What can I do about my roommate?
January 18, 2011 1:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm not on the lease, my roommate is. He's kicking me out. What are my options?

I tried to boil this down to just the need-to-know information. It's pretty hard when I feel like there's so much going on here:

I started living with my roommate, Mr. X, back in August when he let me know the space was up for grabs. I was, of course, fully expecting to sign a lease and start my new life in an awesome new place. After I'd moved my stuff in, he informed me that I wouldn't be on the lease and the apartment was technically a one-person apartment. The lease stated that the landlord could evict the leasee if more than one person was living there. He'd been living there for two years with his previous roommate, and assured me that having two people living there was alright with the landlord in a "wink-wink nudge nudge" (his words) kind of way.

Taking his word on that for the next 6 months? Huge mistake.

For clarity's sake, it was agreed that I pay half the rent and half the utilities etc. Everything split down the middle, totally equal. So in my mind, Mr. X was not in any way an authority.

Fast forward to the beginning of this month, roommate disagreements led Mr. X to no longer want me living there. The way he delivered this information was, in the middle of an argument, shouting "You have 30 days". My impression was that it was a threat to scare me into doing what he wanted, and didn't think of it again. He never mentioned it again.

Mr. X had been adamant from the beginning about my having no contact with the landlord, but things had gotten to a point where I wanted to discuss the situation with him (the landlord), fully aware that the conversation might end in my being asked to vacate immediately. I was prepared to deal with that. I just wanted to have all of my information straight, so there was nothing Mr. X could be filtering out. I just wanted everything to be right with everyone involved.

Mr. X refused to give me the landlord's number.

Earlier today, I told him I would be contacting the landlord whether or not he gave me the number. When I came home from work tonight, Mr. X informed me that he talked to the landlord, that they "were square" just as long as I moved out, and that I have until the end of the month (January) to do it. To him, from the minute he shouted that I had 30 days, the clock was ticking. He told me he didn't need to write it, and got mean and angry when I told him I had no idea he was serious.

He told me that if I contacted the landlord at all, Mr. X would call him as soon as he found out and claim I was being unreasonable and request I leave immediately.

This is all overwhelming to me, because from where I stand, I did nothing worthy of being kicked out (I tried to leave all the roommate drama out, this is already long enough), followed the rules, tried to do the right thing, and still have 3 weeks to somehow find a roommate and enough money for a new place and security deposit. PS, I'm broke and work two jobs. Money - not so much. Extra time - not so much.

What can I do so that I have more time? Is it worth calling the landlord to try to explain? How can I quell the urge to kill Mr. X for screwing me over so fucking hard? What are my options?

I'm pretty upset right now and not feeling totally coherent and I feel like I'm leaving so much out, so please ask any questions to help clarify.
posted by moons in june to Law & Government (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Location would be helpful. Also, if you still can, I'd ask Mr. X back the money from the security deposit.
posted by raccoon409 at 1:29 AM on January 18, 2011

Best answer: Michigan Tenant Counseling Program has a resource library that might help and offer phone and email information if you're in Washtenaw or Battle Creek. And even if you're not, they'll probably be willing to give you 10-15 minutes on the phone to explain your rights under Michigan law (ie after living there 2 months you have rights vs you have no rights, eviction notice must come in writing from the landlord vs verbal from the roommate, etc). Or, if not, can possibly point you to a similar organization that serves your area.
posted by K.P. at 1:45 AM on January 18, 2011

Response by poster: I live in Michigan. When I entered into the agreement, neither of us were on the lease. Mr. X was living there with a roommate who was on the lease. He originally asked me to sign the lease instead of him because of his bad credit, but was afraid he would have to leave. So, I assumed we were on equal terms.
posted by moons in june at 1:47 AM on January 18, 2011

Best answer: When I came home from work tonight, Mr. X informed me that he talked to the landlord, that they "were square" just as long as I moved out

To be honest, I doubt that he has talked to the landlord and is merely bluffing. Nevertheless, I would agree with doublehappy, moving out would be the easiest course of action.

Have you been able to find the landlords details? If you did contact him, would you expect your room-mate to get hostile?

