Landlord to supply lease?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Landlord to supply lease?

I have currently been renting since April 2018. Recently issues have come up between me and my out of state landlord. First, no lease has ever been provided. In the most recent letter requesting the lease, the only answer I received was to consult legal help. My rent includes yard services that have never been provided. A few months ago I actually received a complaint from her about the lawn status telling me to resolve it immediately. She also has changed the

Asked on January 1, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) There is actually no right to get a signed copy of the lease unless you end up in court (litigation) against the landlord, in which case there are legal mechanisms to obtain it.
2) The landlord may not change the late fee if there is a written lease, during the term of the lease.
3) Failing to provide services (like yard) services that are in the lease is a breach or violation of the lease.
4) The landlord may have whomever she wants, including a friend of hers, serve as her representative. 
So 2) and 3) represent violations; 1) and 4) are legal. You don't really have any good options, however, to protect or enforce your rights. You could:
a) Withhold rent due to not receiving services (e.g. lawn) you should be getting, in which case the landlord will presumably try to evict you; you would then defend against the eviction by claiming that you withheld on purpose to force the landlord to honor the lease; a judge will decide if you were right or wrong to do that (i.e. if the breach is sufficient to justify withholding rent). If the judge feels the breach was not bad enough so as to let you withhold any rent, you'll have to pay all the withheld rent immediately or be evicted. If the judge feels it was a severe enough breach as to justify some withholding, the judge can order the landlord to provide the services but then will order the majority (e.g. 90%) of the rent you have been holding on to paid to the landlord, since even without lawn services, you received the vast majority (a roof over your head, etc.) of what you were paying for.
And you can only do this during "lawn service season"--when you are not receiving the service for which you are withholding rent.
b) You can refuse to pay any late fees in excess of what you believe to be in your lease; the landlord may then try to evict you for unpaid late fees, and a judge will again decide if you were right to not pay those fees or else order them paid.
c) You could try to break your lease early, citing the landlord's own breaches of the lease, but if the landlord sues you for the rent due for the remainder of the lease's term, if a judge feels that the issues were not sufficiently serious as to justfy breaking the lease, you will be liable for the rent--and there is a good chance that a lack of lawn service and/or some issues with late fees is not severe enough as to justify terminating a lease.
I practice landlord-tenant law in NJ; in my experience, tenants have little recouse for annoying but ultimately small or modest issues with their landlords.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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