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Home · Property Management · Latest News : Landlord’s Oversight Frees Lease Guarantor
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Mom’s lease duties lost in details
Rent it Rightby Janet Portman, Inman News

Q: My son and his roommate, both college students, applied for a rental that required a guarantor. I signed the lease application but never signed Frustratedthe guarantee. Am I responsible for rent and damage if the boys can’t cover the rent or trash the place? –Lori S.

A: Being a lease guarantor for a college-age son or daughter is very common. Landlords need to make sure that there’s a solid source of funds if the students, most of whom have little to no income, fall behind on the rent or cause damage beyond normal wear and tear.

But landlords need to follow standard legal rules when setting up lease guarantors. The landlord probably had you sign a lease application in order to obtain information about you — your income, place of employment, place of residence — that the landlord could use to make sure you’d be a suitable guarantor (someone with scant income won’t be too useful if the time comes to call upon the guarantor).

In addition, that signature probably signaled your consent to pull a credit report. Legally, landlords don’t need written consent as long as they have a permissible reason for pulling the report, but most landlords ask for written consent anyway because most people think it’s required.

But the next step is crucial: The proposed guarantor, if accepted, must sign either the lease itself or a guarantee agreement that references the lease. Because you apparently did neither, you have not become a guarantor. It seems that the landlord simply forgot to have you sign one of these two documents.

Not to impute sinister motives to the landlord but take another look at that application. Make sure there’s nothing in it indicating your agreement to become a guarantor if the landlord finds you suitable. That would be a sneaky move, and I doubt that a court would uphold it: It would bind you to stand behind a lease that you haven’t seen yet.

That’s not an enforceable promise — people need to know what they’re guaranteeing before a court will insist that they step up.

Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of “Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” and “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide.” She can be reached at Copyright 2009 Janet Portman

See Janet Portman’s feature,  How to Negotiate a Lease Buyout.
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  • john the cranky landlord

    You know what, somebody once told me who has 50 years of being a landlord under her belt that any type of co-signer/guarantor agreement is equal to toilet paper. You can’t name them in the eviction since they don’t reside in the lease. Not like a tenant who resides in the unit will ever pay you a dime once they move out. You would have to take separate legal action against the guarantor. In addition, have you ever tried to collect a debt from somebody out of state?

    Janet, you are a great attorney and writer (I have your book) and you have done a great disservice by publishing this article without suggesting that co-signers should be avoided at all costs unless absolutely necessary (i.e.: your units are on campus) Even now, with the bad rental market I won’t accept them.

  • Hey Lori, you agreed to act as guarantor, right? Then why is there even a question? Why would you agree to something and then try to back out because of a technicality like a missing signature. You agreed to do it, so do it. If you did not want to pay missing rent or damages, you should not have agreed to it. It is people like you that make it difficult for honest landlords to run an honest business.

    Hey Janet, I agree with your comments, but how about you throw a little common sense advice into your answer – like own up to the verbal agreement that was made.

  • Kym

    My son re-signed his lease without me resigning as guarantor.. I was only wanting to be of help for one year when I called the apartment they said they didnt need my signature for him to resign. I dont understand how that is legal..means if he keeps wanting to sign for 10 yrs im stuck??

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