Question about eviction and co-tenants versus sub-tenants.
July 30, 2014 6:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm going through a breakup. My ex very suddenly served me a Notice To Quit today. I'm not sure what rights I have here. I'm also pretty destitute because of recent medical bills. Further details inside.

I live in Michigan, so let me mention that up front if that helps at all.

Earlier this month, I went through a miscarriage. I had an IUD at the time that I got pregnant, so because of the multiple doctor's visits involved, I ended up flat-out broke. My doctor helped me re-apply for Medicaid (as I have in the past), but that has been pending, so I have been paying for it all by myself out of pocket. I currently have ~$20 left to my name. I'm paid monthly, and when I get paid in a few days, my money is going to cover the rest of the medical expenses that I couldn't pay for with my last paycheck. I will be basically broke until early September, a few days after I am supposed to have moved.

Today, I was served a Notice To Quit by my ex, and it said the landlord is... him? We are renting from an apartment complex. The lease is in his name as we were not living together when he first moved in here. I was added to the lease as a "resident." I don't think I'm technically a leaseholder, but I had to sign everything at the leasing office just as though I am, and my name is still somewhere on there.

I would honestly prefer working this out between the two of us without such a strict deadline, because of the aforementioned health issues I've been facing. Normally I would just quietly move to avoid the fuss, but I really don't have the finances or relatives or anyone to stay with right now. I didn't worry about it because at the time, he said he understood I had medical bills and I could focus on just taking care of that, and that he would help me out.

I have read about sub-tenants versus co-tenants, and I'm honestly not sure which applies to me. Do any of you have any insight to this? Can he evict me for no reason?
posted by TheHappiestSadist to Law & Government (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you talk to the apartment manager? They should know the rules about this situation. Does the notice specify a time to leave? Is it within 30 days? Immediately?

Also, call your medical billing office. Housing and food trumps medical bills. Tell them you are in a financial bind, that you intend to pay but cannot for 60 days (or whatever is appropriate). Ask for help from them. I've found creditors can be forgiving when you go to them first. They want to help you give them money.

Good luck.
posted by Beti at 6:39 PM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Definitely stop paying your medical bills. Wait for the Medicaid decision or talk to the office about setting up a very forgiving payment plan. Most places don't send you to collections right away, and even if they do, so what? You have no money. Good luck.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:44 PM on July 30, 2014 [12 favorites]

Call apartment management, do not pay any more medical bills. When you are dire broke, you should prioritize your own food and shelter. You are not keeping the doctor out of a cardboard box, the bills can wait.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:54 PM on July 30, 2014 [12 favorites]

Do not pay the medical bills. Call up everyone who is sending you bills and tell them you've applied for Medicaid and it will be retroactive and it will pay them. If they don't want to hear that just give them each five dollars. Tell them that's all you can afford.

Use the rest of your pay to eat and find somewhere else to live. This ex is presumably the other person involved in the miscarriage and he's treating you like this? This sounds abusive to me. Consider speaking to your local domestic abuse services. Maybe they can help you find a temporary place. There may also be some housing assistance available for you since you're about to become homeless. Were you in the hospital? If so see if the hospital has a social worker who can help you with both the bills and the housing situation.
posted by mareli at 6:56 PM on July 30, 2014 [18 favorites]

Usually each state has a tenant's bill of rights, which sets out limitations on what landlords can and cannot do. It likely includes things like required notice and reasons for termination of a lease.

You might also contact legal aid and see if they can provide you with any assistance regarding the situation.

I definitely agree that when financially strapped, medical bills can wait. Hospitals write that sort of stuff all the time, and short term basics need to take priority. Medicaid will square it all out once it activates. Medicaid in Missouri takes 90 days before they have to give you a final offer. Ask the billers if they will give you 90 days, and hopefully by then you'll be insured.
posted by gilsonal at 7:20 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Medicaid is often retroactive to cover thirty days BEFORE the date on your application, too - so make sure it gets billed to that... you may technically deserve money back in the long run.

Especially if this was HIS child you miscarried, he's already not playing nice. Find out your rights and at least stand your ground for acceptable treatment... and when this is behind you, thank God you're not in that relationship anymore.
posted by stormyteal at 7:40 PM on July 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

What city do you live in? There may be a tenant's rights org that can answer your questions. Is he claiming he wants to evict you because you can't pay rent?
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:59 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's very honorable to strive to pay your debts promptly, but put off your medical bills for now and prioritize your safety.

I don't know what your rights are legally, but if you decide you don't want to stay regardless of whether you technically could, because it's such a bad situation for you, maybe you could try talking to the management company- maybe you could move to another apartment in this complex or to another complex they also own?

