Can I take a subtenant to small claims court for non-payment of rent based on a verbal agreement?

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Can I take a subtenant to small claims court for non-payment of rent based on a verbal agreement?

I signed a year lease with an apartment complex. I then let a friend live in the apartment with the verbal agreement that she would be responsible for the rent and all that goes with the apartment. I then had to move out of town in order to find work. So I told her she needed to get on the lease she was declined and then without notifying me she moved out and put a stop payment on her rent for thi month. I know that I owe 2 months rent and lease break fee. Since I didn’t have a written agreement, do I have any legal way to take her to small claims court?

Asked on December 18, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Yes, oral contracts and oral leases (also called verbal contracts or verbal leases) are enforceable, too. You could sue her for any back rent she missed--obviously, proving the existence and terms of an oral agreement are more difficult than for a written lease, but assuming that, by your testimony, any emails or text messages, other people's testimony, etc., you can prove that she was subleasing from you and failed to pay rent, you should be able to recover compensation.

An oral lease is a month to month lease and may be terminated on one month's notice. That means that if she did not give notice, the most you could get would be any unpaid back rent plus another month from when she broke the agreement and moved out.


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