subletting nightmare
December 11, 2005 11:02 PM   Subscribe

My roommate and I are subletting an apartment. How can we steal the lease from the leaseholder?

An ex-roommate is the leaseholder, he is living overseas temporarily. He was, in short, a jerk. He wants to remain as the leaseholder on the apartment so that he can move back in on his return, but my current roommate and I want to take over the apartment (it's quite a nice one) and boot him out.

Is there a legal (if sneaky) way to do this? What if we were to withhold rent? The leaseholder is so sloppy with his affairs I'm sure he wouldn't notice, so if the building manager were to break the lease as a result, could we take over without getting evicted?
posted by randomstriker to Law & Government (30 answers total)
Talk to the landlord about paying a higher rent? If you're really sneaky, the landlord can dissolve the leave within the timeframe specified in the contract. If the ex-roomie is overseas, it makes it harder for him to respond.
posted by Rothko at 11:05 PM on December 11, 2005

You want to take over some guy's house? It sounds like you're being the jerks. What if someone did this to you?
posted by null terminated at 11:19 PM on December 11, 2005

I believe that if you live in Vancouver Canada, randomstriker, you should be aware that in BC there was no such thing as a residential lease of less than 3 years, prior to January 1, 2004. The Residential tenancy Act was rewritten then, but prior to that any interests in real property needed to be registered at the Land Tile Office, which wouldn't' register a residential tenancy of less than 3 years.

What people mistakenly called a lease here was often without legal status, and was really a month-to-month rental, as many tenants discoverd to their woe over the years.

If your roommate signed a lease of more than 3 years for the property you are occupying prior to Jan 1 2004, then he is legally liable, not you. However a lease of lesser period would not be recognized. It'd be pretty easy to break such a "lease" by not paying rent. Alternatively though, your former roomie could then successfully sue you in small claims court.

As an aside, this does seem like a pretty crappy thing to do to someone, though.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:28 PM on December 11, 2005

Do NOT withold the rent. This will only piss off landlord AND leaseholder. Which is a fine way to get booted from your present home, and ensure that you find much difficulty getting someone willing to rent to a known "deadbeat".

Talk to the landord. Many a landlord would be pleased to have a signed and sealed lease, at zero turnover cost, with known-to-be-excellent-tenants, who have committed to commence their lease term on the same day the current one expires. Tell the landlord that you would like to apply to to become the new leaseholders as of the end of the current lease's term. Then take out all your pennies and prepare to outbid your ex-roommate, and market rate.

Keep in mind that as long as the the ex-roommate is still the leaseholder, he probably has the right to kick you you both out of his apartment whenever the mood strikes him (unless of course you had the foresight to get a rock solid contract for the sublet). So be very careful about doing anything that could piss off this person.

Personally, I think it's a very poor idea to approach this with a "stealing" mindset. He's the one who's got the right to the place, fair and square. So if he's such a disagreeable roommate, the burden really is on you to find someplace else that has more compatible roomies. It's also pretty crummy to try to get someone booted out of their home while they're too far away to protect it.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:39 PM on December 11, 2005

Ditto on crappy.

I hope someone who thinks you're a jerk steals your housing from you when you leave, leaving you with nowhere to sleep.

You're exactly the kind of people that stop me from subletting my appartment to random people and make me thankful I have better choices in friends. Also that we have a semi-functioning legal system.

If he's breaking contract, then do it openly through contract law. If not, you're thieves, pure and simple.
posted by lalochezia at 11:39 PM on December 11, 2005

How short is his trip? Months?

If you call him and say that you don't want to live with him anymore, and that he can either:

1) lose the apartment to you, who will pay him whatever deposits he has with the landlord, or

2) lose the apartment AND his deposits when you and your new pal move out and get another apartment...

He'll probably choose option 1, unless he has some way of getting the landlord to sublet the place for him, or paying rent on an empty apartment. What was your arrangement with him when he left? You're on pretty shaky ground.

