Benton Harbor, MI asked in Contracts for Michigan

Q: Is my mentally ill adult daughter liable for an apt lease she signed?

My adult daughter, who is presently already under an apt lease (since Dec 2021) in her hometown in Michigan, signed a one year lease for an apartment in Chicago while on medications (still is) to treat a mental illness.

She went thru a broker who keeps the first month's rent (beginning Aug 2022). She is willing to take a loss for that, but the Apt office say she is liable for the full year unless they rent it. While they say they are actively trying, we cannot find it listed anywhere online yet. Can she get out of this obligation since she wasn't of "sound mind" when she signed the lease?

She says it was all done online and to top it off she didnt bother to secure a copy of the lease tho the broker did collect the $1500. I want to try to help her out of this mess. Do we have a chance? Do we need an attorney?

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3 Lawyer Answers
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
Answered
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Unless there is a guardianship proceeding or some other court mental health proceeding, it will be an uphill battle fighting this in court. People are presumed competent when entering contracts. And just having a mental health diagnosis does not necessarily make a person legally incompetent.

What could happen from here? The apartment complex could sue her for the balance of the lease. They would need to should efforts to mitigate the damages (e.g. trying to re-rent the apartment). Whether they will do that depends on whether it makes economic sense to them. And if they do, there would likely be an opportunity to settle it for an amount certain.

Thomas. R. Morris agrees with this answer

Thomas. R. Morris
Thomas. R. Morris
Answered
  • Dexter, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: The issue under Michigan law is whether she had the ability to understand what she was signing. I agree that the diagnosis does not answer the question. Were she to be sued, she would have to convince the court of her defense, which might require expert testimony. Further, the landlord would probably sue in Illinois on the theory that she consented to a jurisdiction in that state when she signed the lease. She might do well to contact the landlord and propose a settlement. An attorney could help with that. Another possible consideration to argue is that she does not have assets or income from which a judgment can be collected.

Michael Zamzow
PREMIUM
Michael Zamzow
Answered
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: What you're outlining, as identified by some other attorneys here, is a defense based on lack of capacity. That is, certain individuals (possibly your daughter) are legally incapable of incurring binding contractual obligations. And in the case of a protected individual in this class who makes a timely assertion of that defense makes the contract voidable at that persons election (possibly your daughter).

Facts will be important in this case regarding the severity of your daughters mental illness and the medication. Mental illness and medication cover a wide variety of things, some protected and some not. Whether or not your daughter's mental capacity/intoxication (possibly medication) was so deficient that she was incapable of undertanding the nature and significance of a contract is the general standard we'd be considering.

While you are free to contact Zamzow Fabian PLLC about this matter as we are licensed in Illinois and Michigan, keep in mind there is do attorney-client relationship until one is formed by a signed writing by both parties with payment.

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