I'm sorry you are in such a tough situation, it sounds very difficult.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:02 PM on July 30, 2014

I'm paid monthly, and when I get paid in a few days, my money is going to cover the rest of the medical expenses that I couldn't pay for with my last paycheck.

Regardless of your housing situation, this is not a thing you should do. The medical bills will wait. People pay off both small bills and large medical bills slowly over time, and you should, too.

Also, just FYI, I have no idea if this is a valid notice but a Notice to Quit isn't directly enforceable. It acts as notice, and after the 30 days your landlord can then apply to evict you. In most jurisdictions that process takes 30 to 90 days, so regardless... you have more time than you think you do.

Take your 1 August paycheck and sort out your housing.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:07 PM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I didn't realize it would be appropriate to ask to hold off on paying, honestly. I felt really bad as it was asking them to wait a few weeks. I'll talk to them! I also didn't know Medicaid would pay previous expenses. So that helps a lot to know.

Apparently, if it actually is a sublease, he doesn't need a reason to evict me. Which is fine! I'm happy to go. I just would have preferred being asked or something instead of this stress. If not, he needs a reason, and I have paid my bills, have not damaged any property, and haven't done anything illegal.

I was kind of afraid that talking to apartment management would set off their hinky meter, though? I just don't want them to think of me as the sort of person who will battle everything and kick up a big fuss. But I'll ask them. Either way, whether or not I'm subleasing, I really do want out of here ASAP.
posted by TheHappiestSadist at 8:12 PM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Honeybunch. You need to be a lot less concerned about everyone else and/or what they think of you. Do not feel badly about asking to hold off payment on medical bills. And -- key thing here -- you are not asking. You are ringing them and stating that you need to arrange a payment plan. This is a routine thing, and it will be fine. And fuck what the apartment manager thinks of you; this isn't a social tea party, it's a legal matter and you need to know what your status re the lease is.

Dig deep, man up*, and take care of yourself first. You are in crisis and they are not so fuck everyone else.

*Not a fan of this term but too tired for creative alternatives, sorry.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:18 PM on July 30, 2014 [35 favorites]

The doctor will be totally fine with it. My insurance company takes like two months to pay my doctor and they're like eh, whatevs
posted by fshgrl at 8:52 PM on July 30, 2014

Even if the doc is not totally fine with it, having a place to live is more important, so fuck the bills (for now). Google your city name+tenant's rights and see if there's an organization where you are - most tenant's rights orgs have websites with sections explaining the eviction process in your area, and what has to happen before you can be forced to vacate. By all means, be someone who kicks up a fuss: this is your housing security here! You must put yourself first.
posted by rtha at 9:11 PM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know if you're a sublessor or a co-tenant or a resident or what, but you say you signed papers at the apartment complex office. I think that negates any sort of sketchiness you might be worried about, and you should just go ask them. If you were just kind of... staying there, I could see not wanting to talk to them, but you're official! And helping tenants is their job. Also, if you just want to get out of that apartment as cheaply as possible, they might be willing to move you into a different one of their apartments without making you pay a separate deposit.

Nth-ing "Fuck the medical bills." Food and shelter are more important. Also, if you have credit card bills, you can call them up and ask for more time/lower minimum payments/whatever will help. They want to keep you paying, even a little bit, so they don't have to go to collections or (gasp!) settle the debt for less than it's worth.
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:47 PM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe don't mention the $20 to your name thing when you go talk to the apartment complex. I mean, don't lie or anything, but it's not necessarily pertinent to what you really need to know: your status as far as the lease goes so you can figure out your rights. Even if you're planning to move out anyway, it's perfectly reasonable to want to avoid an eviction.
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:59 PM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Just FYI, I had to take my son to the emergency room a while ago and incurred an $1100 bill, and it was five months before they even called me to ask about paying it. You have time with the medical bills.
posted by KathrynT at 9:59 PM on July 30, 2014

I just had to do this today, as I'm also in an insurance bind.

No, don't pay the medical bills. You have other things to worry about. However, do give them a call and talk to the Billing office. Explain to them your insurance situation, and they can make a note of it in their files. Mine were very understanding, and gave me advice for when my insurance does get straightened out, as it will be retroactive.

They also may have a Social Worker that you can talk to about your housing situation, and they may have resources.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:16 PM on July 30, 2014

I just want to say that serving your ex a 'notice to quit' is an incredibly harsh thing to do under any circumstances, but in this particular case should be responded to with a 'notice to go fuck yourself'. I read this as him playing hardball to try to get you to roll over, because he thinks you will.

