Previously, we began looking at an ongoing dispute between an elderly woman in Burligame and her current landlord, who is attempting to evict her from her long-time residence, apparently in defiance of a verbal agreement the woman had with the previous landlord that she could remain in the property as long as she wanted.
Unfortunately, the situation faced by this elderly woman is representative of the widespread problem of housing affordability for those living on fixed incomes. Without rent stabilization or just cause eviction requirements, certain tenants are at risk of getting pushed aside in the search to find or maintain housing.
One interesting issue raised by the case is the validity of oral agreements in leasing and renting. The difference between the two, for those who aren’t clear on the matter, is that a lease specifies the total amount of time the lease will be in effect, whereas a rental agreement specifies the length of time between payments.
Although we don’t have all the details of the above case, including the terms of the agreement and the facts, if any, supporting an oral agreement between the elderly woman and her previous landlord, it is worth noting that oral rental and lease agreements are binding in court as long as the agreement does not run for more than one year. If the agreement extends for more than one year, it must be in writing or it is not enforceable. There are, though, certain matters that must still be set forth in writing, even with oral rental agreements less than one year in length.
Because disputes are more difficult to resolve when the details of a rental agreement are not written down, it is usually best to get everything down on paper. This is especially the case when the renter plans to rent or lease the property for longer periods of time, up to a year, or, as in the case we’ve been discussing, when the renter or tenant has the option to extend the agreement as long as he or she desires. Navigating the validity of oral rental and lease agreements which go along with written rental and lease agreements can get tricky, and when disputes arise, it is important to work with an experienced advocate who can protect one’s rights.