Paperwork Error Doesn’t Erase Tenants’ Liability

  Question:  Twenty years ago we bought a small home in Tempe for our daughter who was a student at ASU.  Since she graduated we have been renting the home, mostly to ASU students.  We never had any problems.  Last summer we rented the home to a boyfriend and girlfriend who went to ASU law school.  Big mistake!  Although both of them signed the lease, and both have paid checks for their one-half of the rent and the security deposit, in the lease itself my husband mistakenly put only the girlfriend’s name on the line in the lease for the names of the “Tenants.”  The boyfriend and girlfriend have now broken up, and the boyfriend has moved out.  The boyfriend says that he has no liability on the lease because his name was not listed specifically as a tenant, and that the girlfriend has liability for only one-half of the rent.  The boyfriend says that he will sue us for punitive damages if we try to collect rent from him, or try to evict his girlfriend who can only afford one-half of the rent.  Is he right?  We no longer want to rent to ASU students, especially ASU law school students!  Can we refuse to rent to ASU students?

  Answer:  First, if both the boyfriend and the girlfriend signed the lease, and if both the boyfriend and the girlfriend each paid one-half of the monthly rent, the boyfriend and girlfriend are jointly and severally liable for the entire amount of the monthly rent, even though by mistake the boyfriend’s name was not specifically listed as a tenant.  Second, college students, including law school students, have no protection under fair housing laws, and a landlord is not required to rent to college students.  A California appeals court has specifically ruled that a subdivision developer in Bakersfield could refuse to sell homes to buyers that were lawyers.

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