Verbal Rent to Own Agreements

Categorized as Rent To Own Homes

Navigating the legal complexities of verbal rent to own agreements might feel an overwhelming endeavor. Particularly for Low income families, already balancing a multitude of responsibilities, the law can appear as an intricate maze. However, there’s no need to worry… We’ve crafted this article to simplify the legal elements of these agreements, translating the information into a language that’s easy to comprehend.

You Will Learn: 

  • What verbal rent to own agreements are and how they work
  • The legality and validity of verbal lease agreements
  • How such agreements can be proven
  • The potential to break these agreements
  • The use of verbal rent agreements in eviction cases
  • Phone contracts between tenants and landlords
  • Why a written lease agreement is vital and risks of just a verbal agreement
  • The resources available for low-income families needing legal aid for verbal leases

The Historical Landscape of Verbal Agreements 

In bygone eras, the use of verbal agreements, particularly in property leasing, was quite prevalent.

Before written contracts became the norm, a verbal pact was deemed as binding as any legal document, a practice rooted in societies where personal trust and reputation held great importance. However, as society advanced and complexities arose, the inherent flaws of verbal agreements came to light.

As a result, the usage of verbal agreements has significantly reduced. This decline can be attributed to the inherent ambiguity and potential for misinterpretation associated with verbal agreements. 

Rent to own contracts are a crucial topic to grasp, especially because tenants’ higher payments go towards purchasing the property. Disagreements can quickly escalate without a well documented agreement… especially when there are significant financial implications at stake.

It is a MUST to clearly define important details in a rental agreement, such as the rental rate, lease term, and responsibilities of each part involved.

What is a Verbal Lease Agreement?

A verbal rent-to-own agreement, at its core, is a rental contract containing a purchase option. Instead of being formalized in writing, such an agreement relies on oral communication between the tenant (who is also a prospective buyer) and the landlord.

It is through this verbal exchange that the terms and conditions defining the rent and potential purchase of the property are established.

Note that in the eyes of the law, a verbal lease agreement is considered as a valid oral contract and is just as legally binding as a written contract. Hence, if the landlord and the tenant come to an agreement about the lease terms verbally, this agreement is enforceable in court. 

Elements of a Valid Oral Contract 

A verbal lease agreement falls under the category of a “Valid Oral Contract”. There are four primary elements that are required to form a valid oral contract. These are: 

  1. Offer: The proposal put forward by one party.
  2. Acceptance: The agreement by the other party to the proposed offer.
  3. Consideration: Something of value exchanged between the parties involved (usually rent money)
  4. Mutual Intent: The shared intention of the parties to enter into a binding relationship.

Furthermore, evidence of the agreement’s existence is crucial. This can be challenging to provide without written documentation. However, a history of regular payments or testimony from a neutral third party could serve as proof. 

Text Communications as Verbal Agreements 

The status of text messages or digital communications as verbal agreements is largely context-dependent. If these communications clearly state the terms of the agreement and are accepted by all parties involved, they could be considered as verbal agreements. However, any unclear or ambiguous communications may not hold up as legally binding agreements. 

Note: While verbal agreements can be legally binding, it’s generally recommended to have all lease agreements documented in writing to avoid potential disputes or misunderstandings.

Are Verbal Lease Agreements Legal?

Many people often believe that verbal agreements are not very important, especially when it comes to legal matters. However, it is important to reconsider this idea. Contrary to what many people think, verbal lease agreements can actually be legally binding. Certain conditions and criteria must be met for this to happen.

Pros and Cons of Verbal Rent-to-Own Agreements

We encourage you to delve into the advantages and disadvantages of verbal rent-to-own agreements. As a tenant-buyer, gaining a deep understanding of this concept is of utmost importance. It empowers you to make knowledgeable decisions concerning your living arrangement.

Benefits of Opting for Verbal Rent-to-Own Agreements 

  • Flexibility: The inherent nature of verbal agreements usually offers more room for adjustments than their written counterparts. Both you and your landlord have the freedom to come to terms that are mutually beneficial and amend them seamlessly should circumstances necessitate change.
  • Convenience: The absence of any formal paperwork makes verbal agreements a swift and straightforward option. This can come in handy when your priority is securing accommodation in a short span of time.
  • Informality: If you enjoy a cordial bond with your landlord, a verbal agreement can help retain that relaxed, informal rapport.

