If a landlord does not give you a copy of a lease agreement and you are not sure of the content, are you legally binding to the terms?

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If a landlord does not give you a copy of a lease agreement and you are not sure of the content, are you legally binding to the terms?

The landlord I rented from has given me 3 leases for the house I am in. I have no copy of any of them. She is now saying that i was supposed to pay a deposit on the house in increments of $300 per month until paid. Since I did not have a copy of the lease I did not remember the amount that was to be paid (at the time) or what date it was to be paid on. The air conditioner went out on the house and now since I asked for it to be fixed. She now wants me to move out because of the deposit thing. What are my rights/

Asked on June 28, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

People are legally bound to contracts (that's what a lease is--a contract) even if the don't have a copy.

If you disagree about the deposit and the landlord will not provide you a copy of the lease to verify this, you can not pay, allow the landlord to file an eviction action, then force her  to prove in court that you owe the money. If you have the money to pay, if it is determined that you do owe it, go to court with it--explain to the judge at the outset that you are ready and willing to pay all amounts legally due, but the landlord has not provided you any copies of the lease to verify the amount. You should also send the landlord immediately a letter, sent some way you can prove delivery, indicating that you are willing to pay all amounts due under the lease, but request a copy of the lease so you can confirm the amount. Make the letter very polite and professional; that way, if matters do proceed to an eviction action, you can show the judge that you took all reasonable steps to determine what you lawfully owed and were willing to pay such amounts once they were proven.


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