Roommate he-said she-said results in us being short a quarter of the rent. Help!
November 4, 2008 11:30 AM   Subscribe

My roommate wants me to find someone to take her part of the rent, arguing that the people who took over my part of the rent really took over her part. She is threatening to simply not pay. We have one month (Nov) left on the lease. Her name, as well as mine and two other roommates' are on the lease. If she went ahead and didn't pay, how badly would this affect my credit?

It's a long, boring, story but here it is:

Up until yesterday I was sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with three other people: I shared one room with Nader, while Obama and Biden shared the other. All four of us are on the lease, which will be up at the end of this month, November.

About two weeks ago, our neighbors were evicted, a couple named McCain and Palin. Nader invited them to stay in our dining room until they found somewhere to live. Right around this time I decided to move out. At first I talked to McCain and Palin about taking over my portion of the rent, but they were tight with money and couldn't commit to anything. So I posted a craigslist ad, but didn't get any luck with someone moving in.

A few days after I started talking about replacing myself and moving out, Nader starts talking about moving into a vacancy in a neighbor's apartment, which would be cheaper than the share she paid with us. She talked to McCain and Palin about taking over her portion of the rent, and for about the last week things have been very vague. They weren't sure if McCain and Palin would take over the whole room that I and Nader share, or if McCain/Palin were going to take over Nader's portion, or if McCain and Palin were going to move upstairs with Nader.

Finally, on maybe Saturday or Sunday, Nader told me that she was going to have McCain and Palin take over her part of the rent, but it was already the 1st or 2nd of the month, and rent is late on the 4th. I wasn't having any luck getting out of the place, and Nader, McCain and Palin hadn't gotten their share of the rent in, so I approached McCain on the 2nd about moving into my half of the room.

He told me he could get me the rent money if I was willing to pay for it and let him pay me back. I was pretty desperate and the rent was only 325, so I went ahead and made a money order (the only way our complex accepts rent) and gave it to Obama, who handles the rent. He gave me 50 on the spot, promising another 100 yesterday and the rest on Friday. I went ahead and wrote up this arrangement in plain English, with both of our names on it, and had him sign it. At the time, I thought I should do this in case he didn't make with the rent money, I wanted to have a paper record.

The next day, the 3rd, yesterday, he shows up with all of the rest of the rent money. He hands it to me, and I start packing. But Nader also starts packing. In fact, she moves all her stuff upstairs to the neighbor's house. By the time I'm ready to leave, she realizes that McCain and Palin are not taking over her portion of the rent, but mine. She gets really pissed off at me and won't talk to me.

Later on in the night, after I had left, she calls me and our conversation soon turns into yelling. She claims that this is my responsibility and that I had better find someone to replace her and in the meantime I need to pay the rent so there is no late fee (because remember the rent is late as of the 4th, today), and that if the fourth portion of the rent (which I argue is her portion) is not ready to be paid, then I should pay the late fee ($50) as well. I told her that I had everything in writing, it was my name on my portion of the rent, and there was a written agreement between me and McCain/Palin.

Nader is threatening to leave the rent hanging, and talking to the management company they make no distinction between my, Nader's, Obama's or Biden's rent, they just want it all in, including the $50 now.

Like I said, all four of our names are on the lease, including Nader's, because even if McCain and Palin had taken over her rent, it was unofficial, they're just subletting and Nader's name is still on the lease. Of course, that is still true of me. And I don't want to get fucked.

Now, I can't tell if Nader would be willing to just filch on the rent if her name is on the lease, but if she did, what would be the repercussions? Would this screw up my credit? I can't really tell from google searches.

I do have a few more people on craigslist inquiring about the half-room that is available, but in case they continue passing on the place I'm really worried.

Short summary: one month left on the lease, I and someone who is unwilling to pay but still staying in the apartment complex (right up the stairs in fact) are both on the lease, what legal obligations and repercussions are there if I simply say, "I got someone to pay my part of the rent, and this is not my problem any longer"?

This is in southern California, by the way. Thanks.

PS: As I was writing this Obama called me and told me that non-payment of rent will result in a dark stain on our credit forever and a bill of $500 due on each of us on top of the rent we owe. Must be in the lease. Sound legit? I really don't know with these people.
posted by malapropist to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Okay can we go back to people named letter M and O now? My head hurts.