I think any tack you take other than telling him in advance what you're trying to do is going to damage your karma big time. He obviously trusted you to hang onto this place for you while he was gone. Why make enemies over an apartment?
posted by popechunk at 11:48 PM on December 11, 2005

I guess another question is: do you have all of his stuff? What were you going to do with it?
posted by popechunk at 11:57 PM on December 11, 2005

Have a word with the landlord. I'm sure you can either cut a deal or be homeless. There's always a certain element of risk with these things.
posted by singingfish at 12:49 AM on December 12, 2005

posted by furtive at 3:48 AM on December 12, 2005

If your roommate is overseas for military obligations, there are regulations as to how his landlord would sever the lease.[1,2]
I question your ethics and your value as a person for wanting to deprive someone of a home because he's a jerk. Please reconsider this.
posted by boo_radley at 4:05 AM on December 12, 2005

If you don't pay rent theb the sub-lessor (the guy you're trying to screw) could probably sue you for the rent.

(p.s. I'm not a lawyer or Canadian)
posted by falconred at 4:13 AM on December 12, 2005

This is the kind of thing I would have done when I was a particuarly stupid and selfish 18 years old. It never occurred to me that I was probably made for my ‘jerk’ roommate, or as it seems in this case, that I was an even bigger ‘jerk’. Find your own apartment and leave your brother in misery alone.
posted by anglophiliated at 4:14 AM on December 12, 2005

This strikes me as totally sleazy. I hope you lose the apartment.
posted by sic at 5:09 AM on December 12, 2005

Don't do it, it's a bad idea and makes you less of a good person.
posted by OmieWise at 5:25 AM on December 12, 2005

I'll join the chorus; it's a bad idea to steal the place. Make sure the landlord knows you like it and be model tenants; maybe another unit will open up. Maybe the original tenant will not come home in a timely manner or will not want the place. Or maybe you won't get to keep a nice apartment that you knew you couldn't keep, but you could keep your karma cleaner.
posted by theora55 at 5:29 AM on December 12, 2005

Go to the landlord and talk to him. Explain to him that you're ideal tenants who always pay rent on time (unlike the current leaseholder who's unorganized and delinquent), love the apartment and will take care of it (unlike the current leaseholder who let roaches in), and that you don't have any friends who're involved with illegal drugs. Also tell the landlord that you read up on "lease laws" and that you understand that there may be a $X000 "change over" fee for him switching the lease and you'd be happy to pay this fee to him immediately. In cash.

In other words, lie, lie, lie and then bribe. (Don't skimp on the bribe. It's totally worth it if the place is that great. And the landlord will be in a world of pain if he accepts his offer. And, of course, bribe him indirectly by agreeing to pay some silly fee.)

If that doesn't work talk to the jerk in germany and try to bribe him. You might be able to work out some sort of arrangement in which he voluntarily ends the lease and you get the place. The fact that you're not on the lease and you can use this to your advantage. You could always threaten to move out immediately because you can't deal with the "uncertainity" of subleasing and that you want to sign a lease. This is a perfectly reasonable place to be. Offer to pay him something extra if he were willing to just give the apartment to you--otherwise you'll have to move and this may mean moving out before he returns to the city. This threat will have more weight if you start looking at new places now and let him know that you've already started looking. This may even be cheaper than bribing the landlord.

Either way, you're walking on dangerous ground. There's a good chance your overseas roomate may figure out/hear about what you're doing and he'll kick you both out as soon as you get back. Have a back-up plan.
posted by nixerman at 5:50 AM on December 12, 2005

There's almost certainly more to this story than is being told. This may or may not be an ethically questionable action, depending on the terms of hte lease.

Here are some questions that spring to mind:

Is the lease is automatically renewing (as a lot of them are)? Then whether it's contractually lawful for the landlord to do this is also in question. That's further complicated by the fact that most of the leases I've ever signed have some special conditions around subletting.

Did you have a prior agreement with the "jerk" to vacate when he returned? If not, no ethical problem, though you have to decide whether it's worth it karmically.

