Walkersville, MD asked in Real Estate Law, Landlord - Tenant and Small Claims for Maryland

Q: Is there anything I can do to get past due rent money my former fiancé who moved into a new home with me?

I sold my condo & uprooted my life to purchase a home close to my fiancés work in Potomac MD. The home is in my name only (both the deed & mort) but we had a verbal agreement that he was to pay $1,000 per month to contribute to the bills, for I could not afford this place & maintain it on my own. Since moving in, he has shorted my every month and owes me over $2,500 in rent. He paid nothing for the month of Dec. and left me & ended the engagement right before Christmas. I have a protective order against him that was granted, but he is refusing to pay me, took all my lawn equipment for the home, and I've returned all his belongings without even being asked to. He is destroying my life and I am a single mom (not his child) and need to be able to get back on my feet. He refused to transfer or pay for Wash. Captial Tickets that I wrote a check for $1,200. He also took a fishing rod that was $400 & was supposed to replace & exchange my breaks/rooters & now wont give the money/rod back.

1 Lawyer Answer
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Under the ancient and respected Statute of Frauds, a contract regarding land is voidable unless it is in writing, so an oral lease is unenforceable unless a series of strategic errors causes the defendant to admit the contract judicially. For example, if he pled in the protective order case that he was a rightful tenant, that might stick. As a practical matter, it is unlikely to happen, but with expensive legal talent aimed at the right objective, it might. There are also a number of "writings" that might constitute the written lease. In DC, there was a case upholding a signed check as written evidence of a lease, but I know of no such cases in Montgomery County, and it would be costly to pursue the case. Of course, you could try burying the lease claim inside a claim for the sports tickets and the fishing rod and other things, and he might just settle, but you probably want to pursue that as a pro se claim (doing it yourself) in Montgomery County District Court, because a lawyer is unlikely to help on the rent claim, and the cost of pursuing it might exceed its value. The one recent advance in the practice of law that might help you is that more lawyers are agreeing to partial representations, such as where they assist in creating the Complaint form and advise on service of process and how to proceed, but they never enter an appearance in the case and can therefore charge much, much less for their consulting advice.

In any event, you want to avoid getting behind the proverbial eight-ball on the property. Before you get behind on your mortgage note payments and ruin your credit and your ability to recover from this relationship, you need to evaluate whether you should sell the house and move someplace you can afford. Many disastrous stories start where you are now.

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