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I'm currently four months into a year long lease and the company that manages my building is asking me to sign a document agreeing to rules that weren't part of the original contract and allows them the ability to terminate the lease prematurely if these rules aren't followed. It does not offer me anything in return.

The restrictions relate to pets doing their business in the outdoor area of the apartment. Obviously, I would be perfectly happy to agree to these requests but the fact that it was presented in such a threatening manner is off-putting and it doesn't seem to make sense that a company should be able to spontaneously alter an agreement that has such serious implications, especially when specific terms were already agreed to. What if they told me I could only eat certain foods in the apartment or that I had to allow a stranger move in with me?

  • Can they legally terminate my lease outside the terms of the current contract if I refuse to sign?
  • If I do sign, would the document be legally binding?

I most likely will agree to sign since I like my home and plan to renew the lease at the end of the term. My curiosity is mostly intellectual and I'm not seeking advice.

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  • Does the lease authorize the landlord to establish rules?
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 12 at 15:56
  • I’m sure it does but that’s sort of the aspect of contract law that confuses me. If a contract allows one party to unilaterally change the terms of the contract without allowing the other party to exit the contract, in what sense is it a contract? If Facebook changes their privacy policy, I can elect to stop using Facebook but if my landlord adds new stipulations to my lease, I cannot simply terminate the contract. Aug 12 at 17:18
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Leases are contracts, and one party cannot unilaterally change the terms of a contract. It is possible, though that certain terms of a contract are covered by a "change of terms" clause. Here is a collection of example clauses. It is not implausible that there is such a clause allowing them to set new rules. However, your signature is not required in that case, they would simply notify you that the rules have changed. It is also not implausible that the signature is intended to be an acknowledgement that you were notified (hence you can't argue they they didn't tell you). You cannot terminate a contract because a party refuses to renegotiate a contract.

In signing something that can reasonably be interpreted to be a contract, a signature is conventionally taken to be proof that you agreed to the contract. That usually means that the contract is binding, but there are many reasons why a putative signed contract would not be binding (e.g. you promise to break the law). If you sign a contract under duress, the contract is voidable. In general, you should only sign an agreement if you agree to what it requires of you.

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  • I believe their exact words were “we will need you to [come sign this thing]…” I guess that’s ambiguous enough that it could be plausibly interpreted as a request rather than a demand while still sounding moderately threatening. Aug 12 at 5:42
  • I thought a contract couldn’t be binding if only one side stands to benefit. Aug 12 at 5:48
  • @AffableAmbler This looks like an amendment to the original lease contract, not a brand new contract Aug 12 at 5:54
  • @Juliana I suppose you’re right. So that would mean that (assuming the new rules aren’t covered under a change of terms clause) that refusing to sign off on the amendments would not affect the original contract but if I did sign, the changes would be legally binding even though what I receive doesn’t change? Aug 12 at 6:20
  • @AffableAmbler if that's the case, yes, the changes would be legally binding. You can also refuse to sign the terms as-is and your original contract remains unchanged, or ask for the amendment to be revised Aug 12 at 7:39

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