I moved out of my apartment last month after living there almost three years. My roommate – who also signed the lease – stayed and found someone to replace me. Although the landlord has approved of my replacement, he refuses to take my name off the lease and put the new person on. Am I still responsible for rent if the new person fails to pay? Doesn’t the landlord have to put the new person’s name on the lease?
If the lease you refer to is the one you signed three years ago, and assuming it is for the typical one-year term, it has converted to a month-to-month rental agreement. This means once you give your landlord 30 days’ notice that you’re moving, you are free from your obligation to pay rent when the 30 days are up, even if you are still named on the original lease. If the landlord accepts rent directly from the new person, she has gained all rights and assumed all obligations under the rental agreement, even if she is not acknowledged as a tenant in an amendment to the agreement.
However, if you signed annual leases each year, then you remain liable (with your roommate) for rent payments until the lease ends. By approving a replacement, your landlord has agreed to either a sublease or an assignment of the lease. Under a sublease, your replacement is a subtenant who pays her share of rent to you or your roommate; but you remain responsible for paying the full rent to the landlord, even if the subtenant doesn’t pay you. Under an assignment, you have given the new person all your rights to live in the apartment for the rest of the lease term. Your replacement will pay rent directly to the landlord, but unless the landlord releases you in writing (which effectively takes you off the lease), you are still liable for rent if she defaults.
I’ve been paying rent to my landlord by check since I began renting from her two years ago. Yesterday my landlord called to tell me that she wants me to start paying rent with a cashier’s check, even though I’ve never bounced a check. She says she has had problems with other tenants’ checks so she wants everyone to pay the same way. Can she require this of me?
It depends. In Berkeley, a landlord cannot make a substantial change in the terms of a lease or rental agreement, so if your agreement allows for rent to be paid by personal check, the landlord cannot change that provision. But if your agreement requires payment by cashier’s check, the landlord may be able to enforce the original terms of the agreement.
You can e-mail the City of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board at rent@ci. berkeley.ca.us with your questions, or you can call or visit the office at 2125 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA. 94704.