Eviction/money issues
January 18, 2014 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Here is the "Question" This is a two part legal/renters rights & money question. Part 1: My roommates are late on January's rent. We have just been served a Notice of Default. Caveat: the information listed on the notice is inaccurate. Part 2:How do we come up with a solid sum of money in short time?

Jurisdiction: Virginia
The notice of default says we have 5 days to pay the amount, in full, or else the lease is terminated. The problem is, the notice says that the unpaid rent is XXX amount, with a late fee of YYY amount. In reality, the unpaid rent is significantly less than the XXX on the notice, and also the late fee as outlined in the lease is marginally higher than the YYY listed.
So, in short, the notice says we owe ZZZ, when really we owe about $400 less than that. Yes, we have proof. Another problem: They served this to us today, saturday. We have 5 days and no one will be in the office until Monday to get this sorted out.
Does the inaccuracy of the amount owed have any bearing here? Not that we're not trying to pay, but can this buy us some time? Say, making a formal request that a notice with accurate information (and a new, future) due date be served to us?

If I do make this request, what should the tone be like? Forceful? Begging? What should I say?

(Just to give you some idea of a landlord we're dealing with, she evicts people frequently. We did not know this in the beginning. She has sent harassing text messages, blatantly saying she wanted to call social services (based on nothing) to redirect the conversation when it wasn't going her way. She was constantly texting me at work, I told her "I am at work, I do not have time to talk right now. Please stop texting me", and she responded "I'm surprised you think you have the right to talk to me like that. I'm your landlord, you don't have a choice. You have to listen to me, little girl." Also threatening eviction before rent is due. "If you don't pay rent on wednesday I'm going to evict you!" I know for a fact she took the previous tenants to court, among other ridiculous things. What may have happened is that she asked the same lawyer to serve a notice, and he just copy/pasted from last time, and didn't check the information.)

Part Two
We need to come up with a relatively large sum of money in a short period of time. Temporary solutions (until tax returns come in) are acceptable. Payday loans are already in consideration. Any ideas on how to generate cash to pay for January's rent?

We've only got a few days to get this all sorted out, or we have even bigger problems.

Throwaway email: askthegreenanonymously@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The first thing I would do is to read the Virginia rent laws. And then contact them on Monday.

If you know you will have the money by a certain date, tell your landlord. See if you can negotiate a smaller payment and pay off the January rent in smaller increments. I've known folks who have done this (i.e., if your rent is $700, pay $750 or $800 the following months until it is paid off).

You can take out a payday loan, yes, but that should be a last resort.

Do you have anything you can sell, family members who will front you a loan, or odd jobs you can pick up?

Seeing as this is the 3rd week of January, I would be apologetic, myself. I always pay my rent a week early. I pay my utilities a week early. Because I just don't want to think about it. One time I was late on rent and it freaked me out, so I try really hard to avoid that scenario, notices on the door, landlords being pissed off, etc.

Seriously. You have a contract with this person and her tone or past issues have no bearing on the fact that you are three weeks late with rent. You could really smooth the waters by being nice and honest about the situation, as well as assuring her that it will not happen again.

If it's just your roommates and not you: bear down on them, because this is a problem that you don't want to have continue in the future. Make sure they know that rent is a priority beyond all other expenses.

Be sure to let them know that the figures are in error, but keep your tone polite. This is a roof over your head and while they may seem crappy to you, they are business people. If you have to suck it up to them to keep the roof over your head, so be it. Humiliation won't cost you a dime. Being a jerk will cost you a lot.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:35 PM on January 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that serving the "5 day or quit" notice quickly is often standard procedure.
Even when the landlord is amenable to an accommodation, they are protecting their rights by giving you notice as soon as possible.
posted by calgirl at 9:02 PM on January 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check with your jurisdiction, I'm pretty sure the 5 Day Notice only counts for business days, so Monday thru Friday.
posted by jbenben at 10:20 PM on January 18, 2014

If jbenjen is correct and it is business days keep in mind that Monday isn't even a business day this week.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:57 AM on January 19, 2014

You should have some sort of tenants rights org that you can contact. Every state is different. I do some housing rights work in Chicago. We have very very very strong protections. A cost error like that would make the 5 day invalid, however it would have to go to court to be ruled that way. And the the landlord would just have to issue a correct notice and do the procedure over again.

