Let's say Aaron (property owner) and Bob (prospective tenant) are considering entering into a lease. They reach preliminary agreement verbally, and so Aaron drafts a lease agreement, signs it, and sends it to Bob for his signature. (Suppose Aaron is managing the property remotely, from a far-away city, so they can't meet in person for the signing). Let's say this happens about 2 months before the start date of the lease.
At this point, Bob has a lease agreement with Aaron's signature on it. It seems to me that if Bob is unscrupulous, he can delay adding his signature for up to 2 months. He can look for a better deal on a different apartment for that entire time. If he finds a better deal, he can simply tear up the contract with Aaron - after all, he never signed it! If he doesn't find a better deal, he can simply add his signature to the contract with Aaron to make it binding.
On the other hand, it seems to me that Aaron is at a significant disadvantage - he cannot look for other tenants and sign anything with them, because at any point Bob can make the original lease valid, and force Aaron to lease to him.
I realize that the lease itself could have some wording to solve this issue (e.g. "only valid if signed by both parties by such-and-such date"), but - for example - the standard lease agreement I've seen used in Washington State doesn't have any such clauses.
So, my questions are:
- Is my understanding correct? Can Bob indeed delay signing, putting Aaron at a significant disadvantage? Or is there anything in law that would prevent such a trick on Bob's part?
- Does the answer change if this is lease renewal and not a new lease?
In case it matters, the jurisdiction I am most interested in is Washington State, USA.