contract law question

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by nickarmadillo, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. nickarmadillo macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #1
    I had a meeting with my landlord today to sign a contract extension for my apartment. I signed the contract believing that everything was fine and then went to discuss it with him in his office. Before I gave the contract to him, I wanted to make sure that my girlfriend, a non-US citizen, would be able to stay with me. However, I was told that I would need a legal sign of commitment (marriage, shared car title, etc) in order to have her move in. As this is not possible at this time, I told him that I would no longer like to have the extension and would be moving to another complex. He then responded that I could not cancel the contract because I had signed already (but I had not given it to him yet) and that I would have to pay a cancellation fee. He then took the contract off the desk, where I had set it, and refused to return it to me. Do I have any legal recourse? I was told earlier that if I wanted to have her move in that all I had to do was come to the office and put her name on the lease (although I do not believe that they know she was not a US citizen at the time). It does say that they require this "proof of commitment" in the terms of my original contract, but I thought that with this verbal arrangement that it would not be necessary.

    Due to these facts, I feel that this was a case of misrepresentation. In addition, I had signed the contract, but had not given "communication of acceptance." Both a signature and communication of acceptance are, as far as I know, required for a contract to be enforceable.

    Anyone have any ideas or any links to laws/cases/contract law explanations that might be helpful and that I could show to them to explain? Is this contract really enforceable as they say?
     
  2. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    #2
    Well while he took the contract away illegal off the table you can not prove it in the court that he did that. You did sign it and he has that. I would of grab it back from him because then he would not have your name on it.
    The law might also be on his side about your girl friend moving in with you. Some places require proof of being in the US legally before they are allowed to lease.

    Also remember leasing laws are horribly in the favor of owners.
     
  3. nickarmadillo thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #3
    Anyone have anything? I'm going to go in tomorrow with some evidence so that I can try to get the contract back. Anything would be helpful.
     
  4. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

    Joined:
    May 21, 2007
    #4
    You need to visit a legal aid clinic or a renters' board of some sort where they offer legal assistance for tenants.

    On the surface, I doubt you'll be able to do much. You did set the contract down, which can be interpreted as a sign of handing it over.

    You might be able to sue in small claims court, but it's going to be your word against his, and since your signature is on the contract, you'll probably lose.

    The lesson here is, never sign anything if you still have questions.
     
  5. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2001
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #5
    First, it is not necessarily the case that everyone occupying the apartment needs to be on the lease, though many landlords definitely prefer that. You might try appealing to the fact that you've already demonstrated you can take full responsibility for the lease, and stress that you would be accepting absolute responsibility for anything she does on the premises (make sure you really trust this girl) as an argument for him accepting her as simply an additional occupant. Maybe propose an additional "deposit" for the additional occupant, which you know you won't get back, but weigh it against how much it would cost you to maintain two apartments.

    Or just open a joint checking account to show him. Find out if he'll accept that first, but nothing says either of you ever has to put any money into that account. Hell, you could agree to turn right around and close the account after the lease thing is sorted out assuming he allows it.
     
  6. nickarmadillo thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #6
    At this point I just want to move out. The apartment is infested with venomous brown recluse spiders and I don't really want to deal with them any more. Is the contract that she has legal? I signed it, but before it was taken from me, I told the landlord that I did not agree to the terms of the lease (ie the contract was signed but there was no communication of acceptance). After I told them that I did not want to extend the lease, they took the contract from me anyway and told me that it was valid because my signature was on it.
     
  7. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    #7
    Read the section on guests carefully ... and talk to a free legal aide for housing in your area.

    Likely while they may want you to sign everyone onto the lease, there might not be much they can do as long as you are still within city code for occupancy and paying the rent.

    Generally, they would be outright idiots to terminate a lease because your guest isn't on the lease -- it might take them 6-18 months to replace you.

    And all they would get is the deposit, and the remainder of a month of rent. Plus they won't likely be able to collect much else, since they terminated the lease.

    However, they likely will report it as an eviction.
     
  8. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2001
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #8
    You'll have an incredibly hard time proving that. Even ignoring that signing a contract is how one communicates acceptance, did she take it off the desk or snatch it from your hand? Your story is escalating and changing to justify getting what you want. Now, suddenly there are spiders.

    I don't want to give you a hard time -- I really am sympathetic -- but if you want to make this a legal thing, this is what you're in for, and you'll get eaten alive.

    Contract law exists to keep people from reneging on their agreements on a sudden whim, however justified it seems to you. You can't just break your lease because you're mad at your landlord. You would need to demonstrate he or she hasn't upheld the other end of the deal.

    For the spider thing you'd want documentation you tried to get the landlord to do something about it and s/he didn't address it adequately, and that the apartment is made unlivable by the spiders.

    I saw no reason to repeat what CalBoy already said, but he's spot-on: I'm afraid you might have just bought yourself a hard lesson. All changes to a contract (adding a tenant to a lease is one such) need to be resolved in writing in advance, and you never put your signature on anything when there is still an outstanding question. Talk to a local tenant advocate of some sort if you can (laws vary immensely by location), but I get the feeling you've just made a Mistake and you're going to have to make the best of it.
     
  9. nickarmadillo thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #9

    The spiders are an entirely different issue unrelated to the contract signing. I am a responsible person and I am not trying to come up with excuses. I had signed the contract, but I had not submitted it to the other party. I had sat down to discuss my girlfriend moving in before I was going to give them the signed contract and had laid the contract on the table in front of me. After I refused the terms of the contract, the manager grabbed it off of the desk. Although I had signed the contract, I had not yet submitted it to him.
     
  10. petermcphee macrumors 6502a

    petermcphee

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    #10
    Was it his desk? It was? If I were a judge (which I am not) I would interpret the action of you putting it on his desk as you submitting it to him. Likely, this is how his legal counsel would construe it too.
     
  11. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    #11
    In reality, when you go to court it'll be your word against his.

    If it is an area where they are required to provide a copy of the contract to all parties to make it valid, that might be your edge -- in AZ, they have to give you a copy of the signed contracts in a timely manner (a court case just nulled a contract for this failure).

    You can ask for the contract back, you won't get it.

    If you placed it on the desk, it is hard to prove they took it from you.

    If if was in contact with your body when they took it (and it includes sensitive personal info), personally I'd say the only way to get it back and have them destroy all copies is to file a police report (hey, they took a document with my social security number away from me) if they snatched it and grabbed it off the desk first, it'll be boo hoo time.

    Edit: The 1 thing you have going for you, if they won't give it back so you can add your girlfriend to the document is this, and get it in writing through e-mail if you can ... if they won't give it so you can add her, it'll be hard for them to complain about her lack of being on the contract at a later date.
     
  12. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    #12
    forget the spiders.....don't even mention them.

    if you truly believe you didn't "give" the contract to the manager by putting it on the table, and that the manager was really pulling a "gotcha" on you by stealing it, then refuse to pay the fee. Let them sue you if they think their story is more believable than yours..........of course they may try to retaliate in some way but nobody is saying it won't get messy
     
  13. nickarmadillo thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #13
    I would also like to add the fact that although I had signed the contract, the apartment manager had not yet signed at the time that I disagreed to the terms of the contract. (I would assume that he has now though)
     
  14. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    #14
    like others have said this before you are SOL.

    It going to be an expensive lesson. Your first mistake was signing it before you agreed to everything. your 2nd mistake was setting it on the table.

    I really do not see how you have a case. Your word verse his and right now it looks like he has you beat.

    Your signature is on the paper and that means you agreed to it. Since you did not change anything in the contract it does not matter if his name was on it or not at the time. He can just sign it at a later date and it would still be valid.
     

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