The War of the Roses without Danny DeVito
March 30, 2012 5:34 PM   Subscribe

We're getting a divorce. We live in a rent controlled San Francisco apartment. We both refuse to leave and it's hell. Hivemind, please help me.

I wrote this question when this process was new. My biggest problem is no longer how to be supportive. Since then, he has come back permanently and has been, shall we say, disruptive:
Explodes in drunken rages every week or so.
Threatened so seriously to kill himself that I called the police (who put him on a psychiatric hold for a couple days). I was not being spiteful, it was because the week before he...
Put a butcher's knife to his chest and tried to force my hands to push it in.
Etc., etc.

I know the obvious answer is just leave. However, not only did I find, furnish, pay for, and take care of this place for 10 years, I'm very close to the landlord who wants me to stay and my husband to leave. (LL is more of a friend/adoptive father to me.) LL wanted to just change the locks, but obviously I told him not to. My husband can't afford this place, the LL says he won't let him live here with a bunch of roommates, but I don't know how to get him out. We are both on the lease.

I know YANAL or YANML (I am looking for one) but can anyone tell me how this could play out? What happens if a landlord wants only one person on the lease to stay? Is there any creative solution (e.g., I "stop" paying rent, LL evicts "us", I move back in and pay him back.) This can't be an original problem in San Francisco.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps the San Francisco Tenants' Union could help you. I believe you can get advice by phone if you're a member, and you can get advice in person either way.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:36 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

You really, really need an attorney, STAT. Between the psych hold, the cops and the drunken rages, a restraining order may be in your near future, which would also sort your apartment issue.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2012 [28 favorites]

If he is aggressive and violent, you could look into getting a restraining order that will force him to move out. Perhaps call a domestic violence lawyer, or family law practitioner?
posted by jacalata at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

LL wanted to just change the locks, but obviously I told him not to.


If you aren't intending to leave, and the two of you can't live together, and you have a better relationship with LL than your husband does, I totally fail to understand why this particular battle needs to be won by anybody but you.

Even assuming that you and LL can't find some breach of the lease conditions inherent in husband's disruptive behavior: if you're both on the lease but husband can't afford to pay the rent, surely all you and LL need to do is agree that you pay your half, LL demands husband's half directly from husband, then duly evicts for non-payment?
posted by flabdablet at 5:41 PM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

Someone has to give - leave the apartment.
But what is being given up has value - monetary value.

Get a realtor, show them the arpartment.
Ask them, if I wanted something similar in this neighborhood, how much?
Compare number to the rent in the old place - and you have a monthly number.

Then it is a question of how long - how many years?
What are you willing to pay him to leave the apartment? What will he accept?

This is a negotiating point on the division of assets. The lease is a real asset.
The question is, what is the lease really worth, and what is each side willing to pay or give?
posted by Flood at 6:08 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe because it might constitute an unlawful eviction on the landlord's part? My understanding is that in California landlords generally have to go through a whole procedure to kick out tenants and just changing the locks would be frowned upon by the courts. The fact that only one of the tenants is being locked out might not be enough to save him.

Speaking of procedure, according to this:
However, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant only three days' advance written notice if the tenant has done any of the following:
* Substantially interfered with other tenants ("committed a nuisance")
* Committed domestic violence or sexual assault against, or stalked another tenant or subtenant on the premises
It's not super clear to me from that webpage whether these provisions can apply to only one (out of two tenants) on a lease, but I don't see anything that says otherwise. This might be something to ask the lawyer about?
posted by mhum at 6:09 PM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Why not change the locks? Because the husband is a tenant of the house, and "Your landlord can not put your belongings on the street or lock you out or turn off your utilities. This is a violation of California Civil Code Section 789.3 and the landlord is liable for $100 a day in penalties."

'Duly evicting' someone for disruptive behaviour that breaks the terms of their lease, or for non-payment, will probably take months. The SF Tenant's Union suggests 'a month of two from first notice'.
posted by jacalata at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lawyer. Lawyer lawyer lawyer. IANAL, just a long-time renter, but flabdablet's advice sounds very bad to me.
posted by Lexica at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think flabdablet's idea will work out legally at ALL here in CA thanks to the way tenant laws and divorce laws operate - too bad.

