If a rental agency made a mistake onmy lease, do they legally have to honor it?

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If a rental agency made a mistake onmy lease, do they legally have to honor it?

We just moved for work and when we were signing the lease the secretary at the rental agency said that the utilities were paid for by the owner. We were happily surprised and we asked her to correct it on the lease before we signed it. She corrected it and initialed it and we signed the lease and now 3 months later the rental agency is up in arms saying that the secretary made a mistake and we have to sign a new lease. Can they legally make us do that? They said the lease isn’t a contract between us and the secretary so her signature isn’t significant.

Asked on December 18, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The secretary was an employee of the rental agency who reasonably seemed to have the authority to sign the lease; her signature can bind the agency, unless at the time of signing, you had some reason to know or at least believe that she lacked authority.

If there had been negotiations, correspondence, etc. between you and the rental agency leading up to signing where it had been made very clear that tenants pay utilities, then a case can be made that the contract was executed in error and did not reflect the understanding or agreement of the parties to it. However absent such good reason to believe that the contract  contained an error--or, as stated, good reason to believe at the time of signing that the secretary lacked authority--there does not seem to be any basis for invalidating the current contract/lease.


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