If I do not have a lease, can the landlord demand I pay for bills that have never been previously discussed?

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If I do not have a lease, can the landlord demand I pay for bills that have never been previously discussed?

I am renting from my aunt and have never had a lease. She now wants to sell the home andhas given us 30 days to get out. She sent a certified letter demanding that I pay for several things when I leave that we never agreed upon, such as the filling of an LP gas tank. We agreed not to let the tank go empty while we were living there, but never agreed to fill it for her or the next people/owners when we left. I do not mind paying for what I agreed to pay, but am I under any obligation to pay for her new demands? If taken to court, should I document things that she said she’d fix and didn’t?

Asked on July 15, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) You only have to pay either a) those things you agreed to pay or b) for anything you break.

2) If you agreed to "not let the tank go empty," there is at least some ambiguity as to your responsiblity when your tenancy ends--one interpretation (not the only one, but a possible interpretation) is that you had to leave it either full, or as full as it had been when you first started renting. That being the case, if your aunt chose to sue you to get the cost of filling the tank--which is what she'd have to do, if you don't pay voluntarily--it's not a given or definite that you'd win. Since bad feelings in a family can cause trouble, and a lawsuit is never good, you may wish to consider whether it would be best, all things considered, to pay.

3) If you do end up in court, any documentation of your aunt's breaches of her obligations could be helpful--it's not definite they'd be useful (a lot depends on the judge), but it would be worthwhile to bring the documentation.


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