Real estate help: This is a long question i will try to make brief as best I can. My girlfriend rented from a property agency in 2010 and signed a lease along with a parental guarantee, which she took to mean she was on an individual lease. When she renewed her contract they presented her with the same contract but marked the old roommates names out and wrote in the two new ones. One of the roommates allowed another person to live in the house for over a month (violation of lease) and the roommate failed to pay her portion of the rent for 4 months. Property agency came after my girlfriend to pay the $1600 so my girlfriend decided to sue the roommate in civil court and won. The roommate gave the property agency a fake address and phone numbers when she signed her lease (address was to a house she never lived at and phone numbers were a fax number and a high school). The roommate has since moved across the country and now that my girlfriend has been moved out for three months, the agency has sent her a letter saying she owes $1600 for past rent and if she doesn't pay then she will be taken to court. My girlfriend says that the parental agreement has no expiration date and she was under the impression that when she renewed in 2011 and 2012 that she did not need to sign another one, nor was she presented with was and therefore the agency claims that they were all on a joint lease. What can my girlfriend do? She just got her degree from college and has not found a job yet and does not think she should pay for this. We are in Georgia. Thank you.
2 Answers from Attorneys
No one who has not read the lease can possibly answer this question, so show it to a lawyer. 99,99% of the time, she will not like the answer. Usually when leases are signed by multiple people, all the signatories are jointly and severally liable, meaning she owes 100% of the amount (and her suing the other party does not change that). But again, no one who has not seen the documents can tell you for sure and she should have already sat down with a lawyer long ago to determine her exposure.
What your girlfriend believes she should pay, or what she thought the lease said, is not relevant at all. The question is what do the documents actually say? Someone who is now a college graduate should know by now that signing contracts is an important part of life. This likely will be a $1600 lesson, and it might be well worth it if she now knows to read and understand contracts before signing. On the other hand, if she does not pay merely because she thinks she does not have to, without regard to the contract, she'll enter her working life with bad credit and possibly a judgment. That would cost her MANY times the $1600 in higher interest rates. It could cost her jobs as employers will check credit and think she is irresponsible. She'll have trouble getting an apartment, since obviously they will see she did not pay her previous landlord. They won't ask for details/excuses - they just reject. She needs to pick up the paperwork, and read it.