What to do if I’m being held liable for a lease on which my signature was forged?

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What to do if I’m being held liable for a lease on which my signature was forged?

I co-signed a 6-month lease for my daughter from 02/09-07/09. In 08/09 my daughter signed a 1 year lease and forged my signature on it. I was never asked by the management company to come into the office to sign in person. My daughter told me that they allowed her to get the lease in her own name. One year later my daughter left the apartment – she owes 2 months rent, eviction and damage fees. The apartment complex is coming after me for the money. Am I liable? What do I do about the forgery? Do I make a complaint to the police station?

Asked on October 1, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I would advise the management company - in writing and by certified mail - that you did not sign a lease for the apartment for the term for which they are attempting to collect.  That you only signed the lease for the period stated above.  Ask for a copy of the lease and indicate that if your name is on it then it was a forgery.  It in incumbent upn them to prove that it is your signature and that you actually signed it.  They were foolish not to ask that you sign it in front of them directly and they have no witnesses to the signing, correct? Tell them that if they wish to pursue this you are coming after them for attorney's fees.  Seek consultation and ask your attorney about local laws on reporting forgery.  You will have to file a complaint with the prosecutor's office.  Good luck. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The good news is, you're not liable if you can show that it was not you that signed and that your signature was forged. The bad news is, to disclaim liability, you will almost certainly have to report your daughter to the police as having forged your signature on a lease, which given the elements of identity theft and the amount of money involved is almost certainly a felony. Before doing anything, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney who can give you a better idea of the potential consequences to your daughter; this may be a case where you might decide to pay the amount owed (assuming you can) then sue your daughter for her contribution, which will still be painful, but may be less painful than the alternatives. Good luck.


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