Can I get sued for the owner/renter agreement if I was never given a chance to move in or given any paperwork?

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Can I get sued for the owner/renter agreement if I was never given a chance to move in or given any paperwork?

I signed a lease to rent apartment for the summer starting on the 15th of this month; the lease was however signed on the 20th. The owner never gave me the keys in the first place, supposedly didn’t have the copy made or the copy of the contract agreement signed by both parties. I have been trying to move in since the 22nd but the owner still didn’t give me the keys or contract copy yet. If I was to try to walk away from the contract right now, the 26th, would he be able to take it to court later and sue me for not paying for the apartment? I do have text message evidence him delaying me to moving in.

Asked on May 26, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You need the assistance of a landlord-tenant attorney to navigate this situation, since there is no clear-cut answer based on what you have written.

In terms of legal principals: a "material"--or significant--breach of the contract by the owner can allow you to terminate the agreement without penalty, recover any deposit, and/or sue for monetary compensation (such as, for example, the cost of renting a new place, if higher than what you had contracted to pay).

While a failure to grant possession can certainly be material, if there was no "time of the essence" clause or other clear indication that you absolutely needed the space by a certain date, then there is no hard and fact answer as to when a delay becomes "material." For example, there is little or no doubt that a month delay would amply justify terminating the agreement; conversely, a one-day delay would not. From what you write, as of when you wrote, the delay was only 3 1/2 to 4 days: from the 22nd to the 26th. It is not at all clear that would be enough of a delay to constitute a material breach, and there is no bright line rule about how much of a delay would.

Cases like this are very fact sensitive; that's why you need to consult with an attorney, who can evalute the specific language of the agreement and the circumstances in detail to determine your rights and recourse. Good luck.


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