Help with surprise move
March 23, 2014 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Our landlord has decided to give us a 60 day notice to move rather than fix the hole in the roof he's left unrepaired for three weeks. We absolutely do not have the money or credit to arrange a surprise move and I feel absolutely kicked in the teeth. I need help coping.

Right now all I want to do is lay down and have a nervous breakdown.

I need practical help - what do I do?

I need to break this down into small, easily accomplished tasks that I can complete within the next sixty days.

While I feel strongly we're getting the shit end of the stick, I don't think I have the strength to figure out a legal battle when it's taking all of my emotional resources just to make the move happen.

Financial, emotional, practical and legal advice (and fantasy revenge stories) strongly requested.
posted by Space Kitty to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, first of all, are you month to month or under a lease? Does your lease say he can do this? California has pretty tenant-friendly laws, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with them.

Second step is to start pricing out other places to live and compare it to what you have available. It may not be as bad as you fear. If you're short on funds for the security deposit (for example), can you borrow money from a business, friend, or family member?
posted by zug at 7:52 PM on March 23, 2014

Also, if you have the skills, could you offer to fix it yourself?
posted by zug at 7:53 PM on March 23, 2014

It all depends where you live. Tenants rights organizations exist in pretty much every state. Here in Chicago (way tenant friendly) if your on a year lease then he pretty much can't evict you. However not doing the repairs can make your apartment uninhabitable. Frankly most people end up legally breaking their lease or/and you can call the city so he'll be fined.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:06 PM on March 23, 2014

If I were in your position I'd be calling the California Department of Consumer Affairs first thing tomorrow morning: (800) 952-5210.

Their web site might be worth a look, too; here's an easy-to-read Landlords' And Tenants' Responsibilities For Habitability And Repairs Legal Guide from 2012, whose first requirement is "a) Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls..."

And this long pdf, "California Tenants: A Guide to Residential Tenants' and Landlords' Rights and Responsibilities," has a section called "How to respond to a 30-day or 60-day notice" starting on page 77.

Sometimes, all it takes in this kind of situation to demonstrate you won't be pushed around is sending a polite letter via certified mail telling the landlord you're speaking with a lawyer and will be happy to be in touch as soon as you get sound legal advice. But really, the phone number above is probably your best next step, unless someone has a non-government tenants' rights organization they can point to for your state.
posted by mediareport at 8:12 PM on March 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't think I have the strength to figure out a legal battle

That's so understandable, and I'm sorry you're having to deal with such deeply unsettling bullshit from your landlord, but remember that many lawyers will offer a free first consultation over the phone to help you get a sense of your legal options. I bet you have some. Asking around or searching for a lawyer who specializes in landlord/tenant disputes in your city is another small task that can be easily accomplished this week.
posted by mediareport at 8:18 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also remember that when people get letters from lawyers, they often back down. If your landlord is legally in the wrong, a letter from a tenant's rights attorney stating that you know your rights according to statutes blah and blah may very well get your landlord to fix the roof and drop the notice tout suite.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:29 PM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think the legal options have been covered above. If you do decide to move, here's the first step: figure out what your assets are. You know what your challenges are (lack of $ and credit), you need to focus on assets.

-Post on social media asking friends/families if they know of affordable and safe places for rent
-Do you have anyone to ask if they can co-sign a lease? This can lower or eliminate your deposit
-Make a list of people to ask for help with packing & moving (who has a truck and is willing to be paid in beer?)
-What other things/skills/people do you have in your corner that you can call on?
posted by entropyiswinning at 8:45 PM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

You will need to speak to a tenant-landlord agency in your county if you have questions about your legal remedies or want to know what your course of action with regard to legal action is. Pretty much all of them have useful, accurate self-help resources and/or have attorneys who are free or sliding scale/pay what you can afford.

That said, personally, were I in your position, I would accept the 60 day notice and move out of a place where the landlord is incapable of repairing a hole in the roof in three weeks. 60 days is more than enough time to move, even if money is tight for you. It's stressful and it's unpleasant, but it is very much manageable.

This weekend and week, start sorting your stuff into "move" and "discard". Start gathering boxes/bins to pack your stuff. Then start looking for an apartment. Tap your social networks, not only might a friend know someone who needs a new roommate or someone to take over their lease, you might know someone who can put you up for a few weeks or a month, giving you a little extra breathing room.

Start saving today for deposits and application fees--basically, live as cheaply as possible for the next 60 days. If your friends can hook you up with a sublease, or a roommate situation, you won't need them right away and can save longer for them for a move into a permanent place. Think carefully--is there a friend or family member who can help you with a deposit?

I've been broke and moved with less than 60 days notice. It's stressful but it's not impossible. Good luck.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:51 PM on March 23, 2014

If you're up for fighting the landlord, or at least identifying your rights in this situation, there's apparently an organization called the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County. I'm HTML-tag challenged but hey, Google.

