No lease, moving howto?
October 26, 2009 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I live in an apartment with no lease and pay rent to my (dishonest) roommate. How do I minimize my financial losses when I move out?

I moved in June 15 and paid a full month's rent ($600). The next month and each subsequent month my roommate told me to pay $550 after I questioned how high the rent was. I paid that rent on the first of each month (or thereabouts).

In months that passed, I've found out that roommate has lied about how much the whole apartment rents for, and that he pays $50 less rent than he told me he paid. I've also observed that he generally lies and cheats people out of things whenever he has the opportunity to do so. We do not have good roommate relations due to related and unrelated conflicts, and he does not like me & vice versa.

I don't have a security deposit or a lease, the utilities are in my name (and I take the amount that he owes me out of the rent check each month), and what we'd (verbally) agreed upon was that I would give 30 days notice before moving out.

I am planning on moving out December 14. I am also planning on taking the utilities out of my name starting on that day. I am 95% positive that he will not give me what he owes me for utilities for the period of December 1-15 (the bill that I will get after I move out). This will be a non-trivial sum since we live in a cold area with high gas bills.

What I (and others I've consulted) see my options as being are to give him written and verbal notification on November 13 that I will be moving out on December 14 and:

A: Pay all of December rent.
B: Pay half of December rent.
C: Say that I've been paying rent from the 15th-15th of each month (since I moved in on June 15) and pay no December rent.
D: Pay half of December rent and subtract the utilities that he owes from that AND the utilities that I project he will owe for the final bill.

So, MetaFilter, what do I do? What is right? What is fair? What will screw me over the least?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total)
I'm going for D. That's really the most fair, and there's really nothing he can do about it.
posted by greta simone at 5:55 PM on October 26, 2009

I'd do (D) in a non-drama way: Just say you're moving out, and that to make things simpler you'll just deduct December utilities from yr December rent-cheque.

Drama is bad when the person has keys to your bedroom.
posted by Marquis at 5:56 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

D. The pro-rated rent issue (15th - 15th) should have been taken care of long ago, and you've been paying as of the 1st for your tenure there, so it's a bit unfair to retroactively claim the extra half month. I assume you didn't sign any type of agreement. Just document everything in case he takes you to small claims court after the fact. If you really distrust the guy, I would start moving out anything valuable ASAP in case things get ugly.
posted by benzenedream at 5:57 PM on October 26, 2009

Option D sounds exactly what I would do.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:57 PM on October 26, 2009

To me it sounds like you have two weeks in the bank, so you pay nothing for Dec 1 to 15th, and I see nothing unreasonable about that. The problem is you have no way to deduct utilities if you don't pay December rent. You could transfer the utilities to him starting Dec 1, not Dec 15, and leave him a cheque for the amount you owe for Dec 1st to 15th. It seems like this would be an escalation in hostilities, though.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:02 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Deduct the amount he owes you for utilities plus a conservative estimate of what he will owe for Dec. 1-14 utilities from the Nov. 15-Dec. 15 rent that you pay on Nov. 14. (Yes, I know you would normally pay on the 1st, but you haven't signed a lease obligating you to pay at the beginning of the month.) Also make sure you've charged him for his share of any deposit you had to pay for turning on the utilities. He will scream bloody murder, so be prepared for that.

So, to answer your question---D. IANAL, but I don't think he can evict you if he doesn't like this arrangement. As far as his lies about the amount of rent he's paying per month goes, I'd let it go. Next time, trust but verify. It's not going to be a fun month for you. You'll be well rid of this roommate. Pfui.
posted by WyoWhy at 6:11 PM on October 26, 2009

Can you get his name switched to the utilities at the end of November? It's going to have to happen eventually, so it may as well happen sooner than later.
posted by willnot at 6:12 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Actually, I like PercussivePaul's solution. Why wait to switch the utilities into his name? Def switch utilities on 12/1 in anticipation of your move-out.

When you move out, leave a check for the projected utility bills dec 1st through 15th. In the memo line write "for utilities 12/1 thru 12/15." Once the check is cashed, that's it. You're done with the whole thing.

Your roommate can not prevent you from moving out. Give notice politely and with a free conscience.

That said, I'd pack up my valuables and store them off premises prior to giving notice. I would secure all paperwork with my personal info (banking, social security number, etc.) off premises as well. I would do this discretely, but I would do it all the same.

I would not leave a forwarding physical address, just cheerfully dodge the question if it comes up.

Hey - you are not the first person to "catch on" and ditch this guy!

