Recovering rent without a lease

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Recovering rent without a lease

I am currently renting out my house and my tenant owes me 1,525 in rent and water bills. The deed for the house is currently in the courts awaiting finishing payments on amount owed for signing over the deeds from the previous owners. I did not have the tenant sign a lease, due to us being friends and me being stupid, but I have text messages with her acknowledging that she owes me money and telling me that she is leaving by December 1. Will I be able to recover the money owed or no without a lease?

Asked on November 16, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you can recover rent. 
1) There was a lease: an oral or unwritten one, or the agreement you would rent to her. Oral leases are not binding into the future, since they are month-to-month (either side can cancel on a month's notice), but they are enforceable for time she actually has been there: there was an agreement she could live there in exchange for rent, she did live there, so now she must uphold her end of the bargain and pay.
2) Furthermore, under the theory of "unjust enrichment," someone cannot be unjustly or unfairly enriched by getting the benefit of something she knew she was supposed to pay for without paying; this theory also supports recovering rent for the time she was there.

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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