Evictions cost money. Your landlord will most likely want to avoid eviction provided you can pay quickly. Most landlords have some procedure for payment plans if you ask. Here a 5 day is considered invalid if they take any payment from you. Again your laws could be vastly different.

Work it out on Monday. Be in communication but be honest. Don't say you can pay when you can't and stick on any deadlines. You do need to have a long conversation with your roomates about non payment. An eviction will be on all of your records if they do not pay and will seriously effect your ability to get housing in the future. If you need to get out of the situation privately talk to the landlord to see about breaking your lease. You do not need to be saving your roomates and financialy supporting them.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:05 AM on January 19, 2014

As far as generating income, you could all go together and sell your plasma. A friend of mine used to manage a plasma bank and he said you could get something like $80 for your first two donations (I think you can donate twice a week), and up to $50 a week after that. This place has locations in Virginia.
posted by jabes at 1:34 PM on January 19, 2014

First thing you have to realize is that this (unless it says otherwise) is a cure or quit type of notice. They're telling you to solve the problem or leave on your own. This is not an eviction per se although people often speak colloquially as though it is. The eviction is only by court order. You aren't by any means out of your apartment yet, and while I'm not advocating relaxing, as a practical matter you have many more options right now than you think you do.

The process for eviction is going to go a bit like this.
* You get the five-day notice.
* Five days pass.
* Landlord decides to evict.
* Landlord files eviction suit in court.
* Eviction hearing is scheduled.
* Service of notice of hearing to you (legal requirements vary by jurisdiction).
* Hearing takes place.
** Have you worked something out with the landlord yet?
** Let's say no. Judge orders eviction.
* Court notice of eviction (requirements vary). In many jurisdictions this and the following may involve sheriff's deputies or police.
* Eviction day. Out on your butts, gotta have the u-haul and place to take your stuff for reals.

This entire affair could take weeks, or even months. If you are unable to pay you should maximize your free housing, so to speak, by staying until the bitter end. Shocking, I know, and infuriating if you're a landlord (which I am), but rational. Stock up on cash for moving expenses and a new security deposit with a landlord who fits your budget and doesn't check (or is willing to overlook) court records. A judge in housing court called this "bug-out money".

If you are able to pay then you need to work something out with the landlord, preferably well before your hearing, and preferably in writing including agreement to withdraw the eviction suit. If you don't trust your landlord, it is perfectly rational for them to both take your money and still evict you. So keep that in mind -- beating the 5-day notice is still your best option here.

But realistically there are piles and piles of landlords who will work something out with you. I don't know your landlord; you do. Even if you can't get the cash in five days, there are ways to work something out, again, preferably in writing. This is because it is pretty expensive for the landlord to re-rent the unit and they don't want the lost month's rent or the costs/hassle of preparing it and showing it.

Caveat: the information listed on the notice is inaccurate.

Ignore this as it's usually inconsequential, especially disputed amounts of rent. TINLA. I mean, if it's thousands of dollars, that's one thing, but generally it's more important that you concentrate on keeping the roof over your head.

If I do make this request, what should the tone be like? Forceful? Begging? What should I say?

Speaking as a landlord, earnest, transparent, and sincere is what we're generally looking for. Forceful crosses you off our "want to keep around" list, and begging tends to suggest a repeat in a not-so-future month. Emphasize this is temporary, specific, and won't happen again, in concrete ways that don't sound like CYA excuses.

Since this is an (unusual) mid-month notice, it's a little less routine than "Hey! you didn't pay us on the first!" that is more typical. So you're already getting a little bit of a special attention/treatment (this is negative). Just get your ducks in a row, anything you can do show-and-tell with helps, and swallow your pride and go in and talk to them.
posted by dhartung at 4:53 PM on January 20, 2014

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