How do I follow through on removing subletters?
October 12, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I've given two subletters three months notice to move; they are arguing that I "don't have the power" to ask them to move out, and are demanding "proof" that I can do so. Details inside.

So, I'm obviously rather stressed about this, but I'm going to try to sum up first, and add more details as I go.

I live in an four bedroom apartment in Massachusetts. I'm the only person who signed the lease in September, and have been living here for two and a half years. One roommate entered as a subletter a year ago, the other in July (the first was an acquaintance of my friend who I shared the apartment with, the second a friend of the acquaintance). My friend has subsequently moved out leaving only myself on the new lease. Initially, they said they were going to move to another apartment at the end of August, but changed their mind (I found this out in August). There is no written contract between myself and them (I know, that was a mistake). The first week of September I told them that there's a possibility that I may have friends move in at the beginning of next year (January), and that I'd confirm if that ends up being the case (I should also mention that there's been some personality issues especially with one of them who can be weirdly aggressive/controlling at times; another reason I'd like friends to move in). I let them know early this month that friends will be moving in next year, and that I'd be glad to help them look for a new place.

Initially, the reaction was acceptance. Now, though, they are claiming I don't have the right to ask them to move out, and that I have to provide proof that I do have that right. They've stated that if I can provide that proof then they will move out.

One possible complication to all of this is that I suspect that there's a clause somewhere in the lease that subletting is disallowed (unless the landlord consents). Is this something I should be worried about in light of these developments? We've been sending our checks (each made out for our share) in one envelope for many months now, so I'm assuming they must know that there have been more people living in the apartment than just myself.

Should I try calling the landlord to confirm that they must move. Could doing so create more problems for myself?

I apologize if some of this is overly wordy or if some information is unnecessary. I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed by the situation and want to make sure I'm approaching this correctly. Thanks!
posted by the other side to Law & Government (12 answers total)
The law on getting people out of a place is intensely local and you don't mention what city you live in. To give an example, it's much harder to get someone out of your place in Berkeley, CA, than right next door in Oakland, CA. You're going to need to find out what can be done in your particular city. Generally there are tenant right's organizations who can give you advice on the proper way to handle it. And don't forget, you're a tenant too.

I recommend googling up a search with "yourcity tenants rights eviction organization". That should give you a good start.
posted by bswinburn at 9:08 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Verbal agreements are typically considered month-to-month leases, which is good for you. But yes, definitely check with your city.
posted by acidic at 9:32 AM on October 12, 2012

In general, even if they are illegally subletting from you, you are considered a landlord and they would be "tenants at will" or "month-to-month" tenants. The MassLegalHelp website has a lot of information on how a landlord can legally end the tenancy of tenants.

The fact that you are subletting to them illegally is usually a matter between you and your landlord.

I am hedging this a lot because, as bswinburn says, this can vary even from city to city.
posted by muddgirl at 9:32 AM on October 12, 2012

I should say that whether or not you are subletting to the illegally is usually a matter between you and your landlord. In most places I've lived, the landlord cannot summarily evict subletters even if they are not allowed by the lease. Their agreement is with you.
posted by muddgirl at 9:39 AM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all very much for the advice so far. Sorry I didn't mention this is in Boston, MA.
posted by the other side at 9:45 AM on October 12, 2012

I have no idea, but the fact that their checks are going directly to the landlord, and not to you, sounds worrysome, as it sounds like that has established a precedent that they are actually the landlord's tenants, not yours.

Another angle to possibly look at: is having roommates the same as subletting? I lived in a place that was very against subletting, but they never considered room mates to be subletters.
posted by Vaike at 10:00 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

IANAL, IANYL, etc, etc. I am curious why you have to prove that they have to leave. Presumably, you have a written lease. What written proof do they have that demonstrates a legal right for them to occupy the premises? As you seem to be the sole surviving lessee, by what right are they even there? It would seem to me that they need to prove their right to legally occupy.
posted by Old Geezer at 10:19 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would call the landlord and come clean about the whole arrangement.

You're the one on the lease, is it up for renewal? Is there a huge benefit to staying where you are (other than not having to move.)

Your landlord may enjoy having you as a tenant, especially if you keep the checks coming in regularly, he may be willing to work with you in requesting that the people NOT on the lease offically be asked to leave by him. (their month-to-month leases won't be 'renewed')

If push comes to shove, leave the place to them and get a new place.

I ageree with Geezer, they have to prove they have the right to be there, not that you have the right to ask them to leave.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:49 AM on October 12, 2012

Talk to a tenants' rights organization before talking to your landlord.
posted by spanishbombs at 11:41 AM on October 12, 2012

Yeah this sounds more like a roommate situation than subletting.
posted by mannequito at 12:17 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are on good terms with the landlord, I would bring this issue to him. He can write letters to all the sub-letters letting them know they have a month to vacate. Then he can bring you and your friends in and have you sign a lease.

I would rather tenants on a signed lease rather than loads of sub-lets with no written agreements.
posted by wrnealis at 12:35 PM on October 12, 2012

In NYC, if you're on the lease and your roommate isn't (and if your roommate pays rent directly to you and not the landlord) you can have them served with a 30-day Notice of Termination of their month-to-month tenancy. I can't tell if that's an option in Boston, but it would be something to check.

I like the way Old Geezer's thinking about it -- ask them to prove that they have a right to live there.
posted by mgar at 1:42 PM on October 12, 2012

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