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posted: 7/17/2011 12:01 AM

Law talk: Landlord demands more rent

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Q. I signed a lease to rent the top floor of a three-flat last year. I stayed the year, paid my rent and moved out on the last day of my lease. I never had any problems with the owner.

Yesterday I received a letter from the owner that says I owe him an additional three months rent. He claims the lease states I must give him 30-days notice if I am not going to renew the lease. He says because I didn't do that, I now owe him three months rent. He says if I don't pay him immediately, he will place this with an attorney for collection.

Of course, after I moved out, I didn't keep the lease, so I have no idea what it says. Even if it does say that, can he charge me for time that I'm not there?

A. Obviously, the first step is to obtain a copy of the lease, signed by you. I would hope the owner would be willing to provide a copy. Make your demand for a copy of the lease in writing.

These types of provisions are often found in leases. It is something to look out for any time you execute a lease agreement.

Presuming this provision was contained in the lease you signed, it may be enforceable. This may depend on the ramifications for noncompliance. Contained in the 30-day provision should be language that describes what occurs in the event the notice is not given. The most common results are the lease turns into a month-to-month lease or you automatically renew for an additional year. I have never seen a provision that states the lessee would be responsible for three months rent. The owner may very well be bluffing on the three-month demand.

Once you obtain a copy of the lease, contact a real estate attorney to review your options. It's hard to believe the owner would actually file a lawsuit over this, but you never know. If your attorney feels the owner has a weak case, he would probably advise you to ignore the letter under the presumption that the owner will not be willing to advance the funds to commence a lawsuit.

Q. I have been trying to sell my home with no luck. Last weekend someone approached me offering to buy my home with seller financing. He proposes that he puts down $5,000 and I take a mortgage for the balance. He says his attorney can put the paperwork together.

I really need to unload this house. Does this sound like something I should get involved in?

A. The problem with his plan is in the event he defaults on the mortgage, your remedy is through the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Act, which provides the mortgagor (your purchaser) with numerous time-consuming protections. A better plan would be for the two of you to enter into Articles of Agreement for Deed. In this arrangement, title does not pass to your purchaser until you are paid in full. In the event he defaults on your agreement, terminating your legal relationship and regaining control of the property is far simpler. Talk to a real estate attorney for further details.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by email to tdr100@hotmail.com or call (847) 359-8983.

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