Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

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lawman3966
Posts: 1214
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2008 12:09 pm
Location: Tacoma WA

Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by lawman3966 »

In order to better isolate myself from the virus, I am looking to move into a mother-in-law unit (also called an in-law suite). After seeing the property and reading the info at the site linked below, the MIL unit seems like it could be illegal: exit through a garage; no separate mailing address; no sub-metering for utilities.

The "illegality" really seems to really mean semi-legal since according to the article below (and some other reading I've done online) no one goes to prison for doing this, there is a $1,000 fine (which is less than one month's rent for my unit), and LLs can collect legally collect rent for time the T has actually spent on the property.

The article suggests that a lease on an illegal MIL unit might not be enforceable. I'm posting to ask whether anyone here can add to this with either a confirmation or a refutation of the view that a lease on a non-official MIL unit is not enforceable.

https://ipropertymanagement.com/blog/il ... ntal-units
HomeStretch
Posts: 5387
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 3:06 pm

Re: Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by HomeStretch »

Consider calling the town building department to ask if the MIL apartment at xyz street is legal.

In my town the building records reflect legal MIL apartments. They do not have a separate house # or separate utility meters. But the owner is restricted to having only family or a live-in childcare provider in the MIL unit.
Bogle_Bro
Posts: 184
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:43 am
Location: Frisco Texas, Mortgage Banker & Attorney

Re: Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by Bogle_Bro »

Stopping short of legal advice, youre basically just renting a room in their house, right?

I don't see how a kitchenette or something would make the contract unenforceable.

Regardless of whether it's legal to rent out, it would be bad faith on your part to sign it and move in with the intention of perhaps claiming the contract is is unenforcable later.
stan1
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Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by stan1 »

Do you want to live there or not?

Is the fine, if issued, to the tenant or the landlord?
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Sandtrap
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Re: Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by Sandtrap »

lawman3966 wrote: Thu Apr 30, 2020 1:40 pm In order to better isolate myself from the virus, I am looking to move into a mother-in-law unit (also called an in-law suite). After seeing the property and reading the info at the site linked below, the MIL unit seems like it could be illegal: exit through a garage; no separate mailing address; no sub-metering for utilities.

The "illegality" really seems to really mean semi-legal since according to the article below (and some other reading I've done online) no one goes to prison for doing this, there is a $1,000 fine (which is less than one month's rent for my unit), and LLs can collect legally collect rent for time the T has actually spent on the property.

The article suggests that a lease on an illegal MIL unit might not be enforceable. I'm posting to ask whether anyone here can add to this with either a confirmation or a refutation of the view that a lease on a non-official MIL unit is not enforceable.

https://ipropertymanagement.com/blog/il ... ntal-units
Generally, as a tenant, you aren't responsible for a rental unit compliance to local building codes, etc. The property owner is. If there's something hazardous about the rental unit and the hazards are known, then a rental agent or property management company might also share liability with the owner.

If there's a fine for non compliance, then perhaps a tenant can break their lease and move out because the building department will cancel legal occupancy of the unit, or certificate of occupancy, or equiv. per that area.

Local/State landlord tenant codes generally have a list of minimum standards for rental units regarding safety, liveability, etc. A landlord can be liable for damages or health injury if, for example, the ceiling over a stairwell is too low, or the stairs does not have the required "rise/run" pitch, IE: tread too shallow or rise too steep, etc. This also includes substandard wiring, plumbing, heating, ventilation, etc.
IE: if ingress/egress is through a garage, is there something to prevent garage car fumes from entering the rental unit?
And so forth.

If you are uncomfortable with a landlord and/or the property being rented, find something else.
If a landlord does not have a professional lease agreement and it's a DIY with all sorts of strange stipulations and conditions. Then don't rent from him/her.
If you think a rental unit or its location, or its owner/manager, or neighborhood, or neighbors, makes you feel unsafe, then don't rent there.

Not all residential units, MIL or other, have separate mailing addresses or utility metering.

There's a "gray area" here where you are actually renting part of an owner's residence and that happens often as well. IE: large multi level home in Oakland, Split up to 4 residential units, each with separate entry, bath, kitchen. 4 tenants, one is the owner.
Like this.

Save yourself hassle down the line (and landlords/owners) . Do things right the lst time for the rental unit that you would want to enjoy and make your home for a long time.

j :happy
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know
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cchrissyy
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Re: Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by cchrissyy »

this is a state or local question.
the situation you describe doesn't sound sketchy to me.
BillyK
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Re: Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by BillyK »

Personally, I would try to keep it real simple and rent it month to month which is a tenancy at will. Don't make it complicated unless you particularly wish to lock into a longer term lease or the lessor is requiring that you sign a longer term one. That way you just pay a month at a time and you don't lock yourself into a more substantive lease and avoid any kind of security deposits or additional rent monies.
quantAndHold
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Re: Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by quantAndHold »

I’m not sure what you’re asking. Are you planning on breaking the lease in the future, and want to know if you can get away with it?

If you want a short term rental, then ask for month to month. I personally wouldn’t sign a long lease with the intention of breaking it and then fighting the landlord on a technicality. That just seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
Mr. Rumples
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Re: Lease Enforceability for Mother-In-Law Unit

Post by Mr. Rumples »

Your local government's tax assessor's website should state whether a property has a rental unit or not. In most localities this is public information. You can also go and see the localities zoning and if rentals are permitted and if so what the requirements are. Where I live, renting a housing unit like that is only legal if it is a relative.
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