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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 41220
Experience:  Run my own successful business/contract law practice.
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We leased a building in 2008. After the economy crunch hit

Customer Question

We leased a building in 2008. After the economy crunch hit we weren't able to make the payments so we paid an agreed upon rent at a reduced amount verbally. The checks have been cashed every month and there was never a late or an eviction sent. We have vacated the building and now the owner wants all the back amount for two years. My question is do we have any legal rights?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for your question.

Hmm, that is tough. First of all, may I ask what state you are located in? Second, did you ever discuss the lowered rate via email, chat, text, instant message? Third, on your subsequent checks, did you describe the payment either as "full rent" or as "modified rent payment" or a variation of those terms?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
The building is in California. All the agreements were made verbally. The original amount was 8575.00. We have paid a reduced amount for over one year. He stated he wanted his building back because he wanted to move back in, or if we stayed he wanted to increase the rent to 4500.00. The owner stated if we moved out he would forgive any back amount from the original lease. We vacated and apparently he changed his mind and wants the entire back rent amount. We have attempted to have the owner sign agreements we have emailed, however he wouldn't sign them, just cashed the checks.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for your follow-up.

These checks that were cashed, did they have an endorsement on them stating that this was for "rent" or "modified rent"? Also, did the landlord at any time formally pursue you or write you a letter requesting payments? What is your current debt to him, by his count?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I believe some of them did, but it wasn't stated on every check no. He did not formally pursue in writing. I am aware this should have been handled differently. The owner has been a bit difficult. He called us and we agreed upon an amount of 3000.00 monthly to revisit the situation in six months. We documented and sent the email for his signature. He stated he didn't agree, but verbally stated to send the check amount anyway which was cashed.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Oh I see, thank you for your follow-up.

If he responded by email that he didn't agree, then at least you can prove notice of terms. Proving that the terms were in place may be harder, although your best evidence is the fact he both cashed the updated checks AND he did not pursue you for the alleged deficiency until after you moved out. On both those grounds you will likely be able to prevail in court in front of the judge by showing that there was an oral modification in place that was coupled by acceptance by the landlord when he cashed the checks. However finding even one single copy of the check that shows that the rent was deemed to be modified would be the proverbial "smoking gun" as that would show notice and knowledge of the landlord that the contract was modified, when also coupled with extensive failure to act upon pursuit of the deficiency.

Hope that helps.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you very much! I will review my statements for the the checks to see what was written on them. I appreciated your help!
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 5 years ago.
You are very welcome and good luck to you!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Dimity Esquire, I had another ques posed to me. We are a 501c3 Corp and we offered to give the owner a tax credit because of the reduced rent, we thought, he helped us out at the time with reducing the rent and we would offer what we could in the form of a tax credit not knowing he was taking this to another level. My question is, did this make us more liable because we offered him a tax credit? I also did locate a check which he wrote in HIS writing Nov rent.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 5 years ago.

Thank you for your follow-up.


First of all, congratulations on finding that check! That, by itself, is extremely strong evidence that he consented to the modification.


As for your non-profit status and your offer to negotiate, in the eyes of the law that is irrelevant. The courts generally favor settlements and offers, so that actually does not injure your claim at all. In fact it likely strengthens islt because ot can be argued he got something of value in exchange of the reduction in rent.


Good luck!