Good luck and my sympathies.
posted by chicainthecity at 9:05 PM on March 23, 2014

Thank you so much for all your answers! Now that I've had a moment to breathe:

1) We are renting month to month

2) The reported reason for 60 days notice is that he's taking the rental off the market

3) We no longer want to live here, but we feel we shouldn't be responsible for moving fees

4) In the notice he states he'll give us free rent but not fix the roof if we move out by 4/30, if we move by 5/30 we'll only get 2 weeks free.

5) We're reconsidering involving tenants rights organizations.

Any referrals to agencies in San Bernardino County, California would be helpful.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:10 PM on March 23, 2014

You not only can do this, you will do this. Don't worry, if you just do one task a day you'll get it all together. If your landlord can't even fix a hole in the roof over the course of about a month, you can do better than this apartment anyway. And don't worry about the total cost right now because there are a lot of ways you can bring the cost down and spread out the bills.

I've had to move a lot, and here's my MO:

-- Buy plastic storage boxes from Target and bubble wrap, an industrial-sized tube of cling wrap, and packing tape from Staples. (Maybe $100 or $150 total?).

-- Decide on what furniture you want to sell and what you actually love/care about. If something is salable, you can use that money to help fund the rest of the move, so don't be too precious about it.

-- Pack everything in the boxes using your extra towels and linens as padding (as well as the bubble wrap). Also, pack things within things, and then cling-wrap the whole bundle together. Get the boxes as tightly packed as possible so that things don't shift and break against each other. I always tape and cling wrap the boxes, too, so the lids don't fly off in the move. Give yourself +/- 10 days to do that, probably. Pack the boring stuff you don't use first, obviously. I usually work my way from bedroom to living room to kitchen to bathroom.

-- At the same time as you're packing, throw the stuff you want to donate into bags for charity, and take whatever you're throwing away out to the dumpster the day you decide to get rid of it (otherwise you're going to have these sad bags of trash in your apartment and it's going to be depressing).

-- Don't pack anything on your walls, it'll just get messed up. You'll have to carry it in the car when you go.

-- List what you want to get rid of on Craigslist. Take good pictures, say you won't do delivery, and price things at about 1/3 the price you bought them for (expect to negotiate down to 1/4th). You should be able to get it all out within a week at that pricing, so wait until pretty soon before the move before you start selling -- but don't wait until the last day, either, that's just a disaster waiting to happen because there are always going to be flakes who don't show up to their appointments.

-- Deliver everything you don't want to the charity shop the day before the move.

-- Pack your suitcases and your car the night before your move, so you can just do the final walk-through and just leave in the morning. I frankly wouldn't worry about cleaning the apartment, it has literally never made a difference in how much/what deposit I get back -- some people give you your entire deposit as a matter of course and some will nickle-and-dime you regardless -- and I say that as having been a building super, too. Do your final walk-through and drive on out of there, and never look back.

-- When you're looking for a new place, decide on a few neighborhoods first to narrow it down. Also, have a list of must-haves (in case it helps, mine are basically: parking space, laundry on-site, separate bedroom instead of studio, full kitchen, outdoor space, sunny). Don't let yourself get overwhelmed. I've always found my places on Craigslist, for what that's worth, and I've only seen maybe three apartments before picking one (and it's always worked out well). Personally, I think it's best to be upfront if your credit isn't great, it'll always be worse if you lie or even fudge and then it comes out in your report.

-- If you can't afford a new apartment right now, and none of your friends need roommates, maybe look into getting a sublet. I've found them off Craigslist in the past, if you're wondering where to look. They're usually a couple hundred dollars cheaper per month, in my experience, but the real advantage is that they don't usually require much, if any, deposit. You also don't have to start up your new utility accounts right away.

-- Always negotiate the rent! Maybe you already do this but -- I didn't realize people did this until a roommate did it for us, and it worked! The worst they can say is no (though if they say no, I think you do have to just drop it or risk irritating the new landlord).

-- If you do sublet, you can put your stuff in a public storage unit in the meantime -- based on my experience, you'll probably get the first month free, and then it'll be $100-200/mo after that. (That's where the plastic boxes come in handy, as opposed to cardboard).

-- You'll have to cancel your utilities accounts, or give them your change of address. You'll also have to change your license and registration with the DMV, and your change of address with the postal service, your bank accounts and CC cards, your boss, your insurance, your cell phones, your insurance, and if you have pets, their microchips and tags. I just bring that up because once you do that the move will probably feel more final and settled before, but it's not really a big deal logistically.
posted by rue72 at 9:11 PM on March 23, 2014 [19 favorites]

Are you living in a rent controlled area? In Los Angeles, for example, landlords are often required to pay relocation expenses when giving a 60 day notice. Definitely worth looking into if you're not sure.
posted by dhammond at 9:30 PM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's a dodgy move by the landlord, as California has the warrant of habitability.

I agree with getting a letter from an attorney to remind the landlord of this. Maybe an attorney who will cut a deal with you, because this is pretty egregious.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:55 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

On second thought, if the landlord wants you out so bad, the landlord should compensate you somehow. Negotiation?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:57 PM on March 23, 2014

I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this -- first things first, I send a thousand hugs from L.A.!!

