Is a lease binding if the dates given in it do not match the duration as stated in the document?

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Is a lease binding if the dates given in it do not match the duration as stated in the document?

I have a an issue where the landlord and I modified a printed 12 month lease to be a 6 month lease using an ink pen prior to either party signing. I made a mistake and wrote the ending month as August rather than July, which constitutes a 7 month lease. The document technically says that it is a “12 month lease beginning the first day of February 2011 and ending the last calender day of August 2011”. If the landlord does not allow me to move at the end of July as planned, am I required to stay the additional month?

Asked on June 19, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Louisiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

For a definitive answer, you need to have the lease--and any supporting documentation--reviewed by an attorney. As a general matter, leases, like any contracts, express an agreement between two parties. What courts will enforce is the agreement; if there is an ambiguity, such as a mismatch between stated duration (e.g. 6 months) and listed end date (e.g. August), courts would try to determine from other terms of the lease, from any other documents, such as those containing any negotiations or discussions, etc., which was the actual intention of the parties. So the issue is, what, based on all of the contract, etc., appears to have been the actual, agreed-upon intentions of the parties.

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A lease is a contract between landlord and tenant.  Since both you and the landlord agreed to modify the lease from 12 months to 6 months, it is binding for 6 months.  The landlord knew or should have known that the lease should end in July instead of August.  Therefore, the landlord should not be able to enforce the mistaken term against you.  The legal remedy here is reformation which would correct the ending date of the lease to July 31.  You should inform the landlord immediately so that the ending date can be corrected.

If the landlord does not allow you to move at the end of July, you could still move and raise the above legal argument that the landlord knew or should have known of the mistaken ending date and therefore should not be able to enforce the mistaken term against you.  You could argue that your lease is for 6 months and not 7 months.


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