Get Thee Behind Me, Roommate
April 6, 2016 8:07 AM   Subscribe

How do my boyfriend and I navigate getting rid of the roommate from hell?

In November of last year, my boyfriend found out from his building manager that his roommate (who is on the lease) had, on two separate occasions, pocketed his share of the rent* as well as failing to pay her own. Leaving them $2200 in the hole on rent. The roommate somehow convinced the building manager not to tell the landlord or immediately have them evicted, how we don't exactly know. But most likely on the pretext of her paying in full "ASAP".

In December, the two of them agreed that I would move in, making the rent cheaper for everyone and enabling her to save the money to repay the back rent. Back rent remained unpaid.

In February of this year, when we realized that no money was ever paid and started feeling antsy about the sheer amount owed and lack of any action from her, we proposed a payment plan with Roommate. She would pay a reasonable sum every month to both catch up on the back rent as well as repaying my boyfriend close to $1500 he had personally lent her prior. After the payment plan ended, the two of us would agree to move out and get our own place, leaving Roommate with a spacious and extremely affordable two bedroom apartment. (She has a young son she doesn't have custody of, and a bedroom for him would greatly aid her overall family situation.) Roommate declined the payment plan but instead insisted that she had just gotten a new job and would pay in full within the next couple of weeks. This seemed fishy to me because she had the opportunity to have in writing that she could have the apartment upon payment, but... OK.

In early March of this year, noticing that a couple weeks had come and gone and no lump sum payment was forthcoming, we followed up with Roommate. At this point she said that, while she was a morally upstanding person who didn't want to do this, she would liquidate a GoFundMe she had set up to buy a car** in hopes of getting custody of her son in order to pay the back rent.

In mid March of this year (two weeks ago), after she did not liquidate the GoFundMe and no money was forthcoming, we asked Roommate to move out. She informed us that she would not be leaving, and that if we wanted the money we could go ahead and have the landlord evict her. We didn't want to do that, because we know that evictions are complicated and take a while to sort out, and at this point the living situation had completely soured and mostly we just wanted her gone and to start our life together as a couple without dealing with an untrustworthy and potentially criminal roommate. (We can easily afford the place without her but cannot easily afford to walk away from this level of debt and find a new apartment.)

A few days after that, fretting about WTF to do about a roommate who steals, lies, and refuses to pay and/or quit the premises, I talked to a lawyer friend of mine, purely as friends. She suggested we remind Roommate that she had stolen $1100 in cash from my boyfriend, and that we would be willing to not press charges if she voluntarily moved out. Roommate's response to this was yet another "I'll pay in full by the end of the week", something we knew wouldn't happen. And, indeed, that did not happen.

April 1, we got a text from Roommate offering to cover April's rent in full in exchange for us moving out of the apartment. Not in any way addressing the $2200 in back rent, the $1500 in other money she owes my boyfriend, or the question of the security deposit (fully paid by him, of course). We took this to mean that Roommate probably can't make April rent and is hoping to use this gambit to stall for time, since this is going down at 8 PM on the day rent is due. And we've already delivered our rent to the building manager.

April 2, after ascertaining that Roommate had indeed not paid April rent yet, we had a conversation with the building manager about everything that had gone on thus far. He urged us to contact the building owner and see what she thought. The building owner IMMEDIATELY suggested evicting Roommate, and stressed that we could stay on and sign a new lease, and even that she would take Roommate to small claims court for the back rent rather than holding us liable for it. Sounds great to us, so we went ahead with it.

April 3, we served Roommate with the required 3-day notice to pay or vacate the premises. (This is in Los Angeles, BTW, landlord is local, has an attorney, and appears to be familiar with eviction procedures in our jurisdiction.) We now have no idea what Roommate will do. She has the option to immediately pay the full amount of back rent as well as April's rent, leaving her square with the landlord but still in a highly toxic living situation with people who can't entirely afford to move out. More likely is that she will not pay, and the landlord will file formal eviction proceedings in court on Thursday. We're pretty sure that the eviction means we can't call the cops and press charges on the theft of money from my boyfriend, and that even if we could, it wouldn't result in her having to move away (she'd just go to jail for 72 hours or whatever). We're not sure whether she would fail to answer the eviction complaint and be removed from the premises by the Sheriff within the month, or whether she's the type to latch on with everything she's got and try to stay in an apartment she can't afford with people who hate her basically indefinitely.