In the future... do not put the utilities in your name if you are not on the lease, OK?

Good Luck.
posted by jbenben at 6:20 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Call the utility co and talk to them about canceling service. Set it for the date you're moving out, or earlier. Tell roommate that he will have to call the utility company to set up an account.
posted by zippy at 6:20 PM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

PS. This guy is a scam artist, he's not going to take you to small claims court anything like that after you are gone -- it would require too much actual work and accountability.

PSS - He's a scam artist. He might do you dirty in some other way to get back at you after you're gone. Keep an eye on your credit for a while.

posted by jbenben at 6:26 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Come up with a figure for the amount he owes you already for bills, plus a reasonable estimate of the amount that will come due on the final bill. Subtract that from the amount of rent due from now to December 14th. If the result is positive, pay the room-mate that much. If negative, pay nothing. If his pattern is to stiff you for amounts he owes you, then turn about is fair play.

Give 30 days notice on November 14th, and make sure you're out before December 14th.

When you get the final bill, recalculate what you should have paid. If you've underpaid, pay the difference. If you've overpaid, suck it up. Life is too short to get into money arguments with arseholes.
posted by flabdablet at 6:27 PM on October 26, 2009

Option E: Move out on December 1? Cut off / switch utilities into his name for 12/1. Move your items into storage if you have to, if you've no friend with a garage you can utilize for 15 days. Find a friend or two to stay with for fifteen days; lots of people would welcome $125 a week in December.

Or even put a listing on Craigslist saying you need a place to stay two weeks @ $125 per, or whatever it'd take to generate interest.

Or Couchsurfing for two weeks maybe? I don't know what town you're in but if it's an interesting place there's bound to be a few (or more) people offering up their couches to travelers; well, you're traveling from one apartment to another, right? And no, I'm not suggesting that you be dishonest with the people whose couch you'd surf -- you'd want to let them in on the back-story -- but people who are open to hosting might be open to hosting you.

Honestly, none of the other options look good to me, and I'd hate to see you sharing a key in a space with a dishonest person who is angry at you -- yikes. (And I'd be getting your valuables/irreplaceables 'out of harms way' as soon as you can, one way or another.)

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:32 PM on October 26, 2009

If part of your problem is looking for a place to stay after Dec 15, lots and lots of students go home over the break and would probably be interested in subletting their apartment for a few weeks.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:06 PM on October 26, 2009

Definitely secure your belongings BEFORE giving notice, and then option D - hand over the least amount of $$ possible (ie don't have him owing you).
Sounds like a nightmare and you'll be so much better off for getting out of it!
posted by smartypantz at 7:08 PM on October 26, 2009

I don't understand option C: say that you have been paying from the 15th to the 15th? I mean, haven't you? Unless I am misunderstanding, I think you should go for option D - deduct his expected chunk from your last payment, but also (c) only pay rent the same amount of times as months you live in the apartment.
posted by milestogo at 8:54 PM on October 26, 2009

Well, there is an E. Don't give him any notice, and just have the utilities stopped and move out. What's he going to do, take you to court? You aren't on the lease.

I'm not saying it's the best option, but you did leave it off the list. Just making sure you thought of it. Nice people usually don't think like that.
posted by ctmf at 9:49 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

nthing the suggestion to find a safe place or very secure lockbox for all personal info/paper data. New secure passwords on your computer and anything digital.
Out-think this guy and take proactive measures discretely and immediately before giving your notice.
Then do as said above, get the utilities out of your name for 12/1, and get a back up sublet spot for those 2 weeks in early Dec. in case it hits the fan.
posted by BillBishop at 9:50 PM on October 26, 2009

tell him on nov 15th and take your name off the utilities on that day. then you can give him your share for that last month instead of hoping he ponies up. i'd look to move out dec 1 if i were you, even if you end up eating a couple of week's rent.
posted by emd3737 at 3:05 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The mentions of the lockbox, removing valuables, and checking credit have me thinking you should work on your change of address now, if you have reason to be concerned, even if it means having your mail forwarded to a friend or family member, or getting a PO box. It can take some time for the change of address to go into effect and a pile of mail for my previous roommate suggests it's not 100% effective, so make sure to contact any important institutions, like your bank, directly.
posted by 6550 at 9:18 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

What's he going to do, take you to court? You aren't on the lease.

Be careful with this. Depending on where you live, even though you don't have a paper lease with your roommate, you may still be considered a month-to-month tenant and may be legally required to give 30 days notice.
posted by hamsterdam at 2:02 PM on October 27, 2009

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