Am I legally responsible to pay rent at an apartment if I have not signed the current lease?

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Am I legally responsible to pay rent at an apartment if I have not signed the current lease?

I was a roommate with a guy in a studio apartment. I was paying $300 of the rent and I wasn’t even living there. I signed the original lease when he moved in over a year ago. The original 1 year lease has expired and I did not sign the new lease agreement but the other tenant did. I am tired of paying for something I don’t use and I’m about to move out of the state. The landlord and the tenant are saying they will sue me unless I continue paying his rent. Am I legally bound to this agreement?

Asked on August 7, 2011 California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, if you did not sign the new or renewal lease, you are not obligated to its terms, not unless the prior lease had some automatic renewal term.

Rather, you would be a month-to-month tenant, under an oral or verbal lease, or either the landlord or a month-to-month subtenant of the person on the lease--which depends on the exact facts (e.g. do you pay the landlord directly, or do you pay the tenant, who then pays the landlord). As a month-to-month tenant, you may give 30 days (1 month) notice that you are terminating your tenancy.  You still have to pay for the one month notice period, but after that, you should not be responsible for the rent anymore.

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You need to read the original lease that you signed for the unit when you originally signed it. This document controls the obligations you owe the landlord and the landlord owes to you absent any state law to the contrary.

If the original lease was for one year and its term has expired, does it have a provision for an automatic renewal for an additional year if you did not advise the landlord that you did not want to continue with the lease, or did the lease revert to a month-to-month lease at its expiration of the initial year?

If your roommate signed a new lease for the unit and you did not after the end of the initial year, it would seem that you are not obligated on the new term since you are not even living in the unit. Did you sign a sub-lease with your roommate for additional time after the end of the first lease? If you did, then you could be very well obligated to the roommate under a separate agreement you have with him or her.

I would first write the former landlord and your former roommate asking them for the specific reasons why they believe you are obligated for rent currently.

Good luck.

 


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