Cons of Verbal Rent-to-Own Agreements 

  • Lack of proof: When disputes arise, it can be incredibly difficult for you to establish the particulars of a verbal agreement. The exact terms of rent, the security deposit amount and conditions for its return, details about late fees, the distribution of maintenance responsibilities, and provisions regarding contract termination all become blurred. Without a solid written document, it degenerates into a ‘he said, she said’ scenario, possibly leading to complex legal predicaments.
  • Misunderstandings: Verbal agreements inherently allow for aspects to be misinterpreted or neglected. This lack of lucidity can sow the seeds of misunderstanding and trigger prospective disputes.
  • Legality: In certain states, verbal lease agreements, particularly those meant for long-term periods, are not acknowledged as legally binding. It is always wise to familiarize yourself with the specific laws of your jurisdiction before entering into a verbal agreement.

Regardless of the path you decide to follow, it’s crucial to comprehend the significance of knowing your rights and duties as a tenant-buyer.

Should you find yourself in any state of doubt or confusion, do not hold back from obtaining legal advice before you put your signature on the dotted line of any agreement. With the confidence that comes from being well-informed, you can secure a home that is both safe and affordable for your family

Tips for Creating a Verbal Rent Agreement: Dos and Don’ts

Including specific details in the agreement is an excellent idea in order to reduce chances of conflicts or misunderstandings. The details we recommend including are::

  • Length of the lease: This clarifies the duration of the agreement/contract.
  • Rent amount: This specifies the monthly or yearly cost to be paid by the tenant-buyer.
  • Due date for payments: This ensures timely payments and helps prevent possible disputes related to late or missed payments.
  • Security deposit amount: This is a refundable deposit which serves as a protection for the landlord against possible damages or unpaid rent.
  • Conditions or rules for living on the property: These are important to maintain the integrity of the property and ensure a harmonious living environment.
  • Property maintenance responsibilities: This outlines who is responsible for the upkeep of the property.
  • Option to purchase clause: This specifies whether or not the tenant has the choice to buy the property at the end of the lease term.
  • Penalties for late payment: This discourages late payments and gives the landlord some recourse if payments are not made on time.

Important: Make sure that any agreements reached verbally are also documented in writing… You can do this by sending an email or SMS/whatsapp in which you clearly summarize all the terms that you both have agreed upon.

Having a witness during the formation of a verbal rent-to-own agreement can be invaluable. 

Having a third party present during the formation of a verbal agreement is strongly suggested for added security. A witness, someone who can vouch for the terms that were mutually agreed upon, adds credibility to your argument in case a disagreement crops up. This extra safety measure can simplify and fortify the process, offering peace of mind to everyone involved.

Proceed with Caution: The Don’ts of Verbal Rent to Own Agreements 

When embarking on a verbal rent to own agreement, it’s crucial to exercise caution and protect your rights. There are certain don’ts that you should keep in mind to avoid potential pitfalls: 

  1. Don’t let the landlord dictate the terms & conditions: As a tenant-buyer, you have rights. Don’t be pressured into accepting terms that are unfair or disadvantageous to you. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
  2. Don’t skip the details: It may seem tedious, but discussing and agreeing on every detail is essential in avoiding misunderstandings down the line. This includes the duration of the lease, rent amount, payment dates, and what happens if a payment is missed.
  3. Don’t forget about maintenance and repairs: Whose responsibility is it to maintain the property and carry out necessary repairs?? Make sure this is discussed and agreed upon to avoid disputes!

Bear in mind, a verbal agreement can be harder to prove and enforce than a written one. Thus, it’s often in your best interest to get everything in writing. This is not about being paranoid, but about safeguarding your rights and interests. 😉 

Remember: When it comes to verbal rent to own agreements, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your home is at stake, and you don’t want to risk losing it over a misunderstanding or a landlord’s change of heart. Be clear, be firm, and always protect your rights.