Get a lawyer and go the restraining order route. NOW.

This is a dangerous situation. You are under-reacting here. It's not about your apartment, it's about your safety?

Got it? Good.
posted by jbenben at 6:11 PM on March 30, 2012 [16 favorites]

Lawyer this minute. And get a few big, burly friends to sleep over until he's off premises.
posted by anonnymoose at 6:19 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Either ask the landlord to evict your ex or move out. Those are the only two options. I know you've put a lot into this home, but you are not even safe in this environment - let alone happy. This is not worth it. And while your compassion for your ex is admirable, you are not helping him right now.

So again, there are two possible plans as far as I can see:

1) Leave town for a week, ask your landlord to get rid of your ex while you're gone.
2) Move out.

I'm really sorry, this must be very, very painful.
posted by latkes at 6:19 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also: if you are in danger, leave. Your life is a lot harder to replace than an apartment (even a magical rent-controlled one). Please take care!
posted by anonnymoose at 6:27 PM on March 30, 2012

If you feel there is a threat to your safety, you absolutely must give up your beloved, rent-controlled apartment.

Please consult an attorney before you listen to definitive statements like this.
posted by gerryblog at 6:31 PM on March 30, 2012 [15 favorites]

Anonymous: "Put a butcher's knife to his chest and tried to force my hands to push it in."

Jesus. Screw the apartment. Leave right now.

Crash with a friend, ideally one he doesn't know.Your physical safety is top priority.
posted by chairface at 6:33 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

File a restraining order. Problem solved.
posted by zug at 6:41 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

In some jurisdictions, you don't need a lawyer to obtain a restraining order. I'd be surprised if it was more difficult to do in SanFran than rural Florida.

Don,t wait until the nex time knives are involved.
posted by mikewas at 6:46 PM on March 30, 2012

Put a butcher's knife to his chest and tried to force my hands to push it in.

Nthing restraining order. I'm fairly certain this will allow your landlord to evict your husband on very short notice. The San Francisco Tenants' Union or someone at theSan Francisco Rent Board should be able to confirm this, but the item mhum quotes from the list of Just Cause Eviction reasons would probably be proven well enough by a restraining order.

Also, as someone in SF who is looking for housing, who can't afford the commute into the city from the burbs, nor afford to live in the city itself, but who refuses to leave, dammit, I would actually physically fight someone for a rent controlled apartment. In your position, I'd use every legal option I had (and yes, risk bodily harm) to keep that apartment. Uh, so, I may be a bit biased against that "just leave! this isn't worth it!" advice you're getting. I'd hold my ground on this one, if I were you.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 6:53 PM on March 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

If he's a threat to your physical safety, is it worth keeping the apartment if it means he knows where you live? Might it be safer to give up the apartment and move to another (unknown to him) location?
posted by serialcomma at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2012

Jesus. Screw the apartment. Leave right now.

Crash with a friend, ideally one he doesn't know.Your physical safety is top priority.

And not only your physical safety. It sounds like he's laying the groundwork in a way to maybe get YOU into legal trouble. If someone tried to force my hands to stab them I would NEVER be alone with them again, not even out of physical fear but fear they were setting me up for something.
posted by cairdeas at 7:16 PM on March 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

When does your lease end? Is there a way that you could find somewhere else to stay until the lease period is over (or until your ex-husband gets evicted for not being able to pay the full rent) and then move back in with a friend? Obviously informing the landlord of your plans and making sure that works for him. Leaving temporarily in order to ensure your safety doesn't mean you have to leave permanently, especially when you are friends with the landlord.
posted by overglow at 7:24 PM on March 30, 2012

Leave the apartment now and stay with friends until you can get a RO. Seriously.

Put a butcher's knife to his chest and tried to force my hands to push it in.

No. SERIOUSLY go stay with friends or a hotel or something. I can't believe you're still living with him.

Etc., etc.
WHAT?! There's more? You need a reality check. You're living in apartment with someone who tried to make you kill them. You could be in serious danger. If you were my friend and I lived near you I would probably drag you out of the apartment.