A rent dispute, especially over one month, isn't going to do squat to your credit rating.
posted by rokusan at 11:47 AM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm confused about how two people (McCain and Palin) can take over the rent of only one person (either you or Nader). I mean, I get that they're a couple, but if they're taking over the space of two people, shouldn't they take over BOTH your rents? In other words, there are two rooms and the rent was divided so that each room payed a portion. The rent was further divided because you were sharing a room with Nader. Now, McCain and Palin should still be responsible for the total amount of that room (ie, You + Nader).

It might be a good idea to just eat the money for a month and never talk to any of these people again, just to get over the drama, but I don't know - that might not be an option for you.
posted by muddgirl at 11:47 AM on November 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Unless, I guess, McCain and Palin are willing to share that one room with someone else??? In which case I would just dump the responsibility onto them to come up with the extra money. You've moved out.
posted by muddgirl at 11:49 AM on November 4, 2008

Unfortunately you're most likely "jointly and severally liable" for the rent. Which means they can come after one or all of you until the debt is satisfied. It will definitely screw up your credit. You don't have much recourse until the bill is due, afterwards you can sue your roommate in small claims court. My advice would be to pay the full rent to the best of your ability, then sue.
posted by electroboy at 11:50 AM on November 4, 2008

I got someone to pay my part of the rent, and this is not my problem any longer

You're just wrong there. Your relationship with the management company is unchanged. Assuming your lease contract is similar to almost every residential lease contract, they will be able to pursue you individually for the full amount due. They can sue you for the amount, or they can send the amount to a collection agency who will put it on your credit report. Or they can do the same to Obama, Biden, or Nader. Probably whoever they think will be easiest to get the money from.

If you want to ensure that this will not happen, then you must pay the full amount yourself. Then your only recourse is to sue Nader to get the money back.

It looks to me like you took the subtenants Nader had already found for her place, regardless of the technical details. I would be pissed too. Even if Nader is legally responsible to you for her share of the rent, she would have had it covered had you not interfered with the situation. So personally I would probably eat the extra $325 myself. (And if you look through my posting history here, you will find that I am not someone who usually advises taking guff from roommates.)
posted by grouse at 11:51 AM on November 4, 2008

Would you be willing to split the remaining amount with your former roommate? That seems like the most fair resolution to me.
posted by jrichards at 11:53 AM on November 4, 2008

The four tenants on the lease (your use of political names is cute 'n' all, but A, B, C and D would have been clearer) are responsible for the rent. You have no right to demand the management company deal with someone else. Any arrangements or disputes between the tenants are of no interest to the management company. Your subletting of all or part of the space may be a violation of the lease; check your lease. Unless the company expressly agrees to the subletting, you have no right to demand the management company deal with the subtenants. Unless the company expressly releases the four original tenants from the lease, then they are responsible for paying it, and if the rent is not paid, it's those four names that will go to any collection agencies or credit reporting agencies.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:56 AM on November 4, 2008

Naturally I have no clue what local tenant laws in your area are, and if you want to know for sure I highly doubt anyone in this space is going to be able to find them for you so it may be worth finding a Landlord/Tenant Association or something that could help with the dispute.

That being said I have to agree with muddgirl that it sounds like you made a transaction that was not yours to make. Subletting is a person/person ration thing. Regardless that they share a bed, they will have twice as many clothes, occupy more space as a whole, and we won't even get into the possible issues of a "couple" doing things at nighttime while Nader is there that a single person might not. I certainly don't see you being in the right here, whether it's legal or not and how it effects your credit is another story.

To find out the legality of it you need to see how it lays things out in your lease. My guess is that your agreement with McCain/Palin would have had to have been approved by all current leaseholders and obviously it was not. By signing an agreement with a third party outside of the current leaseholders, you have changed the terms of the lease for the other 3 individuals in that there are now 5 people living in an apartment. My guess is you will find that is not kosher, possibly illegal, and will probably bite you in the ass. Especially for one month it's not worth it.

If you can get McCain/Palin to agree to paying both portions that is the best solution but my guess is they won't have the money and you will either have to cough up both portions of the rent, kick M/P out, or face the consequences of what you did.
posted by genial at 12:07 PM on November 4, 2008

Response by poster: Alright, pretty much what I thought, I'm on the hook.

