If I select an apartment with a couple future roommates and don’t follow through, what is my financial liability?

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If I select an apartment with a couple future roommates and don’t follow through, what is my financial liability?

 I turned in a basic application and paid a portion of the security deposit, but did not sign the lease. One of the three of us signed the new lease before I had a chance to discuss lease breaking terms with my current landlord–that is when I discovered I could not afford to break my lease, and I am not financially able to pay rent on two apartments. She has threatened to sue me. I’m worried and not sure what to do.

Asked on July 30, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unless Wisconsin law differs from other states, and an application is binding, if you did not sign a lease then you are not obligated under its terms.  The security, however, may be non-refundable if it was termed an "application" fee.  Your future roommate had an expectation that you would sign but she wants to use your agreement as a binding contract between you all to sign the lease.  If you had clearly expressed to her your having to break your old lease as a "condition precedent" to signing then you are fine.  May I suggest that you find someone to take over your old lease from the landlord if possible.  Then the landlord may let you out.  Otherwise, try and find a replacement for the new leasehold.  And just tell your future roommate that you are sorry but she knew that you had a binding contract already and could not sign unless you could break the contract early.  You can not and now you can not sign the new lease.  


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