If my sister has not signed a lease, is she still liable for all bills associated with house for 6 months after she moves out?

My sister has been living with a friend in the house that the friend owns. Now that she is moving out, she is being told that she is responsible for the bills for the next 6 months. She has not signed anything stating that she agreed to these terms when she moved in. There was no contract. The house is in the girl’s fathers name, not my sister’s. Is it possible that my sister would still have to pay bills for 6 months even if she is no longer living there and her name is not on any bills?

Asked on November 30, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Alabama


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I would consider your sister to be a month to month tenant at her friend's house - assuming that she is paying the rent monthly -  meaning that she needs to give 30 days notice that she is vacating the premises and then that is that.  Tell her to give the notice in writing.  If there is no written lease - which is a contract as you state - and she did not agree orally to stay for a year - which is an oral contract - then she should be fine.  She may be responsible for a portion of the bills as they relate to the time that she was there and the usage as well.  Good luck. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

When there is no written lease, tenancy is month to month tenancy per an oral (sometimes called verbal) lease. When that's the case, as the term "month to month" is implied, either party can terminate the tenancy with one month's notice. That in turn means that the most a tenant could be responsible for is one month, if she gave inadequate notice...i.e. if someone said, "I'm moving out right now," they'd still be liable for the next month, but no longer than that. The important thing is, there must actually be notice--if your sister moves out without providing notice (preferably in writing, in some fashion she can prove delivery) that she's ending her tenancy, the landlord might be able to claim that she never actually ended her tenancy and therefore has a continuing liability until she does so.

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