By the way, I started out typing A - E, but somehow I thought names would actually be clearer. Ha ha. Not cute at all. Thanks everyone!
posted by malapropist at 12:18 PM on November 4, 2008

That being said I have to agree with muddgirl that it sounds like you made a transaction that was not yours to make.

Well technically I was saying that all parties seem very confused.
posted by muddgirl at 12:18 PM on November 4, 2008

she forgets she is on the lease just as much as you are. this is going to ruin her credit as well. your argument to her should be that you have something in writing proving you took care of your obligation and that if she wants to not pay her rent that's between her and the landlord. you should make it perfectly clear that she signed the lease with them and not you. that is technically not correct and I agree with genial that you are not exactly a knight in shining armor for bringing in new roomies without asking the other leaseholders but I'd play hardball with her and see what happens. I have a feeling she'd cave in mostly because a person who thinks she can walk away from a contract like this seems rather naive.
posted by krautland at 12:18 PM on November 4, 2008

This is reason #2 why I was so happy to quit needing roommates.

Since you're worried about your credit and have everything in writing (so far), keep doing the everything in writing thing, pay up (ouch) and hit small claims court to help your roommate see the advantage to doing things via communication and compromise instead of sulking and threats.

There really isn't any alternative to just paying up. Be thankful she's on the lease and you got a written agreement with the new folks, as that will make things a lot easier.
posted by batmonkey at 12:18 PM on November 4, 2008

Doesn't seem to be an amount of money worth fighting over. Offer to split the difference with her, seeing you can get the newbies to chip in some (since they will be getting an entire room for the price of 1/2 of a room) and move on with your life.

If she won't pay, come to an accommodation with your other three people on the lease and see if the three of you can split her share. $325 isn't worth having a black mark on your credit.
posted by arnicae at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2008

I agree with muddgirl, McCain & Palin should have taken over BOTH your rent shares (unless they want to share your room with someone else). 2 people out, 2 people in. You have an agreement with McCain over your share and he's paid up, so the final share should be from Palin.
If McCain and Palin are going to have the room that you and Nader shared then they owe both your rent shares, not just 1.
posted by missmagenta at 12:47 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: If I pony up the rent, is there really any hope of getting $325 back in small claims court? I see now that the prop management company doesn't care about our infighting, but would it matter in court? For the record, here's the letter:

November 2nd, 2008

I, malapropist, received $46 towards my November's rent at Apt 101 of Randomville Apartments in Randomtown, from John McCain. We have arranged for John to pay $300 for my November's rent, with a payment of $100 to be received on Monday, November 3rd, and another payment of $154 to be received by Friday, November 7th.


Malapropist and John McCain.


I prorated it, that's why their rent is $300 rather than $325.

I mean, if I go ahead and pay the rent (the other two will never chip in anything), aren't I kinda just paying for the room, and if I want to stay there I can? I don't see how I could have a claim to that rent from her in small claims court.
posted by malapropist at 12:52 PM on November 4, 2008

Who is going to want to share one room with two people? No wonder why Nader doesn't want to be solely responsible for finding another roomate -- no one will want to share a room with a couple. It's one thing to try to find a roomate to share a room with one person, and quite another to find a roomate to share a room with two other people. Blech.

I think because all your names are on the lease, you are all in the hook. Including Nader, but it doesn't sound like this might matter alot. The fact that Nader is still in the same apartment complex should not really mean anything in terms of legal obligation.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:55 PM on November 4, 2008

Alright, pretty much what I thought, I'm on the hook

Not exactly. All 4 of you are on the hook equally. Just because she isn't going to pay her rent doesn't mean you need to pay it. The 3 of you on the lease should collectively pay her portion of the rent to preserve your credit ratings, then jointly take her to small claims court to recoup your money. You could try to get McCain and Palin to chip in because this problem is at least in part, their fault (for not making it clear to both of you whose rent they were taking over), but they can say no and the best you can do is then kick them out, but then you'll still be stuck paying double rent and not being able to move out.

