I have a situation that I don't know if you could help me with. Point
me in the right direction, maybe. My husband and I were looking
at opening a general store in SC. We met with the fellow
who owned a building there in December 2010 and offered to buy it, but
he would never give us a price. He agreed to rent it to us for a year
so we said ok.
We told him we wanted a lease and he agreed. We arrived
at his house to sign the lease and pay the 1st month's rent and
security deposit. He was having problems with his printer, so the lease
was not ready yet. We left the check and we all agreed to come back in
a couple days time to sign the lease. It was at this time he mentioned
the the previous tenant had not returned both sets of keys to the
building, only one, but he gave those to us so that we could go ahead
and have access to it. He said he would change the locks and get us new
We got a call within a few days from the owner who said that an error I made
on the check prevented him from depositing it and he would need
another. He said the lease was ready to sign and could we come back
down. Of course we could.
So the next day, we went back and presented a new check, but again was
told there was a problem with the printer. So, we left again with
assurances they would have it printed elsewhere and have it ready for
us to sign.
This was back around the 20th of December. My husband and I began getting
our business license, setting up bank accounts, arranging for
water/power/phone hookups, ordering equipment (i.e. cash register,
surveillance equipment, etc) as well as researching merchandising. My husband has made several attempts since then to meet with the fellow to get a lease, but with one excuse or another, has not gotten
one. So, we decided that it was in our best interest to cancel the
thought of opening the store (which was originally planned on for Jan
1st of this year) and called the owner to tell him.
We told him that
since he has been unable to produce the agreed signed lease agreement,
we were no longer interested in the building and would like our money
back (security and first month's rent). The owner became belligerent and blamed it on us for not
coming out to sign the lease (which he again claimed was ready). He
claimed that we had keys, so we could have already opened up. We tried
to explain to him the insanity of paying deposits and buying
merchandise for an unsecured building (the locks had not been changed
and the previous tenant still had the second set of keys) that we had
no legal right to. He made several unnecessary comments to my husband and
then hung up on him. Every attempt to reach him thereafter by phone has
My husband went out to his house today to try to talk to him, but he refused
to acknowledge my husband's presence and had his wife tell my husband that they
have turned it over to their lawyer.
My husband and I understand that we should not have paid the
security/first month without a lease, but we were ready to get started
and were understanding about computer/printer problems. We also
understand that getting the full amount back is probably not going to
happen, but we feel we should at least get our deposit back since we
never even used the building.
Would you please point me in the right direction on where to take this?
Do we file a small claim? Do we need to hire a lawyer or a mediator?
Should we try to continue to speak with him? His wife would not give us
the name of their lawyer or anyone else that we needed to talk to so we
are truly lost. Any help that you can give would be appreciated.