Second, I found this from the Riverside County Housing Authority: If you need legal services and are unable to pay for the service, you may qualify for free legal assistance. Contact Inland Counties Legal Services, 1737 Atlanta Avenue Suite H2, Riverside, CA 92507 (951) 368-2555. There are other legal resources listed on that page as well. Good luck!
posted by scody at 11:20 PM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

For sure talk to a tenants rights group asap. I no longer know CA laws but for example, in MA (where I am a landlord) my understanding is that my tenants would be completely within their rights to withhold all rent until I fixed the roof, and could further recover their deposits from me in small claims court after doing so. His offer of partial rent reduction may be far less than the law requires, which is why you need good legal advice before you hand over your next check.
posted by range at 3:24 AM on March 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

We no longer want to live here, but we feel we shouldn't be responsible for moving fees

I will say that my experience is limited to watching court shows, listening at the dinner table and being a tenant.

If you are in a month-to-month lease, there is nothing you owe the landlord or that the landlord owes you should either of you decide to end your tenancy. You can threaten to make his life miserable by overstaying the notice, and you can try to shake him down for moving expenses that way, but at the end of the day, that's part of the problem with being a renter, at any time, within the guidelines of the lease, you can be asked to move.

He is offering you a darn good deal for free rent, I'd grab it and run! Get it in writing as a settlement. If you can do the move in a week, if you can't two weeks is better than nothing. Or negotiate, ask for the refund of your deposit, prior to the move out date, so that you can secure new housing. He's willing to deal, so deal with him.

Life is so much easier when you're not beating your head against the wall, so stop being angry and just get on with the move.

1. Find a new place. Your best bet for a move on short notice is an apartment complex. I like complexes, pools, clubhouses, low move-in costs. Lots to recommend them. Also, they're a lot easier to deal with if your credit is on the edge. Your landlord's recommendation can be VERY useful for this.

2. Figure out the actual move. With the rent rebate, you might be able to get a local mover with helpers cheaper than renting a truck and doing it yourself. Price it out. Most take credit cards, so you might be able to ask your landlord to pay the entire move, rather than give you a rent rebate (he may be strapped for cash)

3. Boxes. Liquor stores have them for free, Home Depot/Lowes have them for under a buck apiece.

4. Start getting rid of shit. We all have too much shit.

This sucks, but it's nothing to have a nervous breakdown about.

The fact of the matter is that your landlord probably can't afford to rent the place out any more. The roof is just the straw that has broken the camel's back. He may be upside down in his mortgage, he may have lost his job, there are a thousand little reasons why he may be getting the house off the rental market. This is America and that's his perogative.

You don't want to live there, he doesn't want to rent anymore. He's willing to compensate you for moving, take him up on it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:24 AM on March 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

He is offering you a darn good deal for free rent, I'd grab it and run!

I'm not sure this rises to the level of 'good deal' since he's only offering two weeks free if they're not out by 4/31. (I'm assuming OP means 4/31 and 5/31 since those months have 31 days) In many regions a home with a hole in the roof might not qualify as habitable, and it's already been open for 3 weeks. Offering to only charge them for one of those three isn't exactly brimming with generosity.

I am leaving ethical questions up to the OP here.

If this person is trying to get you out rather than make a critical roof repair I can only assume s/he's decided just to sell as-is to a developer who may or may not intend to do a tear-down. In which case you may have leverage, depending on how tenant-friendly the area is and how hard it is to evict someone, to ask for more. I wouldn't try to blackmail someone with overstaying your welcome but you can certainly say - honestly, it sounds like - that without some assistance with this unexpected expense you don't know that you'll be able to be gone in 60 days much less 30.
posted by phearlez at 7:03 AM on March 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

April has 30 days.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:25 AM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My Google skills and low at the moment, does anyone have links for San Bernardino county resources instead of Riverside?
posted by Space Kitty at 9:26 AM on March 24, 2014

Sounds like it's time to come to LA, where you can have a regular job for regular pay and have friends who are happy to put you up.
posted by klangklangston at 1:17 PM on March 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Did you pay first and last when you originally rented? Does he owe you a cleaning deposit?
You may not owe him anything.

In the notice he states he'll give us free rent but not fix the roof if we move out by 4/30, if we move by 5/30 we'll only get 2 weeks free.

He is offering you a darn good deal for free rent, I'd grab it and run!

That's bullshit. Right now you're living in an uninhabitable domicile with a leaking roof, and he expects you to keep paying rent. Get the sixty days notice in writing, then make agreeable noises about the rent payments. Take next month's rent and put it toward a deposit, and keep shining him on about how sorry you are, but your rent will be "a couple days late." Smile and say you're sure he understands your position. Take May's rent and use it on your new place. Be prepared to get out by May 1st, when your rent would be due. Store as much stuff as you can with a friend, or if you have to get a $25 storage spot.

After I was out, I'd tell him to eat the rent. Tell him you'll see him in small claims, because he took rent from you when he knew the place wasn't habitable.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:52 PM on March 24, 2014

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