If McCain and Palin wont take over both rent portions then IMO its up to them to find a tenant willing to share a room with them (since thats going to be a tough job)

Of course it boggles the mind why you both just didn't wait til next month when the lease expires and move out then without any of these problems.
posted by missmagenta at 1:01 PM on November 4, 2008

I think the fairest thing to do here is to try to convince Nader to pay half of the rest of the missing rent and late fee, and you pay the rest. It seems clear that she told you that she had an agreement worked out with McCain and Palin, and then you went behind her back and made your own agreement. I can see why she is angry. I don't know whether one of you is legally more "right" than the other, but in terms of fairness I really think you need to try to split this in half.

It was unfair of both of you, to the other, to negotiate with McCain and Palin -- two people -- to take over your single portion of rent for the room. It made it really hard to get someone else to take over the second portion.

The only other solution would be getting McCain and Palin to cough up some or all of the second portion, but you say this won't happen.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:03 PM on November 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

If I pony up the rent, is there really any hope of getting $325 back in small claims court?

It's possible, but I think there's a high chance you wouldn't get it, and I personally wouldn't try.
posted by grouse at 1:32 PM on November 4, 2008

Just something to think about, but if Nader hasn't moved out yet, change the locks and give the new keys to the rent paying tenants.

Tell Nader she can't have a new key unless she pays her share of the rent.

Extreme, yes. Illegal, maybe. But it might be effective.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:37 PM on November 4, 2008

change the locks and give the new keys to the rent paying tenants.

In California the penalty for doing this is $100 per day plus damages and attorney's fees.
posted by grouse at 1:55 PM on November 4, 2008

I am not sure about California but, in the last state where I rented an apartment, the legal occupancy limit on adults in a rented apartment was two per bedroom. While Nader is pissed and wants to screw you over, I would say McCain and Palin are the ones who are truly screwing you both. You need to make those two take over the rent for the two of you, one of them gets to stay, or they both get the hell out. Your name is on the lease, as is Nader's and, unless they have signed papers (which I doubt), you've got more rights to the space than the Republicans.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:23 PM on November 4, 2008

Forget about the evicted politicians living in the dining room. You paid your share of the rent with a money order, yes? I assume that you have a copy of the money order. You have already paid your rent. Don't pay your roommate's share also! Whether you are "living there" or not, you have a lease as does your roommate. You paid your share, even if the money came from the politicians, let her pay hers.
posted by lee at 2:36 PM on November 4, 2008

On Saturday, Nader said McCain/Palin were going to take over her rent.

On Monday, you asked McCain to take over your share instead, without telling Nader. Nader believed that McCain was paying her share, when you had actually taken it as your share. Surprise, now she's pissed off! I think morally, you're the one on the hook. If I was Nader, I'd take the credit hit before I gave you any money.
posted by jacalata at 3:09 PM on November 4, 2008

you have a lease as does your roommate

No, there is a lease that names 4 tenants. The lease will almost certainly state that they are all jointly and severally liable. It doesn't matter who paid what to whom, the management company only cares that they get paid and can go after any or all of the 4 (and damage their credit ratings) for the full amount of the rent.
posted by missmagenta at 3:11 PM on November 4, 2008

On Monday, you asked McCain to take over your share instead, without telling Nader. Nader believed that McCain was paying her share, when you had actually taken it as your share. Surprise, now she's pissed off! I think morally, you're the one on the hook. If I was Nader, I'd take the credit hit before I gave you any money.

On the other hand, Nader made no attempts to collect the rent from McCain and Palin before it was due or make sure that M&P paid Obama before she moved out. McCain and Palin made agreements with both malapropist and Nader to take over their share of the rent. This could be interpreted as them taking over the whole room (since they are 2 people, taking over the rent of the previous 2 occupants would be the expected course of action) and that malapropist has collected his share of the rent from and Nader needs to do the same.
posted by missmagenta at 3:17 PM on November 4, 2008

I also don't understand why there's a drama. You paid your share, and got reimbursed by McCain. Nader hasn't paid anything yet, but presumably when she does, she's going to get funded or reimbursed by Palin. The idea that a house gets two new people in to pay one person's rent share is just wack.
posted by flabdablet at 5:02 PM on November 4, 2008

If this is a tight rental market (sounds like it is, if that many people are sharing one 2-bedroom place) you might want to pay it just to get a good landlord reference.

That seems like the most important thing, to me.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:19 PM on November 5, 2008

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