Roommate scammer or just flakey?
August 5, 2014 1:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm in Manhattan. I am the sole long term leaseholder for my apartment. I want to rent out a room as a month to month roommate agreement. I put out a craigslist ad, and Sunday PotentialRoomie saw it and agreed to move in Monday afternoon, and pay me security and 1st month when she moved in.

She ended up not moving in until 10pm that night, with about 7 large boxes.
She said because of the move etc she did not want to carry the cash, and would get it to me the next day.
Today, as she is rushing getting ready to go out to a meeting, she said she would not have the money for me until Thursday when she gets her deposit back. She said she wanted to avoid making a large withdrawal because it looks bad for her credit (in hindsight; WTF?)
I stupidly agreed to take a security deposit tomorrow when she gets back from work, and first month on Thursday.
Right now it's all verbal, she does not have the keys, and no written agreement.

I txted and called her asking her to call me immediately, but she may be busy at work.

So how to proceed? A friend and sister thinks I should not give any benefit of the doubt, and just put her stuff on the street right now. (there is a mini-storage place a few blocks away). Another friend thinks I should see if she gives me the money tonight, if not then let her stay the night and then put her stuff out when she leaves.
Or if she does come up with the cash, just chalk it up to dealing with a flake?
posted by sentientsock to Human Relations (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Tremendously sketch though she does sound, it would be unkind to just put her things out on the street without any prior warning. Text her and tell her that you really must have money tonight, and that when she gets home from work you want to put things on paper.

If she balks, comes up with another stupid excuse, ignores you, etc, tell she can stay the night but that this isn't working and you will need her to be gone tomorrow. (If during this conversation you get some sort of rise to anger, or at any point feel concerned that she's going to retaliate, then she needs to go now.)

It really doesn't matter if she's a scammer or just flaky, she sounds like an absolute pain in the ass. If she's just flaky, then this will be a good lesson for her on why it is bad to be flaky. If she's a scammer, then obviously you're better off giving her the boot.
posted by phunniemee at 1:11 PM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

Forgot to include, I'm emailing her the following:

please call me.
The agreement for you to move in was 1 month security and 1st month rent in cash.
You moved in Monday late at night and promised the money Tuesday.
Today you said you would not have the full amount until Thursday
After giving it more thought, I cannot risk any delays and would like you to abide by the original agreement. Please get the funds to me today.
posted by sentientsock at 1:12 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd get her out as soon as possible. She hasn't paid you; she hasn't signed an agreement and she's got no legal right to stay.

Text and leave a voicemail explaining because she has not responded to you, she has to remove her things by 8:00 pm tonight. I wouldn't let her stay another night.

And if she has a key, change the locks. I would also have someone come over and stay with you while she gets her things out.
posted by kinetic at 1:16 PM on August 5, 2014 [19 favorites]

I'm betting this is going to be an ongoing monthly struggle with this person. I'd tell her that if you don't get the money by the end of today, tomorrow her stuff will be put on the street.
posted by desjardins at 1:16 PM on August 5, 2014 [17 favorites]

And this is sort of a scam, because she is testing how far she can push you. You don't want to teach her that "...just one more day" will work on you or you will be putting up with this every single month.
posted by desjardins at 1:19 PM on August 5, 2014 [17 favorites]

Whether she can get you the money tonight or not, this is a terrible way to start a relationship that involves LIVING TOGETHER. Good roommate relationships require a healthy degree of respect, trust, and boundaries; this little episode has kind of made all those things non-starters. You can decide how hardcore you want to be - tell her to clear her stuff out tonight, tomorrow, in two days, whatever - but you should get her out as soon as you can and start looking for a GOOD roommate. I would recommend having someone else stay with you as long as she is also there. You said she doesn't have keys - keep it that way.

If you do decide that you wouldn't have her as a roommate in any case, you should let her know ASAP, since your last message sounds like you're still on as long as she gets you the money. Try to call her one more time. Then email and text that since she hasn't gotten back to you, you've reconsidered and this isn't going to work for you. Let her know what the plan is.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:33 PM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

Just text her:

This isn't working out. You can stay tonight as a guest but you must take your belongings and leave tomorrow morning.

If you can follow up with an email stating:

Since you did not pay me the first month rent or the security deposit in full, in cash when you brought your belongings to my home I can't take you in as a roommate. You may stay tonight as a guest, but you must leave, with all of your belongings tomorrow morning.

You have to address this quickly and in writing, before she can claim she's a tenant, because once she's a tenant, you have to evict her and that's a NIGHTMARE!

Don't rent a room to a stranger, there's too much risk.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2014 [23 favorites]

Don't rent a room to a stranger, there's too much risk.

