As a co-signer on an expired lease, can I still be held responsible for past due rent?

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As a co-signer on an expired lease, can I still be held responsible for past due rent?

I co-signed for my daughter on a 1 year lease 3 years ago. My daughter still lives in the house but has fallen behind in her rent. The landlord is now contacting me saying I will be involved in the legal action. Am I still legally bound to this expired lease?

Asked on October 1, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In order to determine whether you are still obligated under an expired lease, you need to carefully read its terms in that it controls the obligations between you and the landlord in the absence of conflicting state law. If the lease expired, why is your daughter still in the rented unit? Was there a new written agreement signed between her and the landlord subsequent to the agreement that you co-signed on?

If there is a subsequent written lease that you did not sign as a co-obligor, then you would not be obligated on it.

I suggest that your daughter get caught up in her past due rent and that you and the landlord sign an agreement stating that you are no longer obligated as a co-signer on the initial lease in order to eliminate any future problems with the rental involving you.

Good luck.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a cosignor, you are liable for unpaid rent which arose during the term of the lease you were  co-signor on. You should not be liable for unpaid rent for any periods of time during which you were no the co-signor. You need, however, to be careful of the following: 1) did the lease have some automatic renewal, so that once you signed, you are still obligated unless and until you specifically told the landlord to *not* renew the lease as is; 2) did you say or do anything, like ignore renewal notices (which would have been  your cue to tell the landlord you are not co-signing again) which would have reasonably let the landlord believe you were still co-signing, which may let them hold you liable; 3) did you daughter in some fashion sign your name to subsequent leases (in which case, you may be able to get out of the liability, but only by showing that your daughter committed fraud--and possibly reporting her to the police). The first step, if you haven't done it already, is to tell the landlord what you wrote her: you only cosigned a single one-year lease, 3 years ago. Ask them to drop you from the action because you are not involved. If they won't, ask them to explain why they think you are still liable--then go to an attorney to discuss what you should do.


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