Landlord Can Collect Only Six Years’ Rent on Mistake

Question: For eight years we have rented space in a Glendale office building for our travel business. Our lease included three parking spaces at a cost of $50 a month per parking space. Our office manager has paid the monthly rent invoice from our landlord every month for eight years. Last week our landlord said that this monthly rent invoice was a mistake because the monthly invoice should have included another $50 for the third parking space. The “bottom line” is that the landlord says that we now owe $4,800 additional rent (96 months x $50 a month). Didn’t we have the right to rely on the monthly rent invoices that our office manager paid every month for eight years?

Answer: Probably not. The terms of the negotiated lease between you and your landlord control the amount of monthly rent owed, not the monthly rent invoices from your landlord’s office. In other words, a landlord is not “estopped,” or prevented, from collecting all of the rent owed under the lease, even though a tenant relied on the landlord’s incorrect monthly rent invoices. There is a six-year statute of limitations, however, for breach of a written contract such as your office lease. In other words, although you breached the lease every month for eight years, you should only have to pay $50 a month for the third parking space for the last six years. Therefore, you should only owe the landlord $3,600 in additional rent (72 months x $50 a month).

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