When specifically is a landlord-tenant relationship formed? I know in some provinces a house is sold at the very moment the buyer shakes hands with the seller (though this is hard to prove, hence the paperwork).

If someone by email expressly agrees you can move into their house but at the last minute they cancel and don't cash your rent or damage deposit, and you haven't moved any belongings or received a key, and no formal lease with a signature was signed, hypothetically could the landlord be in breach of the agreement?

If interested, the back story is here.

  • "...and no formal lease with a signature was signed." Did you have a verbal agreement as to rent amount, deposit, duration of lease, etc? Or was the agreement with those details in any form of writing, i.e., in texts or emails? Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 17:30
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of What is a contract and what is required for them to be valid?
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 20:07
  • 1
    Sounds like you had a contract. Those emails may be sufficient evidence a contract was formed and agreed upon. However enforcing it is entirely different. Would you really want a landlord that you had taken to court? And one that has backed out of an agreement? Move on and find another place would be my suggestion.
    – Nick Eu
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 21:09
  • Because landlord/tenant relationships may be formed in more ways than what would be described under a question asking "what is a contract?," no, this is not a duplicate question.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 8:17

1 Answer 1


A contract (including a lease of real property) is formed when an offer is accepted.

First there must be an offer that is capable of acceptance. It must be an actual offer and not an invitation to treat or an option, it must be made to the person who purports to accept it (e.g. an offer made to Fred can't be accepted by Anne), it must be communicated to that person and it must not have been revoked.

The offer must be accepted. Such an acceptance:

  • must be in reliance of the offer
  • must be complete and unqualified
  • conditional assent is not acceptance
  • must be clear and certain
  • may be express or implied
  • may be retrospective
  • a counter-offer is a rejection of an offer
  • must be communicated (unless this has been dispensed with and conduct is acceptable communication)
  • in accordance with any method prescribed by the offeror (e.g. if the offer must be accepted by post an email is not acceptance)

Looking at the linked back-story, what Eric sent you was clearly an offer. However, you never accepted it. There is no communication between you and Eric along the lines of "I'll take it" so there is no contract. Further, the offer was withdrawn so you cannot now accept it.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .