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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Default I Am Being Sued for Damages to a Rental Property but I Never Signed the Lease

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Hawaii

    Thanks for taking the time to read about my issue. Unfortunately, I am being sued for damages to a rental property (all their damage claims were preexisting prior to our move in), and don’t know what to do. I also can’t afford a lawyer.

    Here is a brief history. You can skip to the end if you want to see my main argument/question.

    I was living in a rental property with two friends, (total of 3 occupants). Here is a list of relevant events.

    1. We have a do on premises and it bit the downstairs tenant. We removed the dog from the property within 4 days.

    2. Landlord files a complaint for having a dog on premise. Her claim is that we cannot have a dog on premise. However the leases states exactly the following: “Tenant may (may not) maintain a dog on premise”. However the landlord gave us oral permission to have a dog at the house prior to move in. We went to court and the judge threw out the complaint because the landlord never gave us 10 day notice as required by law.

    3. Landlord hires attorney, we received another complaint. I assumed the complaint would get dismissed again because we still had not received 10 day notice to cure. During the complaint hearing the judge recognized that we never received a 10 day notice and even asked their lawyer where the 10 day notice is, their lawyer could not produce it. However the judge withheld the complaint, said that “you may have a tough time during the trial without proof of 10 day notice”, then the judge scheduled a pretrial hearing. Here is the real kicker, the very next day after the complaint hearing we received a letter in our mailbox from the lawyer stating that we have 10 days to cure the lease violations starting the day we received the letter! How can we have a pretrial hearing when we are still within a 10 day period to cure?WTF???

    4. We go to pretrial (with no lawyer) and I’m feeling pretty good that the evidence we have shows that the landlord never gave us proper notice to cure, even if she did our lease specifically states that we can have a dog on premise, and if the judge disagrees, we have proof that the dog had already been removed, so all problems resolved. However, during the hearing the judge is adamant that there is no cap on lawyer fees for eviction cases in Hawaii and it’s in our best interest to settle. The mediator told us the same thing. I got a little nervous because it seemed like the lawyer was getting preferential treatment during both the complaint hearing and pretrial hearing. We couldn’t come to an agreement during pretrial so we schedule a trial.

    5. A few days fter discussing the whole situation with my roommates we decide that it’s not worth the risk fighting the complaint, they made it clear that they were going to file another complaint even if we won.

    6. So we agree to vacate the premises under the condition that we can defer our current months’ rent. They agree and let us know that as long as the property is clean and there is no damage they will not seek any damages.

    7. We vacate the premises, the landlord comes over for the last walkthrough, during the walkthrough the landlord mentioned a couple issues, (a damaged door) not more than $100 worth of clean up or damage. We agree to take care of it and she said not to worry about it. I recorded the entire walkthrough on my iphone so we have a record of her checking the property and letting us know the issues she saw.

    8. We paid our deferred rent payment with the deposit. At this point I think we are all done because there was no damage and the property was cleaned. I follow up to check the status to make sure they don’t want some money to fix a slightly damaged door. I get an email back saying please include the following for exhibit C for the pretrial hearing. We received two invoices that include hardwood flooring refurbishing and plumbing work, a total of $4,000.00 roughly. The email also mentions that we still need to resolve the lawyer fees that need to be paid.

    9. Now I have a pretrial hearing scheduled.

    Here is why the repair bills are so shocking. When we moved into the property the flooring was already heavily damaged and scraped up. We did not cause the damage to the flooring, it was already there. I think the landlords lack of a reaction and lack of mentioning the flooring during the walkthrough would prove that floor damage was preexisting. There is no way someone wouldn’t mention $3000.00 in floor damage. Also, the plumbing work was another preexisting issue already there when we moved in. The landlord had plumbers come over to the property 8-9 times to work on a leaky pipe. I kept all the hand written noticed that the landlord left on the premise showing the schedule dates and what the plumbers were coming to fix.

    So here are my main questions. I am in a little bit of a different situation then the other two roommates.

    1. I NEVER SIGNED THE LEASE. When I personally moved into the property the other two roommates had already signed a 1 year lease agreement with the landlord. The landlord knew I was coming and was going to come over after I moved in and have me sign the lease. However she never came and I never signed the lease. Is there any way I can absolve myself their erroneous damage claim since I never signed the lease?

    2. Also, the landlord left us with a worksheet to complete which showed the condition of the house prior to move in. We completed it; however she was going to pick it up when she came over to have me sign the lease. But she never did. So we have a completed worksheet showing that mostly everything in the house was dirty or needs repair. But the landlord never signed it. I also have all the written plumbing work notices starting the second month we were in the house. Is this enough to prove we are not responsible for the damage?


    Any advice would be appreciated since I can’t afford any more legal counsel. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I Am Being Sued for Damages to a Rental Property but I Never Signed the Lease

    Quote Quoting jared1981b
    View Post
    So we agree to vacate the premises under the condition that we can defer our current months’ rent. They agree and let us know that as long as the property is clean and there is no damage they will not seek any damages.
    This is a written settlement agreement? A consent judgment? Something else?
    Quote Quoting jared1981b
    Now I have a pretrial hearing scheduled.
    On the old case to enforce your... settlement? Consent judgment? On a new case?
    Quote Quoting jared1981b
    When we moved into the property the flooring was already heavily damaged and scraped up.-
    Did you complete a move-in checklist? Did you take pictures at any time?
    Quote Quoting jared1981b
    Also, the plumbing work was another preexisting issue already there when we moved in. The landlord had plumbers come over to the property 8-9 times to work on a leaky pipe.
    Describe the plumbing issue for us. Most plumbing issues would not be a tenant's fault.
    Quote Quoting jared1981b
    I NEVER SIGNED THE LEASE.
    You previously told us, "I signed a 1 year lease and have been renting the property since February 23, 2012".
    What is it that you signed, if not a lease?
    Quote Quoting jared1981b
    Is there any way I can absolve myself their erroneous damage claim since I never signed the lease?
    That may depend upon your answers to the prior questions.
    Quote Quoting jared1981b
    Also, the landlord left us with a worksheet to complete which showed the condition of the house prior to move in. We completed it; however she was going to pick it up when she came over to have me sign the lease. But she never did. So we have a completed worksheet showing that mostly everything in the house was dirty or needs repair.
    Your roommates moved in separately - they didn't complete a checklist?
    Quote Quoting jared1981b
    But the landlord never signed it.
    The landlord's failure to fulfill the inventory requirement creates a rebuttable presumption that the condition of the apartment is unchanged from when you moved in.
    Quote Quoting HRS §521-42. Landlord to supply and maintain fit premises.
    (a) The landlord shall at all times during the tenancy:

    (1) Comply with all applicable building and housing laws materially affecting health and safety;

    (2) Keep common areas of a multi-dwelling unit premises in a clean and safe condition;

    (3) Make all repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the premises in a habitable condition;

    (4) Maintain all electrical, plumbing, and other facilities and appliances supplied by the landlord in good working order and condition, subject to reasonable wear and tear;

    (5) Except in the case of a single family residence, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of normal amounts of rubbish and garbage, and arrange for the frequent removal of such waste materials; and

    (6) Except in the case of a single family residence, or where the building is not required by law to be equipped for the purpose, provide for the supplying of running water as reasonably required by the tenant.

    Prior to the initial date of initial occupancy, the landlord shall inventory the premises and make a written record detailing the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances provided. Duplicate copies of this inventory shall be signed by the landlord and by the tenant and a copy given to each tenant. In an action arising under this section, the executed copy of the inventory shall be presumed to be correct. If the landlord fails to make such an inventory and written record, the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances provided, upon the termination of the tenancy shall be rebuttably presumed to be the same as when the tenant first occupied the premises.

