Does a Verbal Amendment to a Written Lease Hold Any Weight?

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‘I have leased out a property for a certain amount. There are three units available on this property. The standard agreement drawn up indicated the rental of the property, however it does not specify that they could only occupy two properties. Our verbal agreement was that they could use the two units, and the third was to be used by myself for private use. Now they have occupied the third unit, and upon me querying about it, they indicated that it was not specified in the written agreement. I then asked for compensation in lieu of additional rental, upon which they declined. Do I have a legal case? And what are my rights? I feel wronged by the lessee as I trusted them to keep to our verbal arrangement, thereby not detailing the units which they could occupy.?

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

It depends on the length of the lease. There is a law in most states called the “statute of frauds,” which requires that certain agreements be in writing in order to be enforceable. One such agreement is a lease of real property for one year or more (your state may differ on the specific amount of time).

If this lease is such that it requires a writing, then your verbal agreement is not enforceable, period. Even if it is shorter than that, however, attempting to enforce a verbal agreement is usually difficult, especially where there is a written agreement, too.

Clearly, you don’t want to keep these tenants there any longer than is necessary, so I don’t expect you to renew or extend the lease. But getting a modification during the lease period may be more trouble than it’s worth. It’s probably worth running the details by a local attorney (there may be some issues I am not aware of), but there’s a good chance you may have to write this one off to experience, and be more careful in the future to ensure that all the key terms are in the writing.



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Author: House Attorney

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