Mr. X was living there with a roommate who was on the lease. He originally asked me to sign the lease instead of him because of his bad credit,

Yikes - big warning signs already. It's clear that Mr. X is quite a shady character already - this event may be a blessing in disguise.
posted by SRMorris at 1:58 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: SRMorris, yeah it definitely occurred to me that he might be bluffing. He's already gotten hostile when I mentioned trying to contact the landlord, but not physically violent. You're actually pretty dead-on about everything you said. Especially the blessing in disguise part :)
posted by moons in june at 2:11 AM on January 18, 2011

I had a roomie that pulled the same bs on me. Didn't help that he was severely bi-polar and had a bad habit of going off his meds on a regular basis. Because of that, he would have these bouts of irrationality and one of his favorite irrational habits was to threaten booting me. There were 3 of us, but he pulled the same thing where he would not let me sign, draw up a roommate agreement or talk to the building management.

This whole "I talked to the landlord and he said" thing sounds fishy to me too. I got the same line with the bipolar roommate. I seriously doubt that my former roomie ever did any like that. It is just too easy to say to gloss over the problem.

It may be quite possible that the roomie who moved out is actually still the leaseholder, having never transferred the lease to the current roommate.

Regardless of the whether he is or is not the leaseholder, it still is time to go. Living in such a toxic home will not end well. I would start making hasty plans to get out but make sure you have the 30 days. Get it in writing if possible.

Get a temporary room for rent and just go. No need to give any more than a day's notice. Also, if you can swing it, start paying rent by the week. You might lose out on a few days rent, but it will be better than coming home to find your stuff on the curb. Make the move before he pulls some other stunt.

Given the shady nature of this situation with the roomie, you can just bolt when you want with few repercussions with regards to lost deposits and rent.
posted by lampshade at 2:23 AM on January 18, 2011

I don't buy the "I talked to the landlord and we're square" story either. If it it were true, the landlord would already know about your presence and your roommate would have no reason to fly off the handle if you were to contact said landlord yourself. I suspect he's afraid that HE will be evicted if you contact the landlord, and he's being angry/scary to keep you from noticing that you have quite a bit of power in this situation. That's my hunch, anyhow.

I also suspect you have certain legal rights that a local tenants' rights organization like K.P. suggested can help you understand. After five months, I doubt your roommate can evict you without going through a formal legal process that would almost certainly take longer than 30 days EVEN IF he knew what he was doing, which he clearly doesn't.

No matter who's right, this isn't going to magically become a good living situation. I would begin the tiresome process of finding a better arrangement, but I would not feel bound by the 30 day / 3 week arbitrary deadline. Extricate yourself, but do so carefully and deliberately so you don't stumble into a situation that's even worse. Meanwhile, be clear and firm, try to avoid drama, and take precautionary steps to protect any valuable personal stuff you might keep in the apartment.
posted by jon1270 at 3:14 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you are in mid-Michigan, the East Lansing Housing Resource Center may be able to help you. Advising tenants (and landlords, too) is what they do. I found them very useful on more than one occasion in my youth when landlord/tenant or roommate relations got dicey. Even if you're not in the greater Lansing area, if you call them they may be able to refer you to a similar agency near where you are.
posted by not that girl at 4:36 AM on January 18, 2011

I would tell him that he needs to give you your security deposit back early (i.e. NOW) or you will contact the landlord. If he does, just move out at the end of the month. But don't go anywhere until you have your money or you'll never see it.
posted by hazyjane at 4:48 AM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

Screw this asshole.

He didn't talk to the landlord; he doesn't want the landlord to know that he's been violating the lease that disallows multiple residents (and probably subleasing).

Explain to this clown that if you go down, he goes down with you: you either get what you want, or you go to the landlord and tell all.

Then demand back any deposit you made, and explain you'll be out of the apartment on your schedule.
posted by orthogonality at 5:44 AM on January 18, 2011 [10 favorites]

Move out, because living with an asshole sucks. But do it on your time. You should probably call whatever renter's advocacy group there is in your state for advice, too.
posted by empath at 6:21 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

A lot of good advice already.

#1 is contact the listings above to get some sort of counseling (both rights-wise and a shoulder to cry on), because no matter what route you take this will impact you on an emotional level for a good while.
#2 is to remember that you are living this life for yourself and this person, or any person toxic to you, does not deserve you in their life. Also, rooming with friends never ends well; assuming you knew this person prior to this arrangement.
#3 GTFO immediately. He did not talk to the landlord and I'm fairly sure you can leave without notice immediately. I hope you have some family that can give you some cash for a month, because you'll need the support.

