Can I be sued if I was never on the lease?

Full Question:

I lived for six months with a couple of friends. I had a verbal agreement with my friends to pay them for living in one of their bedrooms. We were all evicted because my friends were not paying their rent. Now my friend's landlord is suing all of us for back rent, despite the fact that I am not on the lease agreement, I am however listed as a resident. She claims that I was not on the lease because I was at work and that she had intended that I sign the lease. I was there when the lease was signed where she claimed that I wasn't being put on the lease so my friends would still have control of the apartment when I enlisted or if we had a falling out. She now denies this conversation ever took place. We lived at the apartment for six months, I wasn't listed as a tenant on the lease nor was there a space for me to sign the lease. Am I responsible for the debt accumulated by my friends or am I just being dragged into this because I have a job and steady income?
02/06/2009   |   Category: Landlord Ten... ยป Lease Termin...   |   State: Alaska   |   #15169


It will be a matter of determination for the court, based on all the facts and circumstances involved. Some of the factors that may be considered, among others, include whether you paid rent to the other tenants or had an agreement to pay rent directly to the landlord, and the terms contained in the lease. For example, the lease may state that any individual named on the lease is jointly and severally liable. Even without such a statement, a court may find that joint and several liability exists, so that any one person could be liable for the full amount and need to seek contribution from the others in a separate action. In the case of oral agreements, it is often one person's word against the other's.

Generally, where the roommate is not named and has not signed the lease, the roommate is considered a subtenant and pays his/her portion of the rent to the named tenant on the lease, who is responsible for the full amount of the rent to the landlord. However, Alaska law provides that by accepting possession and paying rent, a lease is effective against that person despite a lack of signing.

Contracts are agreements that are legally enforceable. A contract is an agreement between two parties that creates an obligation to do or refrain from doing a particular thing. The purpose of a contract is to establish the terms of the agreement by which the parties have fixed their rights and duties. A contract may be legally defined as a voluntary, legally enforceable, agreement made by persons with the proper capacity. It should include: 1) an offer; 2) an acceptance; and 3) consideration, or an exchange of value.

Acceptance of an offer is the expression of assent to its terms. Acceptance must generally be made in the manner specified by the offer. If no manner of acceptance is specified by the offer, then acceptance may be made in a manner that is reasonable under the circumstances. An acceptance is only valid, however, if the offeree knows of the offer, the offeree manifests an intention to accept, and the acceptance is expressed as an unequivocal and unconditional agreement to the terms of the offer.

Many offers specify the method of acceptance, whether it be oral or written, by phone or in person, by handshake or by ceremony. Other offers leave open the method of acceptance, allowing the offeree to accept in a reasonable manner. Most consumer transactions fall into this category, as when a shopper "accepts" a merchant's offer by taking possession of a particular good and paying for it at the cash register. But what constitutes a "reasonable" acceptance will vary according to the contract.

A contract may be express or implied. A unilateral contract is one in which there is a promise to pay or give other consideration in return for actual performance. A bilateral contract is one in which a promise is exchanged for a promise. A contract is an agreement between two parties that creates an obligation to do or refrain from doing a particular thing. The purpose of a contract is to establish the terms of the agreement by which the parties have fixed their rights and duties.

An oral contract is an agreement made with spoken words and either no writing or only partially written. An oral contract may generally be enforced the same as a written agreement. However, it is much more difficult with an oral contract to prove its existence or the terms. Oral contracts also usually have a shorter time period within which a person seeking to enforce their contract right must sue. A written contract generally provides a longer time to sue than for breach of an oral contract.

An unjustifiable failure to perform all or some part of a contractual duty is a breach of contract. A legal action for breach of contract arises when at least one party's performance does not live up to the terms of the contract and causes the other party to suffer economic damage or other types of measurable injury. A lawsuit for breach of contract is a civil action and the remedies awarded are designed to place the injured party in the position they would be in if not for the breach. Remedies for contractual breaches are not designed to punish the breaching party. The five basic remedies for breach of contract include the following: money damages, restitution, rescission, reformation, and specific performance. A money damage award includes a sum of money that is given as compensation for financial losses caused by a breach of contract. Parties injured by a breach are entitled to the benefit of the bargain they entered, or the net gain that would have accrued but for the breach. The type of breach governs the extent of damages that may be recovered.

Restitution is a remedy designed to restore the injured party to the position occupied prior to the formation of the contract. Parties seeking restitution may not request to be compensated for lost profits or other earnings caused by a breach. Instead, restitution aims at returning to the plaintiff any money or property given to the defendant under the contract. Plaintiffs typically seek restitution when contracts they have entered are voided by courts due to a defendant's incompetence or incapacity.

Promissory estoppel is a term used in contract law that applies where, although there may not otherwise be an enforceable contract, because one party has relied on the promise of the other, it would be unfair not to enforce the agreement. Promissory estoppel arises from a promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forebearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee and which does induce such action or forebearance in binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise.

Detrimental reliance is a term commonly used to force another to perform their obligations under a contract, using the theory of promissory estoppel. Promissory estoppel may apply when a promise was made; reliance on the promise was reasonable or foreseeable; there was actual and reasonable reliance on the promise; the reliance was detrimental; and injustice can only be prevented by enforcing the promise. Detrimental reliance must be shown to involve reliance that is reasonable, which is a determination made on an individual case-by-case basis, taking all factors into consideration. Detrimental means that some type of harm is suffered. Reasonable reliance is usually referred to as a theory of recovery in contract law. It was what a prudent person might believe and act upon based on something told by another. Sometimes a person acts in reliance on the promise of a profit or other benefit, only to learn that the statements or promises were either incorrect or were exaggerated. The one who acted to their detriment in reasonable reliance may recover damages for the costs of his/her actions or demand performance. Reasonable reliance connotes the use of the standard of ordinary and average person.

The following is an Alaska statute:

34.03.030. Effect of unsigned or undelivered rental agreement.

(a) If the landlord does not sign and deliver a written rental agreement
signed and delivered to the landlord by the tenant, acceptance of rent
without reservation by the landlord gives the rental agreement the same
effect as if it had been signed and delivered by the landlord.

(b) If the tenant does not sign and deliver a written rental agreement
signed and delivered to the tenant by the landlord, acceptance of
possession and payment of rent without reservation gives the rental
agreement the same effect as if it had been signed and delivered by the

(c) If a rental agreement given effect by the operation of this section
provides for a term longer than one year, it is effective only for one

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