Law Offices of Heist, Weisse, and Wolk, P.A.
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We see it all the time. What you ask? Your lease! You can run, but you can’t hide! When you have to file an eviction, the lease must be attached to the eviction complaint. so your attorney gets to see the lease and all the fun stuff that goes along with it. The most common thing we see in the lease is that printed on the lease are 2 residents, but on the signature page only one resident signed. Hmmm. How did this happen? You would never let this happen would you? Well, let’s see.


The Scenario


John and Mary Smith have been approved, paid all deposits, and the only thing left is to sign the lease. They are to come in on a Friday, sign the lease and move into the unit. At the appointed time, John shows up without Mary, because Mary had to leave town for an emergency. John assures you that Mary will be back next Thursday and will promptly come in and sign the lease. In the meantime, you let John sign the lease, you give him the keys and he moves in. You then take the file, put it in your filing cabinet and expect that next Thursday, Mary will show up to sign the lease. Thursday comes and goes, Mary never shows up, and either you completely forget about Mary needing to sign the lease, or you remember and call her, only to be promised that she will come in, and that never happens. You think that this scenario is not played out all the time? It happens.


The Result


You possibly remembered that Mary did not sign the lease, and you possibly made a few calls to Mary asking her to come in, but she never does. Is there much you can do? Not really. Most likely you simply forget, and she never signs. It is now three months later, you have been collecting the rent each month, as Mary drops it in the drop box on time every month. The fourth month you don’t get the rent and head out to the property to serve a 3 Day Notice. You go to the door, knock loudly, and a “gentleman” named Bill answers the door. You ask who he is, and he states that he is Mary’s boyfriend and lives there, as John left Mary two months ago for another woman. Looking inside, you notice two children and another “gentleman” passed out on the couch. The condition of the unit is horrendous, and the rent is unpaid. Mary is allegedly at work, so you ask Bill who all these people are, and he tells you that the children are his and the guy on the couch is his brother who recently got out of jail and needed a place to stay temporarily. NOW WHAT?


The Problem


The problem is fairly obvious. You have unauthorized people in a unit, problems with the unit, and the person who signed the lease is nowhere to be found. Yes, Mary, the other resident on the lease is living there, but Mary never signed the lease, so Mary really has no obligation to you to pay the rent or uphold any of the rules and regulation of the lease. Mary is really no more than an occupant, and if you were to file an eviction against her, it might not be proper, because she has not signed the lease and does not owe you anything. To further complicate matters, because Mary has never signed the lease, she can say on one hand that she is a listed occupant on the lease and allowed to be there, but on the other, she can claim she owes you nothing. This is just ONE of the problems that we face when the lease is not signed by all parties.


Another bizarre situation can occur even if John and Mary are indeed living in the home as planned. John and Mary are looking around the neighborhood and see a beautiful home for sale that they can afford. With the prices dropping rapidly, they just can’t pass up this opportunity. They consult their attorney about breaking the lease, and the attorney reviewing the lease spots that only John signed it. Is the lease valid? The attorney then argues that since Mary never signed the lease, it is not a fully executed agreement and he is advising his client to vacate and purchase the house down the street. The majority of judges would find that the lease is enforceable against John, but failing to get both signatures opens you up to some risk. John and Mary pack up and leave, the property owner wants to pursue them for breaking the lease possibly cannot, and now they are looking to you for compensation, because YOU did not make sure all the parties signed the lease.


The Solution

Never allow a resident access to a unit unless and until such time as ALL residents sign the lease. Sure, you are saying you know this already, but why do we continue to run into the same situation? You cannot let your guard down. A simple mistake such as this can set the stage for a legal battle or a complicated eviction action later on. You need to stand firm and insist that all parties sign. If Mary is out of town, do everything to contact her, get Mary to go to an office supply store such as Staples, Office Depot or Office Max, send her the lease by fax, have her sign it and send it back. All this can happen while John is standing in front of you. Once you get the lease back by fax, have John sign. Is a lease signed and faxed a valid document? It sure is better than one that is not signed. If Mary cannot sign the lease, you cannot give John the keys. It is that simple.


  • The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1