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Person A cosigns a lease for Person B. The lease is for a house. The lease period is for one year.

The landlord agrees to allow the lease to be amended for another person, person C to be on the lease. Person B negotiated this with the landlord without consent of person A.

I understand each person to be separately liable for the lease payments each month.

If Person A wants out of the lease, is the only option to just try to negotiate a way out of their portion of the lease with the landlord, presumably by payment or other means? It's not likely that landlord would be agreeable to this, since Person B and Person C do not have the financial means to pay.

If person A does negotiate a release from the lien, it's likely that Person B and C will be required to move and so they will not agree to the modification.

What rights do Person B and C have if Person A does stop paying? I'm assuming they'd have to move.

  • One detail that would be helpful is payments. Does adding person C split the rent or does person C pay an additional amount of rent? – A. K. Sep 4 '18 at 16:36
  • The verbal arrangement among the parties were that Person A pays it all. Landlord doesn't care. – mark b Sep 4 '18 at 20:13
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There are several questions in the OP. The answers to all of them depend on the lease terms.

If Person A wants out of the lease, is the only option to just try to negotiate a way out of their portion of the lease with the landlord, presumably by payment or other means?

Yes, usually. Regardless of who is on the lease, Person A is on the lease. In order to terminate or break the lease, Person A will have to negotiate termination. Most residential leases provide for joint and several liability for lease obligations. That means the co-signed lease is like three non-exclusive leases, one each between landlord and Persons A, B, and C. So Person A has to find a way to break the Person A lease. Other than a breach by either party, that likely can only be done by negotiation with landlord.

What rights do Person B and C have if Person A does stop paying?

Absent some other relationship or understanding between them (that is, other than the lease,) likely none. Persons B and C are each fully responsible to pay all of the rent. In other words, as far as the landlord is concerned it does not matter who pays the rent as long as it gets paid. If it doesn't get paid, the landlord can evict and sue all 3 for non-payment of rent. But the lease likely does not discuss the relationships between A, B, and C - whether they pay pro rata by time in the unit, by space used, per capita, or whatever. Landlord doesn't care, and is not the counterparty to those decisions.

That said, if there is a relationship between A, B, & C (for instance, if A & B had a contract describing who would pay what, and B entered into another contract with C,) that will determine their relative obligations.

The landlord agrees to allow the lease to be amended for another person, person C to be on the lease. Person B negotiated this with the landlord without consent of person A.

This may create liability between B to A, C to A, or B & C to A. It is even conceivable that it creates a liability from landlord to A, if A had a reasonable expectation that the lease would not be amended absent A's consent. And the amendment may not be enforceable against A. So, for instance, A may be able to kick C out of the unit and bar C from reentry. It will not effect A's liability to pay rent.

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What rights do Person B and C have if Person A does stop paying? I'm assuming they'd have to move.

My assessment is that Person A has no obligations whatsoever toward Person C, absent any clause to the contrary which Person A knew or should have known.

Person B might have a valid claim of promissory estoppel against Person A (this case lists the prima facie elements of a promissory estoppel claim). That depends on whether or not Person B could have foreseen Person A's reaction to an amendment such as allowing Person C to move in.

The question brought up by @TTE ("Does adding person C split the rent or does person C pay an additional amount of rent?") might not necessarily be relevant, since Person A's motivation for cosigning the lease could be unrelated to financial matters. For instance, if Person A's motivation is to procure Person B's well-being (something which could be palpable from the decision to cosign), allowing others to move in might be reasonably perceived by Person A as jeopardizing his or her intention.

  • Person A's motivation IS or WAS to procure Person B's well-being. But Person A now no longer thinks that is needed. But Person A seems to be pretty much on the hook for the remainder of the lease term. However Person A wants Person B to pay some. Though that's not the landlord's problem. – mark b Sep 4 '18 at 20:21
  • @markb The OP did not write or imply that "Person A now no longer thinks that [Person B's well-being] is needed", or that "Person A wants Person B to pay some". And the OP is not asking whether that's the landlord's problem, but specifically --and verbatim-- "What rights do Person B and C have if Person A does stop paying?" – Iñaki Viggers Sep 4 '18 at 20:40
  • I was only stating that since I am the OP. But I didn't want to edit the question. – mark b Sep 4 '18 at 21:38
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    @markb My apologies. I obviously misread the authorship of the question and thought you were a [3rd party] contributor. – Iñaki Viggers Sep 4 '18 at 22:18

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