Is a co-signer bound by a renewal lease?

UPDATED: Oct 14, 2010

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Is a co-signer bound by a renewal lease?

My mother is a co-signer. We understood her to only be the signer for the first term and then any renewal would be between me and the landlord. However, I moved out 5 years later and there were damages that were more than my deposit. I want to pay them back but do not have a job and my co-signer has just recently undergone a hardship due to the closing of her business. I can only pay $50 per month until balance is paid off. Landlord is saying that we must agree to pay a larger sum; $50.00 per month is not acceptable. Do I have to agree? I also don’t think that the co-signer is still a part of this anymore. She was never a part of the renewal process and the landlord never spoke of the co-signer until now. Before it’s always been just my name since the renewal. Is this leagal? I am limited with my money. What are our rights here?

Asked on October 14, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

You need to have an attorney review the original lease, any other documents guaranteeing the lease, and any/all other corresondence between you and the landlord. (If you can't afford an attorney, try contacting legal aid; or your state bar association for  a referral to an attorney who will help pro bono, or for free.) The short answer is, if subsequent renewals were not by signing entirely new leases, but were simply by some email, memo, letter, document, etc. that stated that renewals will be "on the same terms as the prior lease," then at least arguably, the co-signor would still  be bound--especially if the original lease she signed stated somewhere in it that it would or could be renewed, which would put her on notice that she could be obligated for subsequent terms unless she specifically opted out. Also, in the case of "renewal on the same terms," it might be considered fraud if you signed something to that effect but your cosignor was no longer helping guarantee the rent--since that would not be  "the same terms" any longer. Note that it's not a given that in the situation described above that your mother would still be obligated--just that there's at  least an argument to be made, that you and/or she may have to try to refute in court. This is why you need legal help to evaluate the situation.

On the other hand, if each renewal was by executing an entirely new lease and the cosignor did not sign, you'd have an excellent argument that she was not bound.

Also, if you owe money, the creditor (in this case, the landlord) does not have to agree to any payment plan other than payment in full--you owe the money, you have to pay it, and it's entirely at the creditor's discretion what payment terms, if any, he will accept.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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