    (b) The landlord and tenant may agree that the tenant is to perform specified repairs, maintenance tasks, and minor remodeling only if:

    (1) The agreement of the landlord and tenant is entered into in good faith and is not for the purpose of evading the obligations of the landlord;

    (2) The work to be performed by the tenant is not necessary to cure noncompliance by the landlord with section 521-42(a)(1); and

    (3) The agreement of the landlord and tenant does not diminish the obligations of the landlord to other tenants.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    CT & IL
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    Default Re: I Am Being Sued for Damages to a Rental Property but I Never Signed the Lease

    The OP can file a demurrer or motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; it then goes to the plaintiff to prove the court has jurisdiction (but I don't this as a major problem but the plaintiff may not know how to respond) .. don't know anything about HI landlord case law

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    7

    Default Re: I Am Being Sued for Damages to a Rental Property but I Never Signed the Lease

    Thanks for the quick reply. Here are the answers to your questions. I’ve tried to separate them to the best of my ability so they are easy to follow.

    Should read:

    My Original Statement
    Your Question
    My Answer

    So we agree to vacate the premises under the condition that we can defer our current months’ rent. They agree and let us know that as long as the property is clean and there is no damage they will not seek any damages.

    This is a written settlement agreement? A consent judgment? Something else?

    We made an agreement via e-mail after the pretrial but before the actual trial. When we went to the trial hearing and both parties told the judge the settlement agreement. As part of the agreement their lawyer wanted to keep an open pretrial hearing for damages for after we moved out just in case there was damaged the house. Their lawyer stated that they wouldn’t proceed with the pretrial for damages if the house was in good condition and would drop it. We agreed because we kept the house in good condition and didn’t think there would be any issues.


    Now I have a pretrial hearing scheduled.

    On the old case to enforce your... settlement? Consent judgment? On a new case?

    This pretrial hearing was scheduled as part of the original lawsuit as mentioned above. We were only going to have a pretrial for damages if they found that the home was damaged during the inspection. I believe it was just a continued part of the original eviction complaint.


    When we moved into the property the flooring was already heavily damaged and scraped up.

    Did you complete a move-in checklist? Did you take pictures at any time?

    We did complete a move-in checklist. The landlord gave us one to complete, which we did. However she was going to come back to pick up the checklist and have me sign the lease, but she never came back or called about it. We did not take any pictures of the property when we moved in.


    Also, the plumbing work was another preexisting issue already there when we moved in. The landlord had plumbers come over to the property 8-9 times to work on a leaky pipe.

    Describe the plumbing issue for us. Most plumbing issues would not be a tenant's fault.

    The downstairs tenant called the landlord to complain about water leaking when we took showers in our unit. Visit #1: The landlord had a plumber come out to look at the problem, he told us we needed to install shower splash guard so water wouldn’t spill outside and drip downstairs. We installed them. However the downstairs tenant said water was still leaking. Visit #2: Another plumber came out and did some work on the shower. They installed a complete shower door; it was originally a plastic shower curtain. The downstairs tenant told the landlord that water was still leaking. Visit #3: Another plumber came and resealed the shower pan thinking that water was leaking inside the shower behind the shower pan. However water was still leaking after they resealed the shower pan. Visit #4: A plumber came out and resealed the entire bathroom floor with hot tar and installed new tile. However water was still leaking downstairs. We had plumbers come to the house a few other time and they did some work on the downstairs unit, but they never fixed the problem before we agreed to leave.


    I NEVER SIGNED THE LEASE.

    You previously told us, "I signed a 1 year lease and have been renting the property since February 23, 2012". What is it that you signed, if not a lease?

    Sorry for the confusion, there was a 1 year lease agreement signed with the landlord. However I moved to the property about a month after the other two roommates moved in. Both roommates signed the lease with the landlord. The landlord knew I was moving in a few weeks later and was going to have me sign the lease once I got there. However once I moved in she never came over to have me sign the lease. So there is a lease, but I personally never signed it.


    Also, the landlord left us with a worksheet to complete which showed the condition of the house prior to move in. We completed it; however she was going to pick it up when she came over to have me sign the lease. But she never did. So we have a completed worksheet showing that mostly everything in the house was dirty or needs repair.

    Your roommates moved in separately - they didn't complete a checklist?

    My roommates moved in 3-4 weeks prior to me moving in. The landlord gave them a checklist the day they moved in and signed the lease. They completed and signed the checklist. However the landlord told my roommates that she would pick up the checklist when she came over to have me sign the lease. But she never came over. So we have a completed checklist that was signed by my two roommates. The checklist states that the flooring is severely damaged and needs repair.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thanks for the quick reply. Here are the answers to your questions. I’ve tried to separate them to the best of my ability so they are easy to follow.

