In The News

Tennessee Statute of Frauds Requires Leases to Be Signed By Tenant

A few months ago, I sued two former tenants on a landlord tenant dispute under a lease agreement and, in response, one of the tenants called to dispute her signature on the lease. She said she never signed it and that her ex-husband forged her name on it. Frankly, she might have been correct, because it certainly looks like her now-ex-husband did a really bad job signing her name.

But, I thought, there was no dispute that this tenant actually lived in the house during the rental term and received the benefits. Does a landlord have a quasi-contract claim in such a situation? Is it fair that she can receive the benefit of the lease, but claim no obligation because she didn't sign the lease?

After looking around, I was hit in the face by a pretty obvious answer: The Tennessee Statute of Frauds applies. Under that statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-2-101, "no action shall be brought...upon any lease..for a longer term  than one (1) year...unless the promise or agreement...[is] in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith..."

I still think there's an argument to be made that the non-signing party ratified the contract or somehow assumed responsibility. In a different case, with different facts, I may make that argument. Until then, the now-ex-husband has two sets of people angry at him.

New Tennessee Case Provides Good Statement of Law on Contract Interpretation, Promissory Fraud, and Piercing the Corporate Veil

The Tennessee Court of Appeals released an opinion, Dog House Investments, LLC v. Teal Properties, Inc., et. al.,  last Friday that has some fairly useful issues of law discussed. (This case is currently "unpublished," but it still has value for its useful content/summary of the law.)

In the case, a building was severely damaged in the Nashville 2010 floods, and the tenant and landlord got into a dispute over the repairs, including: who was required to perform them under the lease; did the landlord commit promissory fraud in statements that he'd reimburse the tenant for repairs; and should the corporate veil be pierced where landlord kept the insurance proceeds and paid his personal bills with the money.

The value here isn't necessarily in the facts of the case, but the Court's useful statements of "the law" as it relates to contract interpretation, promissory fraud, and piercing the corporate veil/fraud.

This is a good case to print and save for your next brief.


Useful CLE Alert: 10th Annual Landlord-Tenant Law Seminar: March 7, 2014

If you enjoy this blog, then think about how great it'd be to see it live!

On March 7, 2014, David Anthony and Chris Raybeck of Bone McAllester will teach at the 10th Annual Landlord-Tenant Law: Leases, Evictions, Litigation, and Settlements seminar in Nashville.

This seminar is presented by Sterling Education Services, Inc. The seminar will cover all the big issues facing landlords, including:

  • Routinely negotiated lease provisions, construction and interpretation of leases

  • Lease options and right of first refusal: exercise, forfeiture of leasehold interest

  • Environmental or green issues in leasing

  • Tenant Default, Notice of Default, and Lease Termination

  • Landlord-Tenant Evictions, Court, and Litigation

  • Case studies & current trends in litigating landlord-tenant disputes

  • Landlord or Tenant Bankruptcy

  • Ethical Considerations in Landlord-Tenant Law

Plus, the seminar is only steps away from historic Printer's Alley, so, when the show ends at 4:30, all attendees are encouraged to buy their favorite presenter a beer.

All kidding aside, this should be a good one. Hope to see you there.