We received a letter and a visit from the owner of the property stating that he has terminated the contract with the property management company and they are no longer authorized to receive payments on his behalf. He also sent a copy of the letter he sent to the property management company terminating their contract for just cause. When he further explained that he had not received the last three months of lease payments from the property management company. The owner wants us to pay him directly upon signing a new lease directly with him.
The property management company notified us saying that we are under contract to pay them rent until they notify us otherwise, since the lease is between us and them. The property management company stated that in the State of California we are under legal contract with them.
For further clarification our one year lease ended in May 2018 and since has been on a month to month.
So who do we pay our rent to? We do not want to be evicted due to failure to pay rent. Your legal advice would be grateful!
1 Answer from Attorneys
In my opinion, although you had an agreement signed with the property management company, it was the landlord's agent when it signed the rental agreement, and you actually had a deal with the landlord. Since the landlord rescinded the management agreement, the management company no longer has authority to act.
Rather than being stuck in the middle of what seems to be a nasty fight between the two of them, there are at least a couple of options to consider: 1) putting each month's rent in a segregated bank account that will be paid upon a court order in a case between the two of them (of course, send them both a certified, return receipt letter telling them that's what you're doing); or 2) file a lawsuit for interpleader, name them both as defendants, and pay rent to the court until the court decides to whom you should pay the rent. Ask for an award of attorney's fees for your trouble since, I'm reasonably certain, your rental agreement likely allows for that. In that case, it might be worth retaining an attorney to help you with it.
It's not an optimal situation though. You might also think about giving appropriate notice and relocating.