What is an unsigned tenant’s rental obligations?

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What is an unsigned tenant’s rental obligations?

For his senior year in college, my son shared an apartment with a friend from high school. Because he was out of the country when the lease was arranged, he was never added to the lease. They made all the arrangements, and we paid them directly for my son’s share. Now, at the end of the lease, my son’s funds have run out, and we asked them to apply our share of the security deposit to the share for the final month, adding additional funds to make up the difference. Several messages, but no answer, except a vague threat of legal action from the son. What is our liability?

Asked on June 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Connecticut

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A tenant may be liable without a signed lease. No signed written lease means an oral lease. An oral lease is a month to month lease, which means it can be changed, going forward, on one month's notice. However, for all the time that the tenant is in the apartment, it is treated for most purposes like a written lease, including as to rent and security deposit.

As a general matter, a landlord is not obligated  to let a tenant apply the security deposit to the rent; the landlord can require it be kept intact until the tenancy is up, at which point it may be drawn against for damages or unpaid rent. The landlord also has a right to bring legal action against a tenant who has not paid his rent. So the landlord does not need to let you do this, and can sue if he wants.


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