What are my rights if I signed a lease with an option to buy but the landlord turns out not to be the legal owner?

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What are my rights if I signed a lease with an option to buy but the landlord turns out not to be the legal owner?

I moved in at the beginning of this month and now just received notice of eviction from a lawyer. Apparently the man who leased it, isn’t the owner. He is part of a trust fund with 2 other siblings. He took my money and signed the lease. He verbally agreed that work done on the place would come off our rent of $1200 if we kept the receipts and gave it to him at the end of each month. I have already put money into remodeling the house. I have no money left at this point. I have 5 children and no where to go. What do I do?

Asked on June 21, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the man who took your money and purportedly made these agreements with you is not actually the owner of the property, he had no authority to make those agreements. However, that does *not* mean that he has a right to simply keep your money. He has committed fraud against you, and you may sue him to recover the money paid (and invested in repairs) and to get out of the lease agreement. That's because he both misrepresented (lied) on material (important) elements--like his authority--to get you to enter into the agreement and also did even have the right or authority, from what you write, to convey anything in relation to the property. You could sue him youself, if you needed to, though you *should*get a lawyer to help you; if you can't afford one, try your state's legal aid or legal services office.

Note that you may also be able to press criminal charges against him as well.


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