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Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 34737
Experience:  16 yrs practice, Civil, Criminal, Domestic, Realtor, Landlord 26 yrs
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Ask an Attorney Can our landlord be liable damages in this

Customer Question

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Can our landlord be liable for any damages in this scenario?
Background:
She has encouraged us to buy her house in the past for 400K. We told her due to my credit score and foreclosure on my home, I could not qualify (even though buying would be about 60% cheaper than renting from her). She offered again in writing and verbally within the last week.
1st Question:
Last Aug 2015 she gave us two weeks notice and raised the new lease starting Sep 1 2015 by 600, from 2195 to 2795. (is that short term notice legal, and is there any limit on price increase, as she only owns 1 house in Hayward?)
2nd Question: We notified her recently that we were looking to buy a mobile home and re-confirmed that we could find someone to take over our lease, which expires Aug 31, 2017. She agreed. We asked to meet with her in person to discuss the details of what she would expect in new lessees as far as credit score, money made per month, etc.
At the meeting, on May 26 2016, she discouraged us from buying a mobile home, and said we could buy this house for 450K at ‘end of lease, or when you have enough funds’, and was trying to prevent us from making a mistake of buying a mobile home. She also offered to add granite countertops and new floors in the kitchen if we would stay, as we were her ‘favorite tenants’. We thanked her for the offer, but let her know that at our age we felt buying a mobile home would greatly reduce our monthly living expense, and relieve my wife of much stress. We didn’t think we could qualify for a 30 yr mortgage and did not like the idea of living where a bank might be able to foreclose on us again. She also said, to allow us time to find a mobile home at end of the lease, she would keep the rate we are paying now the same and go on a month to month if we wanted to do that (as we told her that timing the housing market, finding and buying a mobile home at the end of our lease would make things extremely difficult. She seemed very willing to help. She also agree to give us a good recommendation to the mobile home park, and asked me if I would write the letter for her.
On May 31 she sent me an email and again said she had done research on the mobile home park, the rent being over $1000, and that the land is not ours. Then she said “at the end of the lease, or when you have enough funds, my offer to you is 450K to buy my house which is very nice, I don’t get why you are still taking the risk to breach the contract” (meaning I would be responsible if the new lessee’s failed to pay on time).
3rd Part: Thinking and analyzing her offer, the cost of borrowing $200K (250 down), plus property tax, I could see that it was only a few hundred dollars more to buy the house than the mobile home costs, and at 15 years it was break even, and at 30 years, me or my kids would have a house paid for, whereas the mobile home space rent would be $2650 and the house would be property tax only.
The mobile home we had bid on previously (a rare size / config), came back on the market the next week due to someone not qualifying / meeting mobile home park requirements. As a result of Kelly’s offer, we passed on making an offer on the mobile home, which was due June 2 2016.
On June 3rd when I contacted Kelly by email and text, she backed out of her offer.
Questions:
Are any of her verbal offers enforceable?
selling us her home?
installing granite and new floors?
going month to month at same rate at end of lease?
any damages to us for the emotional stress of letting go an opportunity due to her strong pressure to buy her home instead?
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Barrister replied 8 months ago.

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply, but rest assured, I am working on your question.

Last Aug 2015 she gave us two weeks notice and raised the new lease starting Sep 1 2015 by 600, from 2195 to 2795. (is that short term notice legal, and is there any limit on price increase, as she only owns 1 house in Hayward?)

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It wouldn't have been since that is over 10% and requires a 60 day notice under CA law. But if you didn't object at the time, then you would be deemed to have waived the right to object when you began paying the new amount without fighting her on it.

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Are any of her verbal offers enforceable?

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selling us her home?
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No, any contract regarding real estate has to be in writing to be enforceable under a legal doctrine called the Statue of Frauds.

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installing granite and new floors?
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You thanked her for her offer and then rejected it, so it died right there. It would only be revived if she made the offer again and you accepted.

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going month to month at same rate at end of lease?
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That is a gratuitous promise not supported by consideration, so it too wouldn't be legally binding.

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any damages to us for the emotional stress of letting go an opportunity due to her strong pressure to buy her home instead?

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No, Ultimately the decision was yours whether to stay or buy the mobile home so you couldn't hold her responsible for your decision.

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If she had put these offers in writing, and you had accepted them immediately, then you could have argued that you detrimentally relied on her offers in making your decisions. But it appears that you always took the position that you weren't interested and rejected her offers to you in favor of buying the mobile home which basically killed those offers.

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The one part that you might possible seize on is the May 31 emailed offer where she agrees to sell you the house at the end of the lease. If you didn't reject that offer, and she didn't revoke it prior to you contacting her about accepting it, then it might be possible to argue that you passed on the mobile home because you were going to accept her offer. This is the "detrimental reliance" I was talking about earlier. If you relied on her offer in passing on the mobile home, then you could argue that you have suffered a detriment by relying on her offer so she should be prevented from revoking it.

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But the problem here is that again you run into the Statute of Frauds which states that a contract for the sale of real estate has to be in writing with both parties agreeing in writing in order for it to be binding. And add to that the fact that this would likely end up in court for a year or so with you having to spend $20K on an attorney to pursue this with an uncertain outcome at best.

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However, with her going back and forth with offering to sell to you, it is likely that she will offer again and if she does, insist on getting it on paper with the terms of the sale and then accept it in writing signed by you and her if you are still interested.

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I am very sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers based on my knowledge and experience, even when I know the answer doesn’t make the customer happy...

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Clarification: In response to my question, is her offer to sell the home to us in an email considered a legitimate offer? she wrote "either at the end of the lease or when you have the money".It was her written email making the offer to sell the house, and encouraging us not to buy the mobile home that got me to re-think and pass on the mobile home. When I called her that day and the next to ask about meeting to discuss her offer in more detail, that is when she said her CPA said it was not good for tax reasons to sell now. I was calling her to discuss details of her offer. Is the offer enforceable still at the end of the lease, or 'when i have the money', since she put that in writing? It seems I have time to decide since she gave me that offer, and the lease has not ended yet.
Expert:  Barrister replied 8 months ago.

Honestly, that s so ambiguous of an offer as to essentially be meaningless. "when you have the money" could be a week or fifteen years. So it is so vague as to not mean anything under contract law.

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But if she revoked the offer before it was finalized and you accepted it, then it dies and is no longer an enforceable offer. You have to have a written offer that is accepted by the purchaser in writing in order for it to be enforceable.

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 8 months ago.
an answer in writing is preferred, thanks.
Expert:  Barrister replied 8 months ago.

I am not sure that I understand your comment. Were you not able to see my answer above?

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