Here's what I could find about the Notice to quit in Michigan. Okay, so seriously, check with someone who knows for sure, but no way he's your landlord. You didn't sign a lease with him and you're not paying him rent, right? You signed a thing with the actual real landlord and only they can evict you, and even then, only for very specific reasons. I really think this is a bluff.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:13 PM on July 30, 2014 [11 favorites]

Hell, I am employed and insured and someone who pays their bills on time and I don't pay medical bills until they turn pink. Half the time, the insurance companies are still working things out anyway, and the bills keep coming in lower and lower.

This is clearly a different situation, but it should not be your priority to take care of the medical bills when you have insurance pending that will take care of it. Better to make them wait and go through that process than to float it for them and hope for a reimbursement.
posted by disillusioned at 12:02 AM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Notice to Quit says this, but in case you didn't notice in all the kerfuffle, and since the web address has changed, the Michigan Legal Aid Society website might be able to provide some assistance. I know you don't want to stay where you are, but at least you can explore your options.

Good luck. Your ex sounds like a piece of work.
posted by gingerest at 12:35 AM on July 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, if you've just miscarried his child why are these YOUR medical bills to pay on your own rather than your plural?

I don't have anything practical to add, but your ex really is a piece of shit. You have my deepest sympathy dealing with something like this on your own, and I hope you have a lot of friends and family close by to support you.
posted by tinkletown at 3:46 AM on July 31, 2014 [16 favorites]

Is he still living there with you? or is he living somewhere else?

It's his apartment and he wants you out. Yes, he can do that. There is no law against assholishness. The "reason" is that you are no longer a couple. Your "official" status, if it matters, is probably his subtenant, without a sublease. The bottom line is that you probably don't have an enforceable right to resist, but you do have rights. His move-out deadline is only the first step. The law will give you additional time before a deputy sheriff shows up at the door.

He served the notice so that he can take steps enforce it, if needed, but you can always work out some reasonable move-out time. Talk to him.

It does not sound like you have any alternative place to go, so you should consult with local housing groups. The DHS office can provide the needed leads.
posted by yclipse at 4:49 AM on July 31, 2014

FYI on the medical bills: I paid a ton of them in the last couple of years, and every time I've asked for a payment plan, they've said yes immediately in a totally bored way, so that means it's totally standard.

Note that they like to get their money fast anyway, so they may suggest you break the bill into three or four monthly chunks. That was still too big for me, so I asked for a longer extension and was able to pay about $200 a month for eight months. So don't feel bad about asking for time to pay!
posted by vickyverky at 11:53 AM on July 31, 2014

Best answer: I'd check out the link here from Michigan Legal Aid.

As indicated above, the notice you received is the first step he must take in MI to end your cohabitation. A tiny bit of peace of mind (from the link) is: "If you receive a Notice to Quit, it does not mean you have to move at the time specified on the notice. This is merely the first step before the landlord can begin the legal eviction procedure. You will still have an opportunity to negotiate or go to court to defend yourself."

This is not legal advice, but if I were you, I'd:

1. Not pay your medical bills (for now) and contact a real estate agent or otherwise make a concerted effort to find another place to live on your own. Make sure to document your efforts in this, as if you truly are dedicating your resources (time and financial) to obtaining another living arrangement, you will likely a: Find a place soon or b: Have a greater chance to be able to get an extension from a Judge if it goes to court.

The last thing the State wants is someone who is honestly trying to find another apartment, especially one who is able to demonstrate it, being forced to be a "drain" on welfare resources by seeking shelter, food pantries, etc. when a week or two extension would allow them to successfully find a home elsewhere.

2. Get a copy of the lease and/or paperwork you signed from the leasing office. Obviously, while the best course of action is to have a housing/real estate attorney review it, if hiring an attorney isn't in the cards for you, you can at least try to determine yourself what your actual status is as a resident. Keep google handy and input any terms you don't understand or are unclear on paperwork you signed. If your actual landlord ends up being the property owner, this immediately negates any opportunity your ex has to evict you on his own without directly involving them.

3. Regardless if you are an "official" tenant, or a month-to-month subletter, gather and document all payments made towards the apartment with regards to rent and utilities (from bank statements, cancelled checks, etc.), so if necessary you can show in court you have fulfilled your financial obligations as a resident.

4. Also from the link: "If you received court papers or otherwise need free or low cost legal advice:

Visit and search for local assistance by entering your zip code in the box marked “Find a lawyer, organization or related service to help you with your problem.”

Contact the Michigan State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 968- 0738."

Obviously you need to GTFO of there as soon as you can, but you might as well dot your "I"s and cross your "T"s to protect yourself as best you can.

Remember, as noted above, he cannot put your stuff on the street or change the locks without a trial date. You will have a chance for you to plead your case (if you choose to do so), and even a trial by jury (if you are willing to pay a Jury fee).

Good luck!!
posted by Debaser626 at 1:25 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

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