Suppose Rachel & Jared ("Tenants") enter into a lease agreement with Robert and Robert's wife, Elizabeth, signs the lease:

This lease is made on January 1, 2023 between Rachel & Jared Smith ("Tenants") and Robert Gates ("Landlord").

Elizabeth Gates signs her own name on the lease. Nowhere does the lease state that she is acting as an agent for her husband. The lease also explicitly states that the lease is between said Tenants and Robert Gates.

Rachel & Jared dispute the validity of the contract because:

  1. the lease states that Robert is the landlord and it was signed by Elizabeth
  2. Jared says he was not aware that Elizabeth signed the lease

Robert claims he appointed Elizabeth to act as his agent. Can Rachel or Jared dispute that? Suppose both Rachel and Jared signed the lease but only Rachel was present when Elizabeth signed her name on the lease. Can Jared later argue that Elizabeth was not acting as an agent for Robert and that he never intended to enter into a lease agreement with Elizabeth (as her name was not on the lease when he signed it & only Rachel saw her signing it)?

Can Elizabeth or Roberts enforce this lease against the tenants?

  • Would it matter if Elizabeth name is on the title of the house or not? If Elizabeth name is on the title she may be able to enter into a contract agreement in her own right without acting as an agent for her husband. On the other hand, the lease may still be void because it contains conflicting information regarding who is actually entering the agreement. Additionally. Jared may argue that he only intended to go into contract with Robert since he thought he was actually the owner.

  • Does the husband need to prove that he authorized her to act as an agent on his behalf?

  • Is it better if Elizabeth signed her own name or that of her husband's name?

What relevant doctrine & case law can be applied to this case in NJ?

  • 3
    It seems like Robert is agreeing to be bound by the lease, so why do Rachel and Jared have a problem? They thought they were making an agreement with Robert, and in fact they do have an agreement with Robert. Or is this just a situation where Rachel and Jared are having remorse about signing the lease, and are looking for loopholes to get out of it? Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 7:02
  • 1
    Did the tenants ask about Elizabeth's authority to sign the lease when she signed it? Did she or Robert say anything about her authority to sign it? More importantly, did the tenants suffer any harm? Why are they seeking to invalidate the lease?
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 9:31

1 Answer 1


Not successfully

It is not required that a person knows they are dealing with an agent of the principal rather than the principal directly - an agent speaks with the principal’s voice.

Robert has consented to allow Elizabeth to act as his agent. It actually doesn’t matter if he consented before she acted or afterwards, he has agreed to be bound by Elizabeth’s actions.

Rachel & Jared have agreed to enter the lease and indicated as much by signing the document. It doesn’t matter who signed it for the landlord or even if it was signed - leases have to be in writing but there is no common law rule that they need to be signed.

  • The statute of frauds requires leases to be signed by the party to be charged in most U.S. jurisdictions although there are some exceptions to it.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 0:57

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