If 2 people move into a house but only 1 of them signs the lease amd the 1 who didn’t sign it moves out prematurely, can they both be held responsible for the rent?

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If 2 people move into a house but only 1 of them signs the lease amd the 1 who didn’t sign it moves out prematurely, can they both be held responsible for the rent?

Asked on November 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If only one person signed a written lease, that person is solely responsible to the landlord for the rent--he or she must pay the whole amount, and if it is not paid, the landlord can seek the rent from that person, but not from the one who was not on the lease. When there is a written lease, only those on it are liable to the landlord.

However, the tenant who had been on the lease may in turn be able to take legal action against the other one for his or her share of the rent. The theory is, the tenant who signed the lease is the actual tenant of the landlord; the one who did not sign is actually a subtenant of the tenant, on an oral or verbal lease (an unwritten agreement to pay part of the rent). The tenant on the lease cannot seek rent going forward from that person, except for one month's rent after that person moves out--since with an oral or verbal lease, only one month's notice of terminating the tenancy is required--but could seek any rent that person had owed for the time he/she was there but failed to pay.


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