So, my question. Short of moving out, what should my boyfriend and I be doing at this point? What should we do if she comes up with the money? Should we consider suing Roommate now for the money my boyfriend lent her before all this escalated? How can we protect ourselves from any potential lashing out that may happen later this week when she gets served with eviction papers for real? How do we proceed as somewhat neutral third parties re this lawsuit? We agreed to serve Roommate the 3-day notice to get the ball rolling, but should we continue acting as process servers for our landlord? Also, are there any other ways we can just get this woman to GTFO after asking nicely, offering to assume liability for her debts, threatening her with the cops, AND the prospect of eviction all failed?

*They pay rent in cash and, yes, he immediately stopped giving her cash to hand in to the building manager as soon as all of this came to light.

**Fun fact, we later found out that the entire GoFundMe was fraudulent, since she actually doesn't have a driver's license and in fact has multiple DUIs and warrants out for her arrest.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Go ahead and sue her --- yes, it's probable you'll never get the money, but there's absolutely no reason for you and BF to continue to protect her from the legal results of her own actions. Your building owner is totally correct: get that woman out of the apartment now, because things will never get better than they are now, they'll only get even worse.

One thing to watch out for: make sure all your own property, yours and BF's, is secured..... your personal identification, your SSNs, your bank information; any valuable and/or sentimental jewelry or other property; computers, TVs and even furniture. Because your roommate is a known thief, liar and conman, I can easily see any and all of the above leaving with her. (And yes, that's what my own last-ever-'cause-I'm-not-going-through-that-again roommate did. Living alone costs more money but is far less stressful.)

Only thing I see good in all this is, thank heavens she doesn't have custody of her son.
posted by easily confused at 8:29 AM on April 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


Basically you are me a few months ago. Just follow through with the eviction, she won't be able to pay, lots of crying, call the sheriff, and she'll leave.

In the meantime, take a couple days out of the apartment if you can until she gets her stuff out.
posted by Marinara at 8:29 AM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


File in small claims court and sue her, or if you have proof she stole $1500 (not just failed to repay a loan) then swear out a complaint and have her arrested. Why would you wait?

Take everything valuable out of the shared apartment. Lock your bedroom door. Call 911 and report a domestic disturbance if she threatens you. Don't talk to her, don't engage in any way, be home together as much as possible.

Talk to a lawyer to get advice on how to proceed? I really don't know what you're asking here since internet strangers can't predict how someone will behave?

In general if you want her out you will have to do your share and confirm she stole the rent money that should have gone to the landlord, thus putting the responsibility squarely on her. Keep all texts and communications, make copies. File criminal or civil as advised by your lawyer. Get free legal help if you can't afford legal advice. Don't wait to act. Just take the next responsible steps.
posted by jbenben at 8:30 AM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Her responsibility to pay rent to the landlord is independent of her obligation not to steal from you. You could press charges. I'm not sure, however, if that would help the situation, instead of escalating it well past 11.

It's not clear to me whether you yourselves are on the lease or have a formal sublet agreement with her. That would affect your duties towards each other (and your duties towards the landlord--if you're not on the lease, you generally don't owe him rent), but in ways that are specific to your state of residence. Probably you could take her to small claims court for the amount she stole/converted, but if she can't pay rent, she won't be able to pay a judgment, either. However, small-claims proceedings might be a way to increase the pressure without taking it to the level where she sets your belongings on fire, as might happen if you actually brought the theft to the police's attention.

I would step back from serving as the landlord's process server. I'm sure he has access to a service that can perform that work. You don't want to have to show up to a hearing to testify as to validity of service.
posted by praemunire at 8:34 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


She's a massive liar and you need to do everything you can try get her out of your life. That is your number one goal from now on. Do whatever it (legally) takes. No more second chances, no pity. Not a word she says is to be trusted. If you can't get her evicted, move out yourself.

Store your valuables elsewhere until she's gone and keep an eye on your bills, as she might have written down your credit card numbers or the like.

