Can a co-signer on a lease be held responsible for payments if the tenant never signed the lease?

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Can a co-signer on a lease be held responsible for payments if the tenant never signed the lease?

I signed a lease a few weeks ago for an apartment for my daughter. Both of our names where on the lease. I signed the lease, but my daughter (a student who was to reside in the aprtment) didn’t sign the lease. She has not moved in yet, and will not be moving in, as she failed her classes last semester and therefore must live at home. The rental office told me that they would try to rent the unit, but that I would be responsible for the rent until they can re-rent it. Do I have any recourse due to the fact the my daughter (the tenant) didn’t sign the lease? I was just a co-signer. Also, she hasn’t even moved in.

Asked on January 1, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, as a co-signer you are liable for the rent even though your daughter did not sign the lease or move in.  The problem is that as a co-signer, you have agreed to the terms of the lease. The lease is a contract between landlord and tenant. The rental office is correct that your liability for the rent will terminate when the apartment is re-rented.  However, if the next tenant pays less rent than what your daughter was to pay, you would remain liable for the difference in rent for the balance of the term of your lease.  If the new tenant pays the same rent as your daughter was to pay, then your liability for rent will terminate when the apartment is rented.  The landlord will have to make reasonable efforts to re-rent the apartment and cannot let it sit vacant for the balance of the term of your lease.  The landlord is required to mitigate (minimize) damages by making reasonable efforts to re-rent the apartment within a reasonable time or the landlord's damages will be reduced accordingly. What constitutes reasonable efforts by the landlord to re-rent the apartment would be determined by other landlords in the area such as posting a vacancy sign, advertising the rental in various publications, etc.


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