Good luck!
posted by zombieApoc at 6:31 AM on January 18, 2011

fully aware that the conversation might end in my being asked to vacate immediately.

You need to check the law in your area; landlords cannot usually force people out of their homes "immediately." Going to the landlord will start a clock on your exit, but it will probably be a longer clock than the one your roommate has already started on you. There's no way to know for sure, though, without talking to a local tenant rights group, which you should do IMMEDIATELY. They'll probably be able to help you get the landlord's contact information as well, which you need in hand to show your roommate so you have some leverage to buy yourself more time *and* get your full deposit back (assuming you haven't caused damage he'll have to pay for when he moves out, of course).

Once you show your roommate that you have the contact information, tell him you would like to discuss a fair and amicable solution to the problem, which to you means more time *and* your full deposit back. Then, never do something like this again without a signed written agreement.
posted by mediareport at 6:32 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some municipalities have tax assessment records online. If your area does this, you might be able to search by address and find out the owner's name that way.

Otherwise, nthing doing some research into what kind of tenant rights you may have and proceeding carefully.

Is there any way you can rent storage space, just so you can get any valuables out of there? Because, I don't like how this roommate of yours sounds.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:57 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry but i'm on the side of the roommate. I think he has been pretty reasonable to give you 30 days notice. Its a pretty standard term - 4 weeks to vacate.

I assume you are getting back any security deposit that you paid when moving in. He was already in the Flat so clearly he 'found' it . its his flat - if i was in his situation I'd expect you to move out.

Sorry, yeah moving is a pain but i'm sure you can find something else. you still have 3 weeks. He may give you another week based on you misunderstanding the initial 30 days notice call.
posted by mary8nne at 7:05 AM on January 18, 2011

While there may very well be strong legal recourse to let you stay in the place.... in the end, you don't own it, you aren't on a lease or contract, and it doesn't sound like a situation where you'd want to stay - so take the opportunity to leave and leave, learn a lesson, and move on.

In a situation where the landlord doesn't want you there, or the rest of the roomies don't want you there, you will eventually be moving out anyway.

If it really bugs you - document everything and talk to a lawyer/tennants rights association/etc - maybe you can get some cash out of the deal, but I'd leave it at that.
posted by TravellingDen at 7:13 AM on January 18, 2011

You probably have rights. But why on Earth would you stay there? There is no why this situation works out with you getting to stay and your roommate having to leave, which is the "win" condition. Even if you can get eviction delayed, you're going to get kicked out and in the meantime have to deal with this person, who clearly dislikes you. Imagine how more difficult it will be to live with him if in the time left you have there, you are (in his eyes) responsible for his coming eviction as well?

Get out, and next time you sublet, don't think of it as long-term. Even if you techinically have rights, in practice you don't want your home to be a battlefield.
posted by spaltavian at 7:30 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, thank you for all the fantastic advice. I can't believe how helpful and constructive these suggestions have been. I honestly thought this post would get deleted because it's not really a direct question, but the answers have been helping me get a little clarity about the whole situation and figure out wtf I'm going to do. Again, thank you, I'm not really sure what I would have done.

Just want to reiterate that I'm not trying to stay, I'm trying to get more time to find a better living situation, which takes time.

Here's my plan:

- Get information from Michigan Tenant Counseling Program
- Call my landlord, whose details I got from a neighbor, and explain my end and hope he can give me more time.
- GTFO ASAP, get essentials and valuables from the apartment and stay with my boyfriend and my folks until I can figure everything out.

Special thanks to orthogonality for saying exactly what I wanted to hear :) I wish I had the (metaphorical) balls. I'm just going to tell the landlord the truth, and if it's damning enough for Mr. X to get evicted, that would be some pretty good karma right there.
posted by moons in june at 8:09 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

It does not matter if you are on the apartment lease. Legally, you are subletting from your roommate, and your roommate is your landlord who is evicting you. You'll need to defend yourself accordingly.

Still, cut your losses and find someplace new. This will only get worse.
posted by dhartung at 8:10 AM on January 18, 2011

I don't think your landlord will pursue eviction when he's aware that you're actively seeking a new place. The eviction process is a pain and most landlords don't opt for it over working something out.

That said, your roommate has no more legal standing or rights than you since he is not on the lease. He's likely concerned the landlord will find out about him and evict him -- which he wants to avoid since you know, finding a new place is time consuming and expensive.