    Should read:

    My Original Statement
    Your Question
    My Answer

    So we agree to vacate the premises under the condition that we can defer our current months’ rent. They agree and let us know that as long as the property is clean and there is no damage they will not seek any damages.

    This is a written settlement agreement? A consent judgment? Something else?

    We made an agreement via e-mail after the pretrial but before the actual trial. When we went to the trial hearing and both parties told the judge the settlement agreement. As part of the agreement their lawyer wanted to keep an open pretrial hearing for damages for after we moved out just in case there was damaged the house. Their lawyer stated that they wouldn’t proceed with the pretrial for damages if the house was in good condition and would drop it. We agreed because we kept the house in good condition and didn’t think there would be any issues.


    Now I have a pretrial hearing scheduled.

    On the old case to enforce your... settlement? Consent judgment? On a new case?

    This pretrial hearing was scheduled as part of the original lawsuit as mentioned above. We were only going to have a pretrial for damages if they found that the home was damaged during the inspection. I believe it was just a continued part of the original eviction complaint.


    When we moved into the property the flooring was already heavily damaged and scraped up.

    Did you complete a move-in checklist? Did you take pictures at any time?

    We did complete a move-in checklist. The landlord gave us one to complete, which we did. However she was going to come back to pick up the checklist and have me sign the lease, but she never came back or called about it. We did not take any pictures of the property when we moved in.


    Also, the plumbing work was another preexisting issue already there when we moved in. The landlord had plumbers come over to the property 8-9 times to work on a leaky pipe.

    Describe the plumbing issue for us. Most plumbing issues would not be a tenant's fault.

    The downstairs tenant called the landlord to complain about water leaking when we took showers in our unit. Visit #1: The landlord had a plumber come out to look at the problem, he told us we needed to install shower splash guard so water wouldn’t spill outside and drip downstairs. We installed them. However the downstairs tenant said water was still leaking. Visit #2: Another plumber came out and did some work on the shower. They installed a complete shower door; it was originally a plastic shower curtain. The downstairs tenant told the landlord that water was still leaking. Visit #3: Another plumber came and resealed the shower pan thinking that water was leaking inside the shower behind the shower pan. However water was still leaking after they resealed the shower pan. Visit #4: A plumber came out and resealed the entire bathroom floor with hot tar and installed new tile. However water was still leaking downstairs. We had plumbers come to the house a few other time and they did some work on the downstairs unit, but they never fixed the problem before we agreed to leave.


    I NEVER SIGNED THE LEASE.

    You previously told us, "I signed a 1 year lease and have been renting the property since February 23, 2012". What is it that you signed, if not a lease?

    Sorry for the confusion, there was a 1 year lease agreement signed with the landlord. However I moved to the property about a month after the other two roommates moved in. Both roommates signed the lease with the landlord. The landlord knew I was moving in a few weeks later and was going to have me sign the lease once I got there. However once I moved in she never came over to have me sign the lease. So there is a lease, but I personally never signed it.


    Also, the landlord left us with a worksheet to complete which showed the condition of the house prior to move in. We completed it; however she was going to pick it up when she came over to have me sign the lease. But she never did. So we have a completed worksheet showing that mostly everything in the house was dirty or needs repair.

    Your roommates moved in separately - they didn't complete a checklist?

    My roommates moved in 3-4 weeks prior to me moving in. The landlord gave them a checklist the day they moved in and signed the lease. They completed and signed the checklist. However the landlord told my roommates that she would pick up the checklist when she came over to have me sign the lease. But she never came over. So we have a completed checklist that was signed by my two roommates. The checklist states that the flooring is severely damaged and needs repair.

  5. #5
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    Apr 2012
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    Default Re: I Am Being Sued for Damages to a Rental Property but I Never Signed the Lease

    Bueller.....Bueller......

  6. #6
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    Default Re: I Am Being Sued for Damages to a Rental Property but I Never Signed the Lease

    What more do you need, want or expect?

    If you have a clear, concise follow-up question, go ahead and ask it.

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