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Tenant Tip: LL refuses to sign and return the lease

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Tenant Tip: LL refuses to sign and return the lease

Postby TenantNet » Thu Oct 20, 2011 7:37 pm

Here's a tip from Janet Portman of Nolo, and author of "Every Tenant's Legal Guide.

Q: We signed a lease with our landlord two months ago, but he refuses to give us a copy of the lease with his signature (we have a copy with our signature alone). Isn't he legally required to do so? If not, what's the effect on our tenancy of not having a signed copy? --Marcia and Wes

A: Many states do require landlords to give tenants a signed copy of the lease or rental agreement within a specified number of days after signing. Consequences for failing to do so may include a preset penalty.

If your state has no such law, you're not necessarily in jeopardy. As long as you at least have a copy of the lease that you signed, you should be able to rely on it if you need to. The key will be in making it clear to the landlord now that you consider this document to be the same as the one he signed.

That way, you'll be boxing the landlord into your position, which will make it difficult for him to dispute the document later.

Here's how to do it: Make a copy of the lease you have -- the one with only your signature -- and attach it to a letter to the landlord (to be extra cautious, send the letter return receipt requested). In your letter, explain that you believe the attached lease is the one that the landlord signed, and that you're proceeding with this tenancy with that assumption in mind.

Ask the landlord to supply his signed copy if he disputes your statements. If you hear nothing back, the law will presume that the landlord agreed with your statements -- that the attached lease is, in fact, the lease everyone agreed to.

Let's suppose that, later, the landlord attempts to do something that's not provided for in the lease, such as increase the rent midlease (midlease increases are legal, as long as they're spelled out in the lease).

You'll be able to defeat this attempt by producing your lease copy and the letter you sent the landlord, and by proving that the landlord never disputed your claim that it is the correct document.
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