Residential oral leases of less than one year are enforceable contracts. The usual form of residential oral leases is monthly, and references in this article to oral leases will be to monthly oral leases. A monthly oral lease does not become a lease of greater than one year if it is renewed and the tenancy continues for more than one year. It remains an enforceable monthly oral lease no matter how long possession continues.
Oral leases are commonly found in situations in which the manager is directly entering into an agreement with the resident. However, an agent for a management company can enter into an oral lease, on behalf of the manager, with the resident. In this situation, another level of complexity enters the matter as to the agent’s authority, scope of the agent’s employment, etc.
Tenancy At Will
An oral lease creates a tenancy at will, that is, a tenancy that can be terminated by either party at any time without any reason. To have a valid tenancy, there must be some basis for concluding that one party was giving the other party the right to possession of the property. A court won’t create a tenancy without sufficient proof that one was intended to exist.
Filling in the Details
The oral agreement between the parties outlines the terms of the tenancy. Like most oral contracts, an oral lease is usually a general agreement without much detail. So how are the missing details filled-in? Since a lease is a type of contract, contract law applies to leases. Some Florida statutes, which are generally applicable to contracts, apply to leases. Some Florida statutes apply only to leases. Chapter 83, Part II, of the Florida Statutes will supply certain missing terms if not otherwise agreed. For example, absent the parties agreeing, the statutes dictate how much time must be given for a notice of termination, what the manager’s and the resident’s duties are, and some other provisions.
Where neither the parties nor the statutes supply the terms, a judge may provide them. The judge consults “case law”. These are the legal principles developed on a case by case basis over the years. These principles help the judge interpret and apply the law in manner that is designed to be consistent.
The course of dealing between the parties is a prime example of such a legal principle. This is really a form of the old adage that actions speak louder than words. What the parties are actually doing is the best indication of what they agreed to do. Another such legal principle is looking to industry standards and local custom for guidance. This allows a judge to ascertain what the parties’ agreement probably was by looking to what is usually done by a manager or resident in that situation in that locale.
Finally, the judge will rely on testimony of the parties and other witnesses. Factors affecting the evaluation of testimony include the credibility of the witness, the reasonableness and consistency of his story, and the common sense assessment of his position.
One warning: an old legal principle is that the law will not save the manager or resident from a bad deal. Absent fraud or such other reason, the judge will not remake the terms to relieve either party of an oral lease that he no longer wants.
- The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1
- THE CURABLE NONCOMPLIANCE EXAMINED PART 2
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION – WHAT IT IS
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION AND THE FULL UNIT
- WORK ORDER COMPANY POLICY AND THE LAW