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Verbal MI Lease has expired in January and the landlord started charging us a "month to month" fee do we have to pay it?

Farmington, MI |

We moved in and were supposed to sign a lease but the landlord gave us a different lease so we did not sign it. So I say we had a verbal MI Lease which expired in January. The landlord started charging us a "month to month" fee which never paid. Actually we never noticed it on the statement as we do not ever read it. We now have 6 months of fees on our statement that he has never required us to pay. Do we have to pay it?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

I am not sure I agree with Attorney Martin. What I AM sure of is that your failure to read the paperwork is not a legally justifiable excuse. Given the real estate climate in Michigan, it is possible that your landlord is willing to excuse the failure to pay the added fee, to ensure that the property stays rented. I would not allow this situation to continue, however.

In Michigan, any contract involving real estate should be in writing. If the original contract is in writing and you remain in the tenancy beyond the original term, it is considered "holding over." At that time, depending on the terms of the original contract, you either renew for another term, or you renew on a month to month basis. In either case, the contract should provide for the price terms. In YOUR case, this obviously did not happen.

The question I have is whether his written statements would constitute an "offer" and your ongoing possession constitutes acceptance, OR does your payment of the prior rent constitute a counter-offer on your part and his receipt of the payments without complaint constitute acceptance of the former rate? The only way that would be settled for sure is in court. In most situations, it is not in your interest to go to court. That is why I suggest that you do not allow this situation to remain uncertain.

I would suggest that you contact your landlord and let him know that you were unaware of the added charge until you just noticed it. Let him know that you are not able or willing to pay, but that you are willing to continue to rent the property at the originally agreed upon price. You may then have a decision to make as to whether or not to vacate the premises, if he is unwilling to continue to have you rent the place for the former price. If you have otherwise been good tenants, then the landlord may agree to waive the extra charges. Either way, you would not have them hanging over your head.

James Frederick

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Posted

Generally state law provides that upon expiration of the term of a lease the relationship becomes a month-to-month tenancy. This would apply even on an oral lease. Under general common law landlord-tenant principles, as long as you had possession you owe rent. On contract principles a benefit was conferred on you, unjustly enriching you unless you pay for it. Not reading his statements rendered does not excuse you from paying them. Sorry. No free ride this time.
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(Bryant) Keith Martin
sbbizlaw.com

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Asker

Posted

Just to clarify things a little. We moved from down the street at another address but the same landlord. We did have a signed lease there which we fulfilled all the terms of. When we moved the lease was different (in a bad way for us) from what we discussed so we never signed it. We actually moved in before we signed the lease and were never able to get him to give us the correct lease after a few attempts so that is why I called it a "verbal (one year) lease". So there is no written lease at all to refer to for this address and I would argue that the other lease at the other address is irrelevant. Our rent was $1000 and instead of raising it to $1100 on our statement he added a $100 "month-to-month fee". Normally in the past my rent has increased and I had to pay the full increased amount or my rent was past due. Since he has continued to accept my $1000 payment I argue that by that action he has accepted me only paying $1000. He has never sent a notice stating that my rent is past due and that we owe the "month-to-month fee". Mr. Martin - I am paying for my rent just as I always have. We are good renters, take very good care of the property and have a good relationship with the landlord. We are not "unjustly enriched" as we are regularly continuing to pay our previously agreed rent. Mr. Fredrick - Obviously, I did not accept his "offer" as I have not paid it, but he has "accepted" my rent offer at the same rate for many months without notifying me that he did not accept it. There seems to be some precedent for this in MI. Anyway - I hope this clarifies things for everyone and I do appreciate your responses and look forward to your updates.

Posted

Attorney Fredrick's answer is fairly comprehensive the only comment I have to add would be whether the language in the proposed contract or other documentation regarding the month ot month charge was written in plain English or legalese. You may not be liable if it was an offer too good to understand. However not noticing is not an excuse as non collection by the landlord does not equal a waiver.

I am only admitted to the MI bar therefore this is only general advice it is highly recommended to contact an attorney in your area for definitive guidance.

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Asker

Posted

Just to clarify things a little. We moved from down the street at another address but the same landlord. We did have a signed lease there which we fulfilled all the terms of. When we moved the lease was different (in a bad way for us) from what we discussed so we never signed it. We actually moved in before we signed the lease and were never able to get him to give us the correct lease after a few attempts so that is why I called it a "verbal (one year) lease". So there is no written lease at all to refer to for this address and I would argue that the other lease at the other address is irrelevant. Our rent was $1000 and instead of raising it to $1100 on our statement he added a $100 "month-to-month fee". Normally in the past my rent has increased and I had to pay the full increased amount or my rent was past due. Since he has continued to accept my $1000 payment I argue that by that action he has accepted me only paying $1000. He has never sent a notice stating that my rent is past due and that we owe the "month-to-month fee". Mr. Martin - I am paying for my rent just as I always have. We are good renters, take very good care of the property and have a good relationship with the landlord. We are not "unjustly enriched" as we are regularly continuing to pay our previously agreed rent. Mr. Fredrick - Obviously, I did not accept his "offer" as I have not paid it, but he has "accepted" my rent offer at the same rate for many months without notifying me that he did not accept it. There seems to be some precedent for this in MI. Anyway - I hope this clarifies things for everyone and I do appreciate your responses and look forward to your updates.

Bernard S. Antin

Bernard S. Antin

Posted

So your position is based on a course of dealing between the parties? Yet, if the landlord is still charging you a month to month fee he is ineffect putting you on notice that even though he has accepted your payment the additional amount not tendered is still due and owing.

Asker

Posted

The only thing we have here is the dealings between the two parties. I believe the landlord "offered" to raise the rent which I rejected and he never protested when he accepted my "counter offer". He never told me I was past due, etc.

Posted

If the landlord gave 30 days written notice of the fee change at the time the lease expires, then the month-to-month fee is valid and enforceable. Failure to pay might give the landlord grounds to evict for non-payment of rent, which starts with a 7-day demand for possession and moves through the landlord-tenant court very quickly. Do not ignore it if you are served with such a notice.

The above comment is meant as general advice. More information would be needed at a confidential consultation in order to provide an accurate evaluation of your legal options.

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Posted

Understood your good point but as we have been good tenants of his for years, I do not believe he wants to do this. There is in fact no written lease of any kind for this address to refer to. I believe the landlord "offered" to raise the rent which I rejected and he never protested when he accepted my "counter offer". He never told me I was past due, etc.

Scott P. Zochowski

Scott P. Zochowski

Posted

The landlord can make a unilateral change to a month-to-month lease, so long as he gives you one month's advance notice of the change in writing.

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