My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: California
I jointly signed a lease with two other tenants on a house rental in California. Over the course of the year, there were some verbal conflicts with the tenants and ultimately the other two tenants informed me they were going to leave. After documented attempts to work this out and notifying the Landlord and explaining to them what would happen if they did and he didn’t receive rent, a verbal agreement was made. I informed them that I was in no capacity to leave and would have no choice but to stay on and pay rent for everyone. Because I was willing to work this out, I made a verbal agreement with the two tenants stating such:
1. They come back to gather their belongings still in the house. (Furniture)
2. They come back to clean the house should I also try and break lease. (I was in the process of looking to buy a home.)
3. They help me evenly split rent for the time frame the house is vacant while the Landlord fills the house, once I do find a place.
While I did not get them to sign an agreement stating such (this was my first time renting with other tenants and learned the lesson there), it was understood to me that such a verbal agreement was binding in California, and given the volatile situation regarding their leaving, was complacent with that.
A few months passed and I bought my first home. Prior to closing escrow, I notified them that I will be moving out and will vacate the house before the next month when rent is due. Now the other two tenants appear to have no recollection of any agreement I made to them. After repeated documented attempts to contact them and work out a resolution to this, they have refused to help in anyway and claim that they do not need to pay for rent since they have it documented in a text that I would. Unfortunately my verbal offer with them was not documented but only verbally agreed when this initially happened.
I contacted the Landlord and he confirmed what I already knew that they are still liable for the contract. While I made it clear to the other two tenants that I never absolved them of their obligation to the contract, I did say (verbally) that I would cover their rent if they would come back to cover the terms I mentioned should I attempt to break lease as well. So now I’m left with no choice but to take them to small claims court for the full unpaid amount due to their inability to honor their verbal agreement.
My questions are this:
1. Does their text they have of me stating (out of context) “I am paying for your rent as it is.” and “This covers your financial obligation.” form a binding agreement in California small claims court? Will a judge honor that text as proof that I am solely responsible for the contract when I have the contract stating all 3 of us are responsible financially?
2. Does my verbal agreement with them hold any weight in small claims if the other two members of the agreement no longer choose to remember it?
3. Am I in my right to sue them for the entire unpaid amount of rent I’ve had to cover since they left, after breaking their verbal agreement with me?
I never sought out new co-tenants as the Landlord stated that he would have to terminate the contract, add the new tenants to it, and basically relinquish the leaving tenants of further obligation. Plus with the verbal agreement I was under the impression that they would assist me as soon as I was ready to move out myself.
As they are unwilling to work with me on this stating the contract is now my sole responsibility, I have no choice but to move forward with legal action. Any insight you could provide on this to help my case would be most appreciated. Thanks!