Step by Step Guide to Resolving Rent to Own Agreement Conflicts 

  1. Document interactions: Keep a record of all interactions with your landlord or tenant, including dates, times, and agreements. This can be invaluable if a conflict arises.

  2. Seek legal advice: Consult a real estate attorney to clarify your options and rights. They can provide professional guidance based on your specific situation.

  3. Negotiate: Discuss the agreement’s terms openly with your landlord or tenant. Openly converse about the terms of the agreement with your landlord or tenant. Ensuring a clear line of communication is crucial in arriving at a joint understanding.

  4. Consider mediation: If disputes persist, explore mediation. This is a less formal, non-binding process that can help both parties reach a compromise.

  5. Pursue legal action: If mediation proves unsuccessful, consider taking legal action in small claims court or arbitration. (This should be treated as a last resort).

Breaking Verbal Lease Agreements: What You Need to Know

Understanding the process of breaking verbal lease agreements can be puzzling, and often leaves tenants and landlords alike in a sea of uncertainty. Whether you’re a tenant looking to break a lease due to unforeseen circumstances or a landlord dealing with a non-compliant tenant, it’s crucial to know the legalities that surround verbal rent-to-own agreements. 

Verbal agreements, just like written ones, are legally binding. However, they can be trickier to enforce due to the lack of physical documentation. 

Just a quick note: Rent-to-own agreements are when you rent a property but also have the option to buy it once the lease term is over.

When Verbal Rent Agreements Go Wrong: A Legal Perspective 

When a verbal lease agreement goes awry, it can prove to be a complex situation for both tenants and landlords. As the agreement is verbal, it becomes more about ‘your word against theirs’. However, you are not entirely defenseless. The US law provides certain protective measures for such situations. 

Legal Options for Tenants and Landlords 

As a tenant-buyer, your first step should be to gather evidence. Document any communication between you and your landlord – emails, text messages, letters, or voicemails. This can serve as proof of the agreement. 

If you’re a landlord, the same advice applies. Keep a record of all conversations and dealings with the tenant. This might be your strongest argument in court. 

Note: Never forget that even without a written contract, you still have legal obligations and rights. The agreement/deal, even if verbal, is still legally binding.

Examples of Verbal Lease Agreements Broken and the Consequences 

  1. Consider the following examples to better comprehend the repercussions of breaching a verbal lease agreement: 

    Grasping the concept of verbal lease agreements and recognizing situations where they may be violated is crucial in your journey as a renter-buyer. For your convenience, we provide two authentic examples to elucidate such circumstances:

    Emergency Relocation (Tenant’s Perspective)

    A tenant named John had a verbal lease agreement with his landlord, Mary. John was a single father working a low-income job, living in Mary’s property for about two years. Suddenly, John’s job required him to relocate to another city, a move that he had not anticipated. John had only a month’s notice for this move. Naturally, he was unable to fulfill the standard two months’ notice generally required to terminate a lease. John was worried, but as there was no written lease agreement, he was able to negotiate with Mary to leave the property earlier without any financial penalties.

  2. Urgent Property Sale (Landlord’s Perspective)

     Sarah was compelled to make a tough call about her property. After careful deliberation, she approached her tenant, Robert, with her intent to sell the property. Despite their initial verbal agreement, Robert found himself incapable of vacating the property on such short notice. With respect for Robert’s predicament and cognizant of her urgent financial requirements, Sarah proposed an alternative solution. She magnanimously offered to refund a portion of the rent that Robert had already paid, money which was originally meant to be used towards the option to purchase the property.  This allowed Sarah to fulfil her financial needs without incurring any legal penalties.

Insights from Three Legal Experts

According to three experienced attorneys, verbal rent-to-own agreements are deemed non-enforceable due to the Statute of Frauds, which necessitates a written contract. This statute ensures that the “purchase” part of a verbal agreement is unenforceable, thereby casting the renter as merely a tenant until the closing part of the agreement is fulfilled.