Your money is likely just gone - you can sue her but it doesn't sound like she has anything to take. She is likely an expensive lesson.
posted by Candleman at 8:35 AM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


(Oh, and, if you don't have renter's insurance...get it. Now. You should have it anyway--it's not that expensive--and your belongings are vulnerable right now.)
posted by praemunire at 8:35 AM on April 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


Well, she certainly sounds like a piece of work.

The mechanisms of the law are in motion, but they can be slow in situations like this. So, you might want to think about what it would take to get her to leave voluntarily.

One idea might be a cash for keys offer. Over and above forgiving her what she owes boyfriend (let's be honest, he's unlikely to see any money back), offer her some amount of cash to be gone by, say, Monday. When her stuff is out and she has returned the keys, she gets the cash.

One problem to consider is that it seems like outside of the current living situation, she might be facing homelessness*. A history of not paying rent, plus warrants is not going to look good to potential new landlords. She knows this, so she's likely to hold on as tight as she can to this situation. This fact might mean that your cash for keys offer needs to be high enough to get her into a new place.

*I am not bringing this up to try to imply that you have sympathy for her or anything, just to point out the desperatness of her situation.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:36 AM on April 6, 2016


The question about the $1500 that your boyfriend lent this woman is entirely separate from the eviction and unpaid rent. The police are definitely not going to arrest her for an unpaid personal loan. Why not leave this issue aside until the housing situation is worked out and then decide if you want to take this to small claims court once you've had a month to let things settle. You aren't going to get that money any time soon (she obviously doesn't have it), so there is no rush.

It also seems that your landlord has agreed not to come after you for the $1100 that she stole. I don't think the police are going to arrest her if this is the case.

Otherwise, let the eviction proceed and let your landlord do whatever he needs to do to get her out. It sounds like he is definitely on your side and is trying to solve the problem. It doesn't sound like there is anything you can do at this point to get her out faster.
posted by ssg at 8:37 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why did you move into that?! Move out right now and leave the mess to your boyfriend to fix. He's the one it started with. You leaving might calm things down a bit, as she might believe she has won, and give him a few weeks of peace while the eviction process is being carried out.
posted by myselfasme at 8:43 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


After this is over with, both of you need to run regular credit reports to check for any identity theft. Desperate people can make very poor choices.
posted by readery at 8:54 AM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


In the meantime, take a couple days out of the apartment if you can until she gets her stuff out.

I disagree with this. Do that and you might just come back to find most of the communal stuff is gone. Lock up all your personal stuff and be there when she is packing up to leave. Your boyfriend should sit down and make sure he knows who paid for what communal stuff. I don't advise being petty (don't argue over forks and yes I've seen that fight before between friends who have had living situations go sideways) but make sure you protect your things and your information.

As for the other stuff, keep your personal info locked away, run a credit check a few times once she's gone and make sure you get that promise to not hold you responsible for the money owed in writing! That's the most important thing of all. That's what will protect you down the line so make sure that's in place.
posted by GilvearSt at 8:59 AM on April 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


I think the $1500 is rent money the roommate stole, not a personal loan.
posted by jbenben at 9:13 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Definitely be there when she is packing up to leave. Yeah, it'll be awkward, but this is almost over. You're not going to see any money back out of this lady, she obviously doesn't have it*. Chalk it up to lesson learned and let the landlord evict her as quickly as possible. Do keep a very close eye on your credit reports and remind your landlord to change the locks.

*which is not to say you shouldn't press the charges. You should. Any leverage you can get now is good; you may need it down the line.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:21 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


You are lucky your landlord is being so responsive and understanding! A lot of LLs would just tell you all to GTFO. Definitely get anything that's valuable/sentimental out of the apartment ASAP, and I would suggest letting your bank and credit cards know that debit/credit card numbers may have been compromised and getting new accounts/numbers. Put a freeze on your credit and keep an eye on your credit reports for the next year or so.

I think you can kiss all the money goodbye. Luckily it sounds like your boyfriend will not need to pay the stolen rent twice, so it's just the $1500 she borrowed that's at risk. I would probably chalk this one up to a life lesson because it honestly sounds like even if you take her to court, she won't have any money to pay you, and your time and energy are worth money too.

