What’s the difference between applying for an apartment and promising to rent it? The information included in your offer to rent may decide whether you’re free to change your mind later or not!

Does Your Offer Have a Description of the Lease and a Deadline?

You can’t take back your offer to rent an apartment if it includes (1) a description of the lease and (2) a deadline for the landlord to respond.

First, does your offer describe the main requirements for the future lease? Some examples of main requirements for a lease include the address of the apartment, the length of the lease, and the amount of rent. Describing the lease can mean agreeing to requirements the landlord has already proposed or proposing different ones.

Second, have either you or the landlord set a deadline for the landlord to respond? You can put a deadline in your offer. Or, the landlord can say they will consider your offer and get back to you within a reasonable time.

Some landlords may have you sign a document that includes a description of the lease and a deadline, like an application form, an offer to rent, or a credit check consent form. But, you and the landlord can exchange this information in any written message, or even verbally. Once you have described the lease and set a deadline, you can’t take back your offer until the deadline is past.

Sometimes, landlords are represented by a real estate agent. By law, real estate agents must use a written “promise to lease” contract. If you sign this contract, you can’t take back your offer until the deadline is past.

You’re Locked in Until the Deadline, But the Landlord Isn’t

If your offer meets the criteria described above, you must take the apartment if the landlord accepts your offer before the deadline.

For their part, the landlord doesn’t owe you anything yet. They don’t have to get back to you if they decide not to accept your offer, even if they said they would consider your offer and respond within a reasonable time.

Changing Your Mind May Have Consequences

If you don’t want the apartment anymore, you can talk to the landlord or the real estate agent and try to reach an agreement. For example, the landlord may not have a problem with you changing your mind if they have other offers and time to sign the lease with someone else before the lease’s start date.

If the landlord accepts your offer before the deadline, and you don’t take the apartment, the landlord or the real estate agent could sue you for the harm this causes them. For example, a landlord could sue you for the rent they lost, or other expenses they had because you changed your mind.

Usually, a court considers many factors when deciding whether to order compensation in these cases. For example, did the landlord take reasonable steps to find a new tenant before the start date of the lease?

But, some offers to rent say you will pay a penalty, like one month’s rent, if the landlord accepts your offer before the deadline and you don’t take the apartment. This means you’re agreeing in advance to pay the landlord or the real estate agent this amount if this happens.

To sum up

You’re free to change your mind without these consequences if

  • the landlord responds to your offer with different requirements for the lease,
  • the landlord doesn’t respond to your offer before the deadline, or
  • your offer doesn’t have a deadline to respond, and you take it back before the landlord accepts it.