Talk to your roommate first. Tell him you will move out but you will need time to find a place. If he is unwilling to extend you the courtesy of time, tell him you will have no choice but to involve the landlord as he is the only person who can legally evict you. This should give him proper focus. If it does not, contact the landlord but spare him the drama and stick to the technical details. If landlord is inclined to go the legal route, there's a good chance you'll both get the boot since he can take you both out with one eviction process.

Get out, good luck!
posted by loquat at 8:38 AM on January 18, 2011

I don't actually understand why you are trying to push this. Mr. X is the person on the lease, and while you have some rights, they are pretty weak compared to the person's on the lease. Also, it seems like trying to take this further would simply result in eviction proceedings being started against your roommate (and by extension you), for breaking the terms of the lease. What would this solve, besides a possible desire for revenge? I would leave it, and go find a happier living arrangement. (Bonus: rental prices are usually lower during the winter, so you may find a better place for the same money.)
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:47 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a landlord in Michigan, rest assured, it takes for-fucking-ever to get a tenant evicted, with or without a lease. 60 days, bare minimum. I'm not sure about the status of your relationship with Mr. X, but if he's become your de facto landlord he can't get you out without going to court.

Not that things can't turn ugly anyway.....
posted by pjaust at 9:02 AM on January 18, 2011

Before you do anything that the roommate knows about you should get all your important documents and money out of there. Passports, credit cards, bank checks, etc. Just in case.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:08 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry to say this: it doesn't matter whats legal, right, or fair. You just have to leave. He doesn't want you there and neither does the landlord. If you stay, you and the other guy will both hate each other and it'll poison your life while you're there. He screwed you; do yourself a favor and get yourself out of there. He's a dishonest guy. He knew the landlord didn't want two people in there, yet he had roommates anyway. He lied to you and said the no-roomates part of the lease was a formality and the landlord didn't mind. He screwed you doesn't care about what's fair.

Even if you and the roommate had made a written agreement, it wouldn't be valid because the lease already required that the place be occupied by one person. You can notify the landlord of the violation of lease terms, but you'll still be out. The landlord won't kick your roommate out; that would be inconvenient. He'll give his tenant another chance.

If you are owed money, then tell the roommate you'll stay till he pays you or until you've lived there long enough that the debt has been used up as rent.
posted by wryly at 10:16 AM on January 18, 2011

The lease stated that the landlord could evict the leasee if more than one person was living there

Did you see this on the lease, or did dudeman just tell you? How many square feet is the apartment? If it's more than 250sqft, two people is likely OK according to Federal Housing Law (though there may be different or conflicting state/municipal law on the issue). If they still say only one person to the apartment, the landlord would likely have to justify it in court. The issue here is that "maximum occupancy" has been and is used to discriminate against familial status, against people with children.

Furthermore, you can use state/county/municipal housing records to find the owner of the building, and thus (or by extension), the landlord. Heck, if you really pursue this you might be able to get badguy evicted in favor of the landlord just renting to you, a responsible and respectful tenant.
posted by rhizome at 10:41 AM on January 18, 2011

You are a woman, rooming with a man who is kicking you out, threatening you, and denying you contact with the landlord?

Yeah, I'd get all this out on the table with the landlord directly, if only for your own safety. He's involved too in this messed up situation, and someone else besides you and your roommate needs to know what's going on. The landlord should be aware of the legal limitations on kicking someone out of a dwelling; he should know you can't legally be put on the street in three weeks.

And yes, get a new place ASAP.
posted by torticat at 11:06 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Start moving your valuable stuff out today--ask a friend to store it for you. Be mindful of your personal safety and only discuss the situation with X when there's someone there as a witness.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:20 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

The way your roommate presented the Kicking You Out information was poorly chosen, but that doesn't make it any less real. It also would have been good of him to shoot you an email, just to make it super-serious and all - but I'm pretty sure he wasn't legally required to.

For what it's worth, I live in a roommate situation where we have sublease agreements and the whole thing is on the up and up with the landlord, and still, we live there at the discretion of the leaseholding roommate. For that matter, when I had a similar situation (three roommates, two who got along and one who was never a good fit), it was the two of us who get along who got together and decided we needed to kick the other one out.

