I moved into a townhouse 15 years ago and gave the landlord a $500 deposit for 3/4 tank full of oil. He stated that if I moved out and the tank was at 3/4 I would get my $500 back. At that time oil was .99 a gallon. My question is do I still have to fill the tank to 3/4 at today's prices which is $3.21 in my area which will cost more than $500 or do I just show that there is already $500 worth of oil in the tank and expect a refund?
1 Answer from Attorneys
That is a difficult question. Was this agreement in writing? If so, then the terms of the writing would prevail. If it was an oral agreement, the that poses a more difficult issue. The question is did you promise to leave the tank 3/4 filled on moving out or did you promise to leave $500 worth of oil in the tank. I think you can take the position that you agreed to leave $500 worth of oil in the take when leaving, because to leave the tank 3/4 full now will cost you much more than $500, unless you have a writing to the contrary. Frankly, I don't see that when you made the oral agreement, either you or the landlord anticipated that you would remain a tenant for 15 years, or that the price of heating oil would more than triple during the tenancy. I think you can forget about any refund, and should leave $500 worth of oil in the tank. I believe that is an equitable solution to the problem, under the circumstances. Please understand that this is my opinion only and other lawyers might disagree with me. I am certainly not suggesting that you lie about the oral agreement. The issue you present is one of interpretation, and I think it would be unfair to charge you the value of 3/4 of a tank at today's prices.