If the landlord does not have a copy of the signed lease, is it still binding?

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If the landlord does not have a copy of the signed lease, is it still binding?

My husband and I signed a lease to rent this couple’s home and gave them the deposit with the assurances we could change our mind when we did the walk through for our check list. They have given us both original signed copies of the lease and the last page for the walk through check list is unsigned. We decided, after the key the gave us did not work on but one door and even then we had to force our way into the home, this home was not for us. We called repeatedly to which they did not answer. They have already deposited our money. What can we do?

Asked on February 18, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

An agreement or contract--and that's what a lease is: a contract--is binding once the offer is made by one side and accepted by the other. Whether or not the landlord has a signed copy of the lease does not affect the legal enforceability of the lease; they can try to prove its existence and terms by testimony, by correspondence, by emails, by earlier drafts, and by using (in a lawsuit) the process of discovery to get a copy from you. (Specifically, it would be a notice to produce documents.) Certainly, if no good evidence of the lease or its terms exists, that may make it difficult to prove the lease--but legally, the lease was binding once you signed it. Therefore, assuming the landlord has or can get evidence, they can hold you to its terms.


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