criminal complaint against girlfriend, but if she fears tenant will lie, probably best to give to management as tenant could always deny receiving keys.  Send via certified mail, return receipt requested.  Girlfriend would also probably do well to put her version in writing to tenant if tenant is threatening legal or illegal action, also CMRR.

I offer this information in an effort to allow you to better understand some general legal principals that may apply to your fact scenario.  This is not intended to substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney admitted to practice before the bar of your state.  Laws differ from state to state.  Thus, the information above does not constitute legal advice.  Further, ethical rules prohibit an attorney such as myself from "practicing" law in any state but the state in which I am admitted.  


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.