You don't have to forfeit the apartment, but you need somewhere safe while you figure this mess out. From the way you have worded this question it really seems like you're not taking this as seriously as you should. Have you just become so habituated to this kind of behavior that this just doesn't shock you?

Disruptive in a understatement.

Please take care. I hope your soon to be ex gets the boot and you can keep the apartment.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:25 PM on March 30, 2012 [19 favorites]

Certainly you should be the one to keep the apartment, but you won't enjoy it much if you're dead. Find a safe place first and fight your apartment custody battle from there. Stay with family or friends, or find a short-term rental. Then look into the legal options for both you and your landlord. A restraining order is a start — and a must.
posted by orange swan at 7:26 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

For now, get out of there and stay with a friend as you find a lawyer. If he is willing to bring out a butchers knife and try to get you to stab him with it, who is to say that in a fit of rage he won't pull that knife out and try to stab you?

Get a lawyer. Get a restraining order. ASAP! You are seriously taking a risk with your life here.

I had a friend who described similar behavior in her boyfriend a few years ago. He tried to kill himself, and when he wasn't able to do it, he started attacking her. She waited too long to talk to the police before it all went down, because she didn't think it could ever go that far, and she nearly lost her life. Don't make that same mistake. Get out of there. Get a lawyer. ASAP!
posted by markblasco at 7:55 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Call the cops -- pronto, right now -- and find out about a restraining order. Who knows, maybe something can be done, even if only to make some report to set it all in motion.

But unless the cops or some authority who knows tells you you can change out those locks, you've to to either get out of there -- as everyone is saying, this guy is a loose cannon, and knives, that's just not a good scene -- so either get out of there or have some large, sane friends come and stay with you.

Then again, if they are sane, would they get involved in this scene?

The reason I'd hesitate to leave him the place is that he can destroy and/or steal all of your belongings and trash the place. I'm a big guy, and I'd be hesitant to sleep in a place I'm sharing with a nutjob like him -- you've got to sleep sometime. I've had one Fatal Attraction type thing and it was a horror show; thank god she didn't have a key to my place.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:08 PM on March 30, 2012

And if you do change the lock, unless it's a cheapo door that'd pop open easy with a kick no matter what lock you put on it, put on a good lock and spend a couple of bucks -- maybe your landlord will work with you on this? -- spend a few bucks to get someone competent to install it.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:19 PM on March 30, 2012

Go get a restraining order. You do not need a lawyer in order to file the initial paperwork, and even a temporary restraining order can include the apartment.
posted by corb at 11:16 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

In terms of the "he tried to make me stab him" incident and the possibility of a restraining order, perhaps place a call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline? They can, at the very least, put you in touch with someone in your area who can help you navigate a restraining order, explain whether or not it will help/work in this situation, and help you deal with what you're feeling (which I'm sure you're minimizing here).

Good luck to you :).

(Short PS - Your headline here, and this might be totally inappropriate for me to bring up given the seriousness of your question and issue, is classic. I'm sorry but it's great. You've still got your sense of humor. I hope you're able to keep it.)
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:14 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I read this post yesterday and couldn't stop thinking about it. Please, for your own safety and sanity, get out of the apartment and don't look back! Do you want this guy knowing where you live and pissed off that he can't live there?
posted by radioamy at 12:20 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Leave temporarily. Wait for LL to evict him. Move back in, new lease.
posted by Thistledown at 6:05 PM on April 1, 2012

You need legal advice so you don't jeopardize your safety or your home. I'd also contact a family violence agency. This is more complex than AskMe can really answer accurately. good luck.
posted by theora55 at 10:22 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to consider talking to a laywer, or possibly visiting a legal clinic. I'm hesitant to even mention the generic CA civil procedure regarding TROs and the like in standard civil suits, as both landlord/tenant and family/divorce law are fairly specialized.

Is there a possibility of committing him to some kind of residential treatment? Do you have benefits that would cover it?

When does the current lease expire?

What's the status of the marriage? Are you divorcing?
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:18 AM on May 29, 2012

erp. Sorry. Not sure how I thought this was from last week.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:15 AM on May 29, 2012

[ Update ]
posted by DarlingBri at 10:49 AM on May 29, 2012

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