Can a landlord hold the 1st month rent if you decide not to get the apartment and no lease has been signed?

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Can a landlord hold the 1st month rent if you decide not to get the apartment and no lease has been signed?

I found an apartment and gave the landlord 1st months, rent plus security deposit. After my credit check came back, he told me that I would also need to give him last months rent. I told him that I would not be able to do that and I will not be able to take the apartment. He did give me back my security deposit but said he will give me back the 1st. months rent after he finds someone else to rent the apartment. I said you can’t do that because I never signed a lease. He said that because I committed to renting the apartment he is allowed to do that.

Asked on April 30, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It is possible for an oral (a/k/a verbal) agreement to rent to be formed, in which case, you could be liable for one month's rent even without signing a written lease. (That's because an oral or verbal agreement forms a "month to month" tenancy, so both parties are liable for one month at a time.) Whether or not one was formed in your case would depend on the circumstances. From what you right, there is a good chance that either not agreement was formed, since there was no "meeting of the minds"--that is, you though you needed security deposit and first month; landlord thought security deposit and first and last month; if there is no "agreement," no agreement is formed--or that if one was formed, the landlord him/herself breached it by then trying to go beyond the agreed-upon terms and seek more money. For a more definitive answer, you should consult with a landlord-tenant lawyer, who can evaluate the facts in detail and depth for you, since the fact are everything in a case like this.


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