OK, I don't really agree with this. Many New Yorkers have lived with a stranger and it goes fine, if there is some sort of agreement between two responsible adults. It sounds like this person is flaky or unreliable.

I would wait until after traditional work hours (6? 6:30) and call her and tell her that she needs to get you the money today, or she needs to find somewhere to go tomorrow.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:45 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I stupidly agreed to take a security deposit tomorrow when she gets back from work, and first month on Thursday.

Were it not for this, I'd say cut her off. But because you said you would, I think you should give her until Thursday to pay everything, and then make clear in writing that late payments are no longer an option. The circumstances were such that I think this person could just be inexperienced with this sort of thing or a flake rather than a scam artist.
posted by sallybrown at 1:46 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Even if she's not a scammer she's clearly not financially stable which as a month to month tenant will be a huge hassle for you. Expect to have problems like this every single month if you let this slide. Ruthless Bunny's solution above seems fair.
posted by edbles at 2:06 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Look into NYC landlord/tenant law. At a certain point, she becomes as said above a tenant and you have to formally evict her. Even if she's never paid you a dime.
posted by corb at 2:07 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Flake or scammer, you've got to address this fast, because otherwise it's guaranteed she's going to be permanently paying late (if at all!). She's already talked you into accepting late payments, don't let her make it a habit.

Unfortunately I'm forced to agree with sallybrown: you've already let yourself get talked into accepting the promised-on-Monday security deposit on Wednesday, and the rent payment not until Thursday, and you're stuck with that now. But make it very very clear to her, in writing, that if she fails to make those payments in full and in cash tomorrow and Thursday, then she'll have to find someplace else to stay as of Thursday evening, and to take her stuff with her when she goes: she will not be allowed to stay Thursday night, nor is she allowed to leave her boxes. Don't let her talk you into any more delays: the next one, I'll bet, would be to say on Wednesday that she'll pay both the security deposit and rent on Thursday: don't believe her! More than that, do not let her sign any lease agreement, do not give her any keys, until after this is settled!

Next step, assuming she does make both the security deposit and first month's rent tomorrow and Thursday (and I'd say that's unlikely), is making it extremely clear that rent payments are due on the first of the month: not the second or third or tenth, the due date is the first of the month. If possible, let her know you've put a bit about charges for late payments into your lease agreement, and make those late charges real: something like if the rent's paid between the 2nd-5th of the month, the late charge is $25, paid between the 6th-10th of the month it'll be $50, after the 10th it'll be an extra $75. Do not give this person a 'grace' period, when she could pay late but not be penalized!
posted by easily confused at 2:10 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would give her until Thursday only if she pays the security deposit tomorrow. I would be honest and tell her that not paying the security deposit and rent upon moving in as agreed is making you uncomfortable and getting you two off to a poor start. I would also say that the security deposit tomorrow is non-negotiable, give a cutoff time, and let her know that if you don't have the deposit by say 7 PM, she has to leave and take her belongings with her. Same holds true for security deposit, 7 PM or she's gone. No second chances, no excuses, no coming back later for her stuff, no I need a truck, no working late.

She may genuinely be trying to juggle things for a few days but she should have told you up front. Deposits can be pretty sizeable so I can understand needing to get the old deposit back to use for the new place. However, she should have told you that from the jump.

Did you verify employment and all that? If anything is fishy, I would not let her stay another night.
posted by shoesietart at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, if she didn't see the apartment until Sunday for a Monday move in, it's possible she thought she was going to be able to immediately get her deposit back and then couldn't.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

One more thought, re: your WTF. There's one potential circumstance, other than spin or genuine lack of understanding, that makes the large withdrawal = credit ding excuse make sense: If the only way for her to get that amount of money is a cash advance on a credit card that she either can't pay back quickly or would take her too close to the limit. Deposit + first month can be totally burdensome and requires juggling/stretching for a lot of people, but lack of ANY kind of reserves while moving at best signals inexperience with renting (when has anyone ever gotten a deposit back right away?) and at worst is a red flag for someone who is not succeeding at making ends meet.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:49 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been renting out rooms for several years now. I've never had a problem (knock on wood) I think because I always look for a roommate or tenants who treat financial exchanges as I do, very seriously.

The one time I had to ask someone to leave my 'alert alert!' alarm sounded around the same time as it has for you. Just getting the deposit and 1st month's rent was a hassle--full of sudden changes in plans and broken promises.

