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Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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I am currently a Middlebury student in Vermont beginning a

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Hello,I am currently a Middlebury student in Vermont beginning a graduate program at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA in August. I was trying to rent a place remotely--and got scammed.(1) The Landlord gave me a false identity until the contract was signed. It turns out he is a registered sex offender (felony aggravated sexual assault of a minor). I would not feel safe living there, with this guy having keys to my apartment. It would ruin my "quiet enjoyment" of the place.(2) The "apartment" does not exist. It is actually a house, where he lives.When I told him I wanted out of the rental agreement, after learning his real name, he threatened to stalk me at university and serve me with an unlawful detainer notice.I won't even be in California until August 20th, but I signed the rental agreement to begin August 1st. So he could "evict" me before I even get there, which I fear will damage my credit.Do you think you can help me?
JA: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state the property is in?
Customer: California
JA: Has any paperwork been filed?
Customer: No, not yet
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: Thanks! The first message above has most of the details.

Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today.

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. To answer your initial question, the answer is no; you can't evict someone who is not living on the premises. If he were to try to get recourse, he would have to sue you in civil court for breach of contract. This means that you must consider your defenses if this were the case.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I'm worried that I might not even find out about the breach of contract suit--or that the "unlawful retainer" could go to court--without me there to defend against it--and that I would lose.

I wouldn't worry about unlawful detainer action because you aren't actually living on the premises. It's only for those who won't leave after being evicted.

RAssuming this landlord tries to sue, then it's important that you know what defenses would be available to you. The fact that he was a sex offender or the fact that he did not describe the premises accurately are probably not going to be valid defenses. Accordingly, defending yourself against a breach of contract can be very difficult, but the law has some recognized defenses that you could choose from and communicate this to the other party. Below are some examples of what a party could use to defend:

  1. A failure to mitigate damages by the plaintiff;

  2. The plaintiff isn’t entitled to the amount they demand because they didn’t provide credits for payments;

  3. The plaintiff themselves breached the contract;

  4. The defendant didn’t actually breach the contract;

  5. A product didn’t work like it was supposed to work when purchased;

  6. The plaintiff refused to accept payment when offered;

  7. The defendant substantially complied with the terms of the agreement;

  8. The contract was illegal or invalid; or

  9. The defendant was prevented from performance

Unless the agreement falls into one of these categories, then a breach of contract may stay. You could make the argument that he tried to withhold relevant information from you.

Because I value input, I would like to know what other questions did you have for me today that I can help out with:-)?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Hello! Not sure what's up with my credit card not going through. Just checked the balance and it's fine, and I'm entering the zip code on record. JustAnswer keeps telling me that I have to update my credit card information for a phone call

Understood

You may need to contact your bank or CC company to authorize the charge:-)

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Sometimes they flag unrecognized internet transactions as fraud
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I will need to call them

It's totally normal. Just Answer isn't quit Amazon where it's as well recognized; however, keep trying.

I do have a meeting so go ahead and work it out with the bank, request the call, and we can chat as early as this afternoon.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Okay, thank you

You bet!

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
The option under the question itself seems stuck in a "must update" loop. The credit card company said the problem was on Just Answer's side. I emailed customer service.

Ok, no problemo!

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Thanks again!

Ok, did you get it worked out? If not, did you get a chance to see what I wrote?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Hi--the website will not let me update my payment information. Or, I can change it, but somehow since the first "want to switch to a phone call" offer was made with the first card (which has a super low limit for internet transactions) was declined, I can't get Just Answer to actually attempt to charge the second card.
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I don't know if you can put through a different "offer" on your end, that would take the new card into account?

I see. I'm sorry to hear that. You can still try to work with customer care, but in the meantime, we can chat in writing. The system won't let me offer the call for some reason so there may be some sort of malfunction. My sincerest apologies.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Okay, thank you!

You bet. Take a look at what I had to say about this situation earlier and let me know what questions you had for me about that.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
What you said sounds reasonable. My fear would just be that he would put through an unlawful detainer anyway (as he said he would). And I would not even get notice of it, since I'm not in the state. If I don't show up, and the court ruled against me, I'm afraid it would tank my credit score
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
But if he doesn't, I am also not sure how to protect myself against breach of contract
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Oh wait

I can certainly understand. He may, but if you never move in, it wouldn't make any sense to go forward with an eviction. He would be required to give you notice, even if you're not in the state. If you don't show up, a default could be entered; however, a judge will ask whether you even are living there so they will likely dismiss it.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I didn't see that answer from earlier, actually, I will read that now

Awesome.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I do think the contract was illegal or invalid, because he gave me a different name until the contract was signed. It wasn't until afterwards, when he signed with his real name, that I was able to do a search and find out he was a felony child rapist. I would say that information of felony criminal activity--deliberately withheld--was material to the contract, rendering void.To say nothing of my own discomfort, especially with a guy who has now angrily cursed me out, I have young nieces and nephews that could not visit for safety reasons. He's a child rapist. How can giving this guy the keys to my apartment constitute a habitable environment?
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I guess my big question is what I can do, now, to legally get out of this rental agreement
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Also, he texted me about an hour ago asking to make some kind of "arrangement" acceptable to both parties. If I can get him to sign something over email, what should it look like?
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Thank you for your help!

Good question. So, I think a settlement would be good idea. I think that a basic settlement agreement would work. The agreement can basically say that in exchange for him releasing you from the lease, you may agree to pay a certain amount of $.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
That sounds good! Assuming he'll be reasonable... If he will sign something (he's resistant to responding by email, so I'm doubtful), can I just kind of keep that in case he tries to sue me later, or will I need to file something at the court?

Correct. You should keep any agreements that you make with him to defend against any future claims he may try to assert. Any other questions for me today?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
That's all for now! Knowing a UD isn't going to show up on my door when I'm across the country takes a huge load off my mind

I see what you mean and I totally concur. Unless you have additional questions, there’s just a few other things I’d like you to know before we wrap up this conversation:

  1. Could you look on your screen and provide me a star rating? 5-stars are always appreciated.

  2. You can save me as a favorite if you would like.

  3. For your benefit, you can also click here in the future to request me individually.

  4. Don’t forget, if you haven’t already, you can always sign up for a membership with Just Answer and start asking more questions for cheap.

  5. Don’t forget to tell your friends about justanswer.com!

Legal Eagle and 4 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Great, thank you!

Thanks so much!

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
1) He does not want to sign an agreement, now(2) He said he feared for the safety of his family, now that I know his address. I really don't know what this guy is playing at. He said I had the combinations to the doors to his house--I do not--and said he was going to take measures to protect his familyI have no idea what to do in this situation. The guy seems off his rocker, is a convicted child rapist, and now I have some kind of contract with him.

I understand. Give it time and continue to try to negotiate with him. You can remind him that if you took the place, someone else probably would as well. If he's concerned for his safety, you could remind him that your goal here isn't to harm him, but to find some reasonable way out of this. Just keep in mind that signing the agreement kind of put you in a tough spot, but he's at least letting you know what his interests are, giving you a way to try to meet those interests and solve the problem.