Thirty days is perfectly good notice. The landlord has nothing to do with this, and talking to him is just spiteful bullshit meant to sabotage your roommate's position in his apartment. You know this, so don't be disingenuous about it.

Further to all of this, what do you hope to accomplish, here? You and your roommate obviously don't get along. It's a toxic living situation. You don't seem to trust or respect your roommate. You do not have the standing to convince your roommate to move out of an apartment you've only lived in for six months. Why are you so hell-bent in staying there? Go find yourself a better place to live, ASAP.
posted by Sara C. at 11:41 AM on January 18, 2011

BTW, there are a lot of ways a roommate situation differs from laws that protect renters vis a vis landlords. For instance, while a property owner can't usually discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race, religion, orientation, etc, a roommate can decide who they want to live with as they see fit.

There are also probably different notice requirements for a property owner to evict a tenant than there are to evict a roommate, if there even is anything on the books about roommates where you are.

Thirty days is generally considered the done thing (colloquially, not legally) here in New York City, where many more people have roommates than in other parts of the US. Again, aside from the fact that your roommate wasn't terribly mature in the way he informed you, you really don't have a leg to stand on.

Basically, you can do this the easy way (move out without a fight) or the hard way (go to court over it, maybe get some money a few years down the line). How do you want to do this?
posted by Sara C. at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2011

and still, we live there at the discretion of the leaseholding roommate

And still, there are almost certainly laws governing how quickly that leaseholding roommate can force you to leave. Are you really suggesting otherwise?

moons in june, I don't think Sara C. is very knowledgeable about the legal end of this situation, and I encourage you to ignore her advice.
posted by mediareport at 5:07 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not a housing lawyer, but I am a person who's lived with roommates for literally half my life. A decade of which has been living with roommates in a shared apartment as adults.

You may have legal recourse. But you're going to have to leave, anyway. If you think your living situation sucks now, wait until you're living on hostile territory with someone who hates you and who you don't trust. Wait until you and your roommate both get evicted by your landlord due to whatever sketchy situation is at the root of this whole thing.

Tenants' rights are great when you're dealing with something that is ultimately an economic transaction. It doesn't address social relationships very well.
posted by Sara C. at 5:31 PM on January 18, 2011

(And, yes, mediareport, 30 days notice is pretty much par for the course in my experience - it's not like a landlord/tenant situation where you have to be evicted and the law requires 90+ days notice and piles of red tape. It can take years for a tenant to be evicted by a property-owning landlord. Roommate situations don't work like that.)
posted by Sara C. at 5:37 PM on January 18, 2011

Yeah, I'd get all this out on the table with the landlord directly, if only for your own safety

If your safety is in question, you need to leave now. Going to the landlord and endangering your roommate's home will only make him more likely to lash out if he is, in fact, dangerous.
posted by spaltavian at 5:46 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sara C., as long as we're comparing credentials, I've lived with roommates in shared homes "as adults" for over 2 decades now. Neither one of us knows what relevant laws may or may not exist for the poster's situation, but you are the one posting things like "you really don't have a leg to stand on." You have no idea what legal leg the poster has to stand on in this situation, and I'm simply suggesting you should maybe think about taking the certainty down a notch when answering this kind of question in the future.
posted by mediareport at 9:26 PM on January 18, 2011

I wasn't using the phrase in a legal capacity.

And what is he going to do, here, really? His choices are to move out as requested, or to stay past the move out date in hopes that... what? It seems unlikely that the situation is going to be resolved any other way than by him moving out. He has no real standing in this situation. The roommate has done nothing wrong and made no unreasonable requests (seriously, 30 days is about as good as it gets). He can't make the other guy move out. He's not on the lease. The landlord apparently doesn't know that he's even living there. There is really nothing else to do but move out and move on.
posted by Sara C. at 10:40 PM on January 18, 2011

The poster has already stated the intent to "GTFO ASAP."
posted by mediareport at 5:56 AM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: Quick follow-up:

I called the landlord, yes X was bluffing about having spoken with him. The landlord told us to work it out, and told me he had no issue with my living there off the lease. X made up the conflict we had with the landlord.

Due to the hatred-levels on both sides, I'm trying to get a new place as soon as humanly possible. Finding a *good* living situation that is immediate and affordable is tough, which is why I wanted to know my options for buying time.

Thanks again for the good advice.
posted by moons in june at 6:59 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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