This is not acceptable to me so I asked her to leave. I told her that as much as I like her as a person, I cannot be in a rental situation with someone who doesn't do what they say they're going to do regarding money. She stayed a few days until she found a friend she could stay with. A new girl moved in and she came and got her stuff. I was even out of town at the time. End of story. Later all sorts of collections agencies started sending letters addressed to her. Dodged a bullet.

tl;dr: Yes absolutely ask her to leave. If this is happening with the deposit it will only get worse. But be kind about it.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 2:52 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

When she asks why I'm kicking her out, should I simply show her this page?
posted by sentientsock at 3:03 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Her credit and/or security deposit wranglings are not your concern. She agreed to pay you what she owes you and is now breaking that agreement. That's reason enough.
posted by quince at 3:06 PM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I've had a lodger who moved in like this - arrived and didn't even mention money until I asked the following day, when he said - as if this were completely normal - "Oh, I'm waiting to get paid for a job I did last month, so I won't be able to pay until next week."

It turned out to be a recurring theme. I asked him to set up a standing order for automatic payment, but in month three it was: "Well, I have set up the payment, but since there's no money in my account at the moment, it won't really make any difference."

Shortly after that, he moved out of his own accord, just before I asked him to leave. He wasn't a scammer, just financially flaky and with a completely different idea from me about what financial commitment/responsibility meant.

Don't rent a room to a stranger, there's too much risk.

I'd also disagree with this. The guy mentioned above was someone I knew; since then I've had two 'strangers' lodge with me, who have been 100% reliable.
posted by penguin pie at 3:11 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Re your update: you're not 'kicking her out', you're simply not letting her move in --- that simple difference in terms may make a real difference if she's the stand-on-her-rights/fighty type!

As for what to say when/if she asks: don't bother showing her this page; she'll just say it makes no difference what a bunch of internet strangers tell you. Just take some of the things we've written and say them yourself.

And finally, don't worry if she starts whining or crying she "doesn't have any place to go" or anything like that: she is, I presume, a legal adult, and you are not responsible for her welfare --- guard yourself first!
posted by easily confused at 3:34 PM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

When she asks why I'm kicking her out, should I simply show her this page?

Good lord, no.

When she asks why you're kicking her out, you tell her it is because she moved in 3 days ago but has yet to pay rent or a security deposit.
posted by jeather at 3:37 PM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

I found the email I sent the girl I had to ask to leave and I just memailed it to you. If you find it useful, great! No I wouldn't show her this page. Good luck.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 3:43 PM on August 5, 2014

So i'm someone who has had a lot of flaky stupid roommates, and i'm generally on the side of the person asking "is this person being ridiculous/an asshole here?" on ask... but honestly, i think you should give her the benefit of the doubt.

I've always been a reliable rent-paying tenant/roommate, but moving has been a complete nightmare for me probably 60% of the time. Especially when you have to slot it in around work, other obligations, flaky previous landlords who promised you a check monday night, etc. I always end up being completely frazzled and unable to deal with shit from just juggling too many things at once, and i'm usually a fairly organized person.

She could have been more forward, but then would it just have sounded like making stupid excuses? I can kinda understand just wanting to power through or just being too fried to deal with it.

I agree with sallybrown. You already said she gets until thursday, at least give her that. I'm not saying you're morally required to or anything, but i don't think you'd be an idiot or anything for giving her a chance.

I was just talking to a friend in NYC who had to borrow money and beg for donations on her popular blog because a previous landlord who promised her a deposit back on X day completely ghosted and stopped answering their phone. She barely worked it out.

Also, i definitely think just putting her stuff out on the street is fucked up and awful. It may not be illegal if she's not a tenant, but it's just really vindictive and crappy. It's reasonable to say it has to be out by Y day, or that it can stay until Y day but she cant, but just putting it out the same day or putting it out without telling her? What the hell is she supposed to do? As someone whose been in situations like that, i really wish you'd consider basic human decency before even thinking about doing that. The world could use less of those "everyone is trying to get one over on me" and "life sucks, get a helmet" sort of attitudes.
posted by emptythought at 4:25 PM on August 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

From Manhattan, and I've known of friends who could not get "squatters" out of their apartments....

Were I you with my knowledge and experience, I would put her 7 boxes in storage and leave a note with the storage contract on your door.

In the note, I would NOT reference any roommate rental agreement.

I would mention in the note that I've known her for four days, that her presence as a guest isn't working out, and notify her where she can retrieve her boxes.

Trifle no more with this, make a clean and quick break before it turns into trouble.

I would not do any favors or let her stay another night for legal and liability reasons.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 5:05 PM on August 5, 2014 [24 favorites]

She's made agreements with you regarding paying then back tracked. I see no reason why you shouldn't back track now, too. She is clearly not reliable and I wouldn't trust someone who does that at all. I think jbenben's advice is perfect.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 5:10 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Agree with jbenben. Nyc tenant law is not to be trifled with.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:26 PM on August 5, 2014

No way. She should have been forthcoming about any delays regarding deposit before she moved boxes in. I don't like having to waste energy chasing people down. That's just over-functioning that you'll always have to do. I say treat it like a first date--with all kinds of blinking red flags. Get her out now.
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 9:33 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

When she asks why I'm kicking her out, should I simply show her this page?

