If I signed a lease but am now being told that the specific unit will not be available, what can I do?

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If I signed a lease but am now being told that the specific unit will not be available, what can I do?

I signed a lease last week stating a specific address, and a certain move-in-date, but am now being told that the prior occupant has chosen to stay, and the unit will not be available. They will not let me keep my locked in rental price for other accommodations – a slightly larger apartment – and have so far not been able to provide another unit like the one I had signed for. They offered to give me back some of my money, but refuse to refund the $80 background check fee. I paid for the background check understanding that I had been approved, and had signed a lease agreement.

Asked on March 29, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If the reason you can't move in is not your fault or your doing, you should be able to get all the money back, including the $80 check fee; when the other party to a contact (and that's what a lease is--a contract) breaches a contract, it can't keep some of the consideration (money) paid.

You could also try to enforce the lease and try to force  the owner to evict the prior tenant. This might be very difficult if the other tenant has a good claim to stay there; basically, if the owner has discretion to evict (e.g. the other tenant is month to month, to the owner could provide 30 days notice to terminate tenancy), you may be able to force the owner to exercise it's discretion in your favor, but you can't force out someone with a right (e.g. a lease that's still in force) to stay there.


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