If someone were to offer up their lease in a living space that they were signed to without properly subleasing it through property management, are they legally allowed to collect rent in the state of Washington? The correspondence in doing this was done through text message and had no clear date of repayment outlined.

Edit for further clarity: There was an agreement for a friend to live in a space that was signed for under someone else’s name for the summer. There was an expectation for the friend to pay the person who held the lease to pay for his time living there. Through none of this was the lease signed over to the friend who was living there. The original tenant was also not present for the entirety of this period.

  • A text message based agreement is written and not oral for legal purposes. But, the question is not clear enough to provide a full answer. What does the OP mean by "offer up their lease" and what is being repaid? There aren't enough dots to connect to provide a full picture of what is being asked.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 21:35
  • Added further information Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 21:39
  • The extra info adds to the confusion, @AlfredHanson. It's difficult to understand who is who. Try labeling people. Landlord, tenant, tenant's friend, etc. For example, who is the "someone else" under whose name the space was signed? Is that the "original tenant" named in the last sentence?
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 7:58

1 Answer 1


A text message based agreement is written and not oral for legal purposes, so the statute of frauds wouldn't be an issue (leases of less than a year generally don't have to be in writing to be valid in any case).

The fact that the property was subleased without permission of the landlord would probably not make the sublease invalid between the original tenant and the sublessee, unless the landlord evicted the sublessee as a result (i.e. the sublease would probably be "voidable" rather than "void"). But, this situation would make make an eviction of the sublessee without the landlord also evicting the original tenant difficult.

Even if the subleasee weren't liable to the original tenant under the sublease established by text messages, the subleaseee would still probably be liable to the original tenant under a theory of unjust enrichment.

Also, the subleasee might have liability for any unpaid rent directly to the landlord under the theory that while the subleasee is not in "privity of contract" with the landlord (i.e. the subleasee does not have a lease that runs directly to the landlord), the subleasee is in "privity of estate" with the landlord while occupying the premises (i.e. the subleasee is obligated to the landlord as a result of living in the leased premises). (Washington State still reccognized the doctrine of privity of estate, as of 2014, although the articulation of the doctrine in the linked case isn't a model of clarity.)

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