No. Don't get to the stage where you treat this like a negotiation. Make the decision and then tell her what's happening then stick to 'that's's not going to work' or similar.
posted by biffa at 11:01 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Any updates, OP?
posted by easily confused at 4:35 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

She called me and was deflecting my concerns with "we'll talk about it when I get there"
Friend came over and helped pack up her stuff before she came, we put it in the hallway.
Another neighbor friend who is a lawyer had advised that I should not let her back in.
She came sans cash, I met her outside and handed her her bag with her laptop.
I told her since she broke the agreement, and blindsided me as she was leaving, I just could never be comfortable with her there. I told her that her stuff was out in the hall, it was safe, and I offered to help bring it to storage then, or she could get it the next day, Wednesday.
She tried to argue, so I got my neighbor to come down, who was introduced as my lawyer. That was a big help emotionally for me.
She agreed to take her stuff the next day, did not want to take anything for the night, and walked off.
That evening she emails me, asks if I will change my mind.
Wednesday despite my txts and emails she does not contact me.
At 1 am I put her stuff into storage, if she takes over in a few days I'm not out anything. I txt and email her that the storage is only until Sunday, and we need to meet to resolve this.
Thursday I phone and get an automatic error message that translates into the prepaid phone is out of minutes.
I still have had no contact from her, no email, no note on the outside door.

Next week I'll probably do an askme about what to really do with a 4x4x4 cube of her stuff.
She does claim to volunteer at a woman's shelter, and there's a possible business on her linkedin I can contact, but I don't know if doing so would put me in a worse position.
posted by sentientsock at 8:03 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wow! Great plan! You dodged a bullet there. You did just the right thing. You secured her belongings and got her out of your place. Good for you!

If you have a former address for her, send her a certified letter telling her that her stuff is in storage and that it will be removed on X date.

Continue to try to contact her via email/text with the same info, she'll be putting more minutes on the phone at some point. Print out and save the emails/texts (in case there's an issue later) to prove that you went above and beyond to protect her property.

Now it's all on her. You'd think a scammer would be more organized about getting her shit.

One thing I would do is take pictures of everything, mostly to show what she had and what you packed up. But I suspect that this is behind you.

Congratulations, you should be proud of yourself. This was a sticky situation but you handled it well and with a minimum of drama.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Dodged a bullet indeed! (And a big shoutout to the lawyer friend who helped!)

Ruthless Bunny is right: take photos of the boxes; maybe even take photos if the contents, too. And somewhere in your texts and emails, make some sort of statement like 'I'm glad you could take your laptop, when will you take the rest of your belongings?' --- just something to cover you if she comes back and claims it's missing.

And to be honest, having nothing but a prepaid burner phone sounds sketchy to me. I wouldn't contact either the shelter she claims to volunteer at or the business listed on her linkedin profile: you're already texting and calling her, calling her job might count as harassment.
posted by easily confused at 12:00 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

She claims to work in a shelter and has a burner phone? As someone who has worked with NYC homeless services, I wonder if she might be a resident rather than a volunteer.

Don't feel bad about calling there, say you are a prospective landlord calling to verify employment.
posted by corb at 12:43 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Situation is resolved.
Saturday morning she emails about getting her stuff on Sunday evening.
Among the odd emails she sent was "Perhaps, now I could take the room w/out all the negative drama & tension caused by your 2 so-called friends, Frit and Frat."

I had a friend with me at the storage place.
She showed up late (voicemail message claimed she had to go to mass instead of meeting at the agreed time) and there was no drama, we simply emptied the locker onto carts, and we parted in front of the storage place.
My friend said he thought she was sympathetic, charming, and a few cards short of a full deck.

So I think the answer to my question is yes, both.
Thank you all for the support.
posted by sentientsock at 9:41 AM on August 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Perhaps, now I could take the room w/out all the negative drama & tension caused by your 2 so-called friends, Frit and Frat.

Hoooboy, she must've majored in chutzpah at college: if you've had this much fun with this airhead who hadn't even moved in, it boggles the mind to imagine how much more fun trying to actually live with her would have been!

Okay, you're rid of her. If she hasn't put you totally off the entire idea of getting a roommate, try this: do not use something that's open to the world, like Craigslist where Miss LoonyTunes found your previous ad. Only go through personal recommendations: are any of your friends or coworkers looking for a place, or can any of those friends or coworkers personally recommend one of their siblings or friends? The idea being, no complete strangers welcome: only someone who comes with known connections.
posted by easily confused at 8:14 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older LASIK procedure questions (some Seattle area...   |   Options for changing your name when you marry? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.