However, it’s highlighted that while the purchase of a property should be backed by a written document, exceptions do exist. For instance, if a seller made false statements to coax the buyer into the lease, or if there are documents that prove a rent-to-own agreement, the seller can still be sued for fraud.

Additionally, it’s crucial to note that a written agreement doesn’t guarantee money back. It’s also unusual for a portion of the rent to be saved for a down payment, even in legitimate rent-to-own agreements. Therefore, it’s recommended to consult with a real estate litigation attorney to navigate these complex matters effectively.

Believe it or Not, This Really Happened

A tenant had a verbal rent-to-own agreement with his landlord. For over twenty years, he rented the house without a written contract. Upon the landlord’s death, the landlord’s heir decided to sell the house, leaving the tenant scrambling to find written proof of the rent-to-own agreement.

Fortuitously, the tenant had kept records of correspondence and receipts from the landlord, providing some evidence of the agreement. After some negotiations, the tenant and the landlord’s heir settled on a cash sum enabling the tenant to buy the house without going to court.

This experience underscores the importance of having a legally enforceable contract in rent-to-own situations. A verbal agreement, without written evidence, may not be legally enforceable.

(Source: Karim C. @Quora)

The Statute of Frauds and Lease Agreements 

The Statute of Frauds is a crucial aspect of U.S. law. It stipulates that specific types of contracts should be in writing to be legally enforceable.

Real estate agreements, particularly lease agreements, fall into this category. However, this doesn’t imply that a verbal lease agreement is always invalid. 

There are several exceptions to this rule. For example, if the lease is for a year or less, the Statute of Frauds usually doesn’t require it to be in writing. So, if you’ve agreed verbally with your landlord to live in a property for a few months, this can be enforced under the law. 

Using Verbal Rent Agreements for Evictions and Phone Contracts 

Verbal rent-to-own agreements can sometimes factor into eviction proceedings. For example, if you have breached a term of the verbal agreement, such as failing to pay rent, your landlord could possibly evict you. Nevertheless, they must adhere to the correct legal processes, corresponding to those required with a written lease. 

In the context of phone agreements between landlords and tenants, the same principles are applicable. If the landlord can establish that standard lease conditions were confirmed over the phone, these conditions can be legally binding. 

Conclusively, although it’s perpetually more secure and explicit to obtain a written lease agreement, verbal agreements can occasionally be upheld by law. It’s crucial for you to understand the stipulations of your lease, be it written or verbal. If you find yourself with any uncertainties or worries, seeking advice from a legal professional is always a good idea. 

Under the law, specifically the Statute of Frauds, verbal or oral lease agreements may not be viewed as robust legal proof. This is particularly applicable in scenarios where the lease duration exceeds one year. In these cases, a written agreement is typically obligatory. 


Can a Verbal Lease Agreement be Used for Commercial Properties? 

Indeed, a verbal lease agreement can be applicable for commercial properties. However, it’s essential to understand that the enforceability of such contracts can be rather complex due to the nature of verbal agreements and the laws surrounding them.

Can a landlord increase rent in a verbal lease agreement?

An increased likelihood of complications can stem from the informal nature of these kind of arrangements. 

Contrasting sharply with a written rent-to-own contract, governed by unequivocal US laws, a verbal agreement often lacks the same stringent legal protections and well-defined conditions. 

The absence of a tangible document, in certain instances, can grant landlords more leeway to implement changes, such as rent escalations, that would be under strict regulation within a written agreement. 

Conversely, within the context of a written rent-to-own contract, the landlord’s ability to raise rent is typically specified clearly within the terms of the agreement. This enforces strict adherence to the contract’s prescribed guidelines by the landlord, providing an extra layer of security for the tenant.

How long can a verbal lease agreement last?

The length of a verbal lease agreement is shaped by the mutual understanding between the tenant and their landlord. This could span a brief or extended period, reflecting the unique necessities of each party.

One crucial thing to bear in mind is that enforcing a verbal lease agreement can prove challenging if there’s no unambiguous understanding of its terms and conditions. Nevertheless, it’s strongly recommended to shift towards written agreements, ensuring both clarity and safety.

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