I also agree that it sounds like her alternative to continuing to stay in your apartment is homelessness, so if you want her to go away quietly you will probably have to pay her to move. I totally understand if you're not willing to do that, but I suspect that it what it would take.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:32 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you have any animals or valuables, I'd re-home them til this all blows over, in case she gets vindictive.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:57 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


She has WARRANTS? Jail might be a fun place for her to live after she's been evicted.

Go down to the police station, file charges for theft and inform them that she has outstanding warrants.

Then make a pitcher of margaritas and sit on the verandah.

For the life of me, I don't understand an unwillingness to make waves for someone who has NO compunction about stealing, lying and basically being a total asshole to you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:32 AM on April 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


You both need to go into full-on defensive mode until this is over. Take whatever steps needed to protect your stuff, your pets, yourselves. EVERY request or suggestion from your roommate should be met with the favorite "That won't be possible." Keep saying it for as long as you need to, over and over again. Lock your rooms. Remove yourselves from her train wreck. And I would press charges.
posted by raisingsand at 10:45 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


This woman can't be trusted, so there's no point in trying to negotiate anything with her or trying to get her to do what she should do. She's a thief taking shameless advantage of your niceness and reasonableness. At this point you'll be doing well to get her out of your apartment without losing any more money or any of your belongings. Get legal advice and use the legal system and your landlord's willingness to help to whatever extent it takes. Sue, press charges, put locks on your bedroom door -- your only concern here is to protect yourself. Yes, some of these processes can take time, which is why it's best to get the ball rolling as quickly as you can. Secure your belongings and make sure you're present when she's packing and moving out, and then change the locks.

I'm sorry this happened, but some people really have no conscience and we've all had run-ins with them. It does sound like you'll be the one to get that nice apartment and not have to move, so you have that much to be thankful for.
posted by orange swan at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


[This is a followup from the asker.]
Regarding pressing charges for the theft of cash (and, yes, I'm referring to the $1100 of rent money Roommate stole from my boyfriend, not voluntary loans long overdue), the reason we're not pursuing that right now is that there are laws in our jurisdiction against intimidating a tenant into moving away, including threatening to inform the authorities about things like immigration status, outstanding warrants, etc. While this is a grey area as we are technically not the ones evicting her and it's a criminal, potentially felonious, matter, we really don't want to give her ammunition to drag this out by saying that we illegally intimidated her into leaving.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:56 AM on April 6, 2016


In light of your update, I think it might be helpful to work through what it is you want most out of this, because sadly, I don't think that you will be able to get everything that you want or deserve.

So, my question. Short of moving out, what should my boyfriend and I be doing at this point? What should we do if she comes up with the money?
I know you don't want to hear this (because it sounds like you really like the apartment, and the landlord likes you), but if she comes up with the money (somehow) or otherwise works diligently at stalling the eviction process, I would start looking for a new place. It's just not worth putting up with this kind of drama for months and months on end.

Should we consider suing Roommate now for the money my boyfriend lent her before all this escalated?
I assume that this is for the $1500 that was loaned, not the $1100 stolen. Consider suing, but wait until after a.) she is evicted, or b.) you move out. Suing now isn't going to get you a dime (suing later probably won't either), but it will up the drama which I don't think helps anyone right now.

How can we protect ourselves from any potential lashing out that may happen later this week when she gets served with eviction papers for real?
As suggested above, get pets and valuables either out, or locked up safe. Minimize (if not eliminate) any opportunity for her to be alone in the apartment. If either one of you has to be alone in the apartment with her, consider keeping a cell phone/web camera recording (preferably discretely).

How do we proceed as somewhat neutral third parties re this lawsuit? We agreed to serve Roommate the 3-day notice to get the ball rolling, but should we continue acting as process servers for our landlord?
As long as you feel personally safe doing so, helping out your landlord in this way is a nice way to keep yourselves in the loop as to what is going on, and probably keep things going faster. But you are performing a service to your landlord, and you don't have to be the ones to do it if you don't feel comfortable.

As for staying neutral, you and your boyfriend should not involve the authorities regarding anything that happened in the past until this is all sorted out. Your landlord is in charge of the eviction, and, TBH, it sounds like she is being pretty on the ball about getting this sorted now that she knows of the issues. If Roommate gets violent, attempts to steal on the way out, or anything *new*, call the cops. If your landlord needs an affidavit or paperwork signed by you to help with the eviction process, do it but make sure it sticks to the facts at hand and don't bring up irrelevancies (the $1500 loan is not relevant to the eviction, for example).