Is the lease going to expire before his return? As I re-read, it seems that the answer is "no" (though you're vague by omission on this). That's the real rub, as I see it.

If what you're trying to do is literally break the lease, then you're probably talking about legally actionable behavior, as well as ethically and karmically questionable. I say that because you're talking about acting in a fraudulent manner to cause a breach of contract.

Maybe you and your current housemate could draw lots and propose that one of you stay to share when the leaseholder returns. Not ideal, but it works around all the ethical and legal issues.
posted by lodurr at 6:30 AM on December 12, 2005

randomstriker, don't do it. Regardless of whether the leaseholder is a jerk or not, what you propose is unethical.
posted by caddis at 6:42 AM on December 12, 2005

a little more effort in the beginning--ie negotiating with your out of country roommate--may help avoid pain down the road. Don't try to do it behind his back.

And it's just an apartment ... you will probably move out of it in a few years anyway. Is it really worth the effort?
posted by lester at 6:52 AM on December 12, 2005

Talk to the landlord, there are some leases that are made that do not allow subletting unless it's done through the landlord/company. If the guy is illegally having people sublease under him, then he has breached his contract and the place can likely go to you.

Remember that the landlord/company wants a long, long term amount of money. Offering a lease that is longer than a normal lease can make them happy. The landlord currently has a tenant that is overseas that is subletting an apartment successfully for an extended amount of time, and plans on using the apartment when they come back. That's a pretty juicy tenant to have, and he will want to keep such a good bargain... you will have to beat that bargain. Also, landlords don't like to break contracts as it makes them look bad, and it stops the possibility of suing for payment if the leasee doesn't pay up.
posted by cleverusername at 8:49 AM on December 12, 2005

What country is he temporarily in? If you are lucky, maybe whatever country it is will have lax laws and you can go there and legally kill him. Wouldn't that be great?
posted by Bort at 9:07 AM on December 12, 2005

Best answer: So, how's that Charm School thing working out for you?
posted by mkultra at 9:08 AM on December 12, 2005

Response by poster: OK, I see what you guys are saying about this being completely the wrong way to go about this. Please do understand that this guy was the roommate from hell and our original agreement was that we were all equal partners, but his name is on the lease coz only one name is allowed and he subsequently completely abused the power that this gave him. My current roommate and I are very bitter the whole situation. But yes, two wrongs don't make a right, so I guess we are the ones who will have to eat the cost of moving. Thanks for pointing out the error of my ways.
posted by randomstriker at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2005

Response by poster: Snarky as your comment was, mkultra, I did find it quite amusing.
posted by randomstriker at 9:31 AM on December 12, 2005

You have a good sense of humor about this randsomstriker. I hope you can find a way to keep both your apartment and your conscience. Good luck to you.
posted by caddis at 10:26 AM on December 12, 2005

Regardless of whether or not its right, the key is to ask if it is right for you. Sounds like you had some difficulties when you were involved with the leaseholder's life. Why would you want to do something that would get you even more tied up with him.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:28 AM on December 12, 2005

randomstriker, abandon the apartment altogether. Let the jerk deal with it from overseas (which will be a nice big pain in the ass).

Trying to screw him over while he's gone does nothing but bring you right down to his level. Be bigger than this.
posted by fenriq at 11:28 AM on December 12, 2005

If you just want vengeance, start looking for a new apartment. His name is on the lease, making him responsible for paying for it. It sounds like you have time to find something great, and still leave him in the lurch looking for sublettors.
posted by Sara Anne at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2005

I don't see how being on the lease gives anybody power to wield. If anything, it's more responsibility and headaches. Other than that, I don't have much to contribute that hasn't already been said by others.
posted by elisabeth r at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2005

Y'know, a former close friend did this to me last year. The other roommates were also close friends. Since there was no lease to begin with, I guess it was a relatively simple task, as was disposing of the rest of my possessions.

Don't steal someone's home.
It makes you a dick.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:06 PM on December 12, 2005

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