Can a verbal agreement to buy a house be enforced?

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Can a verbal agreement to buy a house be enforced?

I’m renting to buy a house, or so I thought. I paid $5,000 down, with  $400 a month (for 24 months) before buying the property. But now the seller is denying this. There is a paper stating this but it only has my signature, not the seller’s. For a just a basic rental you would only pay first, last, and deposit. What are my rights and how long does the owner have to tell me that she has put the house back on the market? With no lease agreement, is that legal when renting or buying? How long do I have to move once the property is sold?

Asked on April 22, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Georgia

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You have multiple issues here. The Statute of Frauds (your state statutes would mimic this) require certain types of contracts to be in writing to be enforceable, including property purchases and contracts that take more than a year to complete. So, this will all turn on what your specific contract states. It at most will state your terms of payment and that this is a lease with option to buy (your option to buy). If it does, and you can prove that you paid $5,000.00 down and made the monthly payments as per the contract and the landlord took and cashed all this money, then you may have an enforceable lease with option to buy contract, despite the landlord's lack of signature on it. It may be considered either a writing that is effective with your signature because you are the party paying or taken out of contract and shown as performance by the landlord, which requires him or her to carry out the remaining terms of the contract. If the court doesn't agree this was an effective contract in writing or an effective performance based on all the facts the court hears and obtains through witness testimony and evidence submission, then you may be able to get a lot of your money back as an illegal security deposit held by the landlord. Either way, you may wish to consult with a real estate attorney who has experience with both lease options to buy and rental agreements for single family homes in general.


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