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how to deal with a deadbeat roommate and angry landlord?
July 15, 2008 10:27 PM   Subscribe

[nyc] my roommate is a few thousand bucks behind on rent, our lease is up at the end of august, and my other roommate and i are both very worried he's not going to give our landlord everything he's owed before then. are there any ways for the two of us who are square with the landlord financially to avoid getting massively screwed by this (in the legal system + credit records) other than us ponying up his share?

and yes, i know you are not my lawyer! thanks in advance for any suggestions and advice you guys can offer.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total)
 
It depends on the exact terms of your lease. If it says something like 'joint and several liability' then you are all individually responsible for the entire amount of the rent, in which case the answer to your question is no.
posted by number9dream at 10:35 PM on July 15, 2008


#9dream is correct, if your lease states that you have "joint and several liability" than any one of the three of you can be held responsible to pay the entire amount of rent. However, if it should come to pass that you have to pay up your roomie's share, you would then have the right to recover that amount from the roommate via a court judgment for restitution. (Of course, the trick is collecting).
posted by thewittyname at 10:41 PM on July 15, 2008


Seems like the thing to do would be to pay the deadbeat's share to avoid any dings to your credit report and take him to small claims court if he won't pay you.
posted by jmoneystl at 10:49 PM on July 15, 2008


Who's name is on the lease?
posted by ManInSuit at 11:13 PM on July 15, 2008


Yup. If you are all on the lease together, chances are you can't just walk away — the landlord has a relationship with the three of you as a group for the entire amount of the rent, rather than each of you as individuals for your share.

If somebody stops paying, then you'll need to pay the landlord their share if you want to avoid the landlord potentially coming after you ... and then you'll have to settle up with the deadbeat roomie separately. Your ability to go to small-claims and win will vary depending (based on my experiences in small claims) on how good your documentation of who-owes-who-what is. So get an early start on this by writing everything down! (I'd try to get an IOU from him if you can. And either get receipts from the landlord when you make payments, or pay by check so you'll have records; preferably both.)

Now, all of that isn't to say that if you go to the landlord, he won't let you off the hook; he might, but he doesn't have to. (I had a landlord once who did just this, and even helped evict the bum tenant and ate the lost 1/4 of the rent for a month. She was a nice old lady, though, and fond of the rest of us; this is not normal landlord behavior IMO.)

If I were you I'd go over and just tell the landlord what's going on and that you're having issues, and that you're going to want receipts for payments you might make on the other guy's behalf. If they've been doing this for a while, they may have had this happen before and have suggestions to offer you. Just understand that they probably don't have to do much to help.

Of course ... if you each have individual leases, with the amount you're each on the hook for spelled out ... then you don't have to do anything for the other guy. If he doesn't pay, that's between him and the landlord and God (as experienced via the credit reporting agencies). However, most landlords renting to more than one person don't do separate leases for exactly this reason. They don't want to get in the middle of a mess like this.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:28 PM on July 15, 2008


Document everything- get a record of individual payments, document what the roommate owes. If you use personal checks to pay, get copies of them.

Write it up. Send it to the landlord and your roommate via registered mail sooner rather than later.

Basically, you're gathering ammo for the coming fight...
posted by StandardObfuscatingProcedure at 4:44 AM on July 16, 2008


Just a bit of common sense stuff here -- if this character comes on in such a way that you KNOW that he's going to bail on you, change the locks, and if he wants his 'stuff', he'll have to pony up with the bread. IANAL, to be sure, and maybe he'd find some horse-ass way of avoiding his responsibilities to you and the other room mate through the courts if you do this, but he'd be doing it in one pair of underpants and maybe he'd see the light during the time he is waiting for recourse, and come up with the bread he owes. It's harsh, maybe, to lock someone out of the apt, but he's surely being harsh to you and the other roommate if he continues on his merry way without ponying up. Not sure of the feasibility of this but that's why we've the rest of the AskMeFi community, to tell you if this method or that will work.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2008


Just a bit of common sense stuff here -- if this character comes on in such a way that you KNOW that he's going to bail on you, change the locks

holy shit, dancestoblue, is there any place in the known universe where this is not completely bad idea jeans? here in new york, only a marshal can throw someone out after a whole lot of legal stuff has gone on—a landlord that changed the locks here will get fined massive $$$ and have the book thrown at them in court.
posted by lia at 10:28 AM on July 16, 2008


a landlord that changed the locks here will get fined massive $$$ and have the book thrown at them in court.

They're not his landlords, and an "Oops, we lost our keys and had to have the locks changed. By the way, do you have the money you owe us?" might do the trick.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:25 AM on July 16, 2008


Send it to the landlord and your roommate via registered mail ...

Just a gentle reminder that registered mail is an absurd waste of money and time. Use certified mail. Easy-to-understand explanations available at USPS.GOV.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:10 PM on July 16, 2008


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