What is considered to be a binding lease agreement?

UPDATED: Apr 27, 2011

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What is considered to be a binding lease agreement?

I paid a deposit of $120 for a rental property. I’m fine if I don’t get it back. We did not signed any lease agreement but I wrote the landlord a letter confirming our verbal agreement to rent the room for 6 months and that I expected to sign a lease agreement after I arrived. I spoke to the landlord about not being able to rent the property (again no lease was ever signed; just a written letter). Does she have legal basis against me? Am I liable under PA law?

Asked on April 27, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A written contract does not need to be in any particular form or format. If you sent the landlord a letter stating that you would rent the premises for 6 months, that may be enough to constitute a written lease--if the landlord had sent you the letter, it would probably be different; you would typically have had to in some fashion evidence your agreement with or consent to the offer made in the letter. But since you wrote the letter, putting a written offer out there, the landlord may be able to enforce it against you. For a much more dispositive analysis, you need to consult with an attorney who can read and evaluate the letter, any other correspondence, and all the other facts of this situation. If the amount of money at stake is not enough to justify the consultation, then it may not be enough to be worth worrying about, in the sense that fighting (if the landlord tries to hold you to it) could be more costly than simply paying if yoiu need to.

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