Also, are there any other ways we can just get this woman to GTFO after asking nicely, offering to assume liability for her debts, threatening her with the cops, AND the prospect of eviction all failed?
My above suggestion of cash-for-keys still stands (but, I also get why you wouldn't be in a position to afford that, or why you wouldn't feel comfortable "rewarding" this woman for being terrible). Otherwise, your only option really is to wait for the legal process to play out.

This site (whose accuracy I cannot vouch for at all) might help you figure out what a realistic timeline would be before the sheriff actually comes to evict her. I know that if I were in your situation, actually understanding the timeframes involved would help me sort through my options.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:37 AM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


.(Oh, and, if you don't have renter's insurance...get it. Now. You should have it anyway--it's not that expensive--and your belongings are vulnerable right now.)

I'm a big fan of everyone having renters insurance, but its worth noting that my renters insurance explicitly does not cover theft or deliberate damage caused by any of the residents - I don't know at what point in an eviction it would stop treating her as a resident.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Upon your update - NO - DO NOT ACT AS A PROCESS SERVER FOR YOUR LANDLORD.

That seems intimidating, right? So don't do it.

I agree you folks should entirely 100% move out. Go back if she gets evicted. You need to stay far far away from this.

Hey!

My friend was telling me about an app called ALFRED. I guess it turns old laptops or smart phones or tablets into surveillance camera? You might want to google it. I use/d iCamPRO - but that app def has lag issues. ALFRED supposedly does not have lag issues. I think it's OK to set this up in your bedroom, prolly not in the common areas, but if you want surveillance in your private bedroom an app like this might help.

Check with a lawyer. You may have to put a note on your door stating you have recording and security. Turning off the circuit breakers might take out your device or wifi, no system is secure. IDK. Maybe just move? That's the most security. Just walk away.
posted by jbenben at 11:51 AM on April 6, 2016


consider keeping a cell phone/web camera recording (preferably discretely).

Do not do this. California is a two-party consent state.
posted by praemunire at 12:04 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


my renters insurance explicitly does not cover theft or deliberate damage caused by any of the residents

Good point. IIRC, the exclusion in mine only applies to insured and dependents, not to other people who may be in the dwelling. You'd want to check that.

(And get it anyway. Shouldn't run you much more than $20/mo. Invaluable in case of catastrophe.)
posted by praemunire at 12:06 PM on April 6, 2016


>The building owner IMMEDIATELY suggested evicting Roommate, and stressed that we could stay on and sign a new lease, and even that she would take Roommate to small claims court for the back rent rather than holding us liable for it.


Get this in writing, verbal changes to a contract are not changes.

Do not attempt any sort of "Self Help" ie holding any of the roomies possessions to forcing her to pay.
posted by DBAPaul at 12:28 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


The building owner IMMEDIATELY suggested evicting Roommate, and stressed that we could stay on and sign a new lease, and even that she would take Roommate to small claims court for the back rent rather than holding us liable for it.

Came here to say exactly what DBAPaul said: this sounds great, but get that in writing otherwise, as leaseholders you absolutely are liable for back rent, and the building owner can indeed pursue this. Roommate is obviously not good for the money and this could come back and haunt you. If the owner gets their own counsel their tune may change.
posted by kapers at 2:52 PM on April 6, 2016


This sounds like a huge battle ahead if you stay. I think you need to discuss strategy with counsel. One that will let you wash your hands of the whole mess as soon as humanly possible.

I would not serve her with any further documents or interact with her in any way, as the eviction process is already underway. Others here have good advice re: locking down your possessions and identity.

I would not offer her a wad of cash or do anything outside the legal system to try to get her to leave because you have absolutely no recourse if she pockets the money and stays. Everything she's done in the past indicates that this (and worse) is exactly what she would do.

If her alternative is homelessness, of course she is going to stay as long as possible. Moving might be a better solution than you think (it may not be easy or fair but it's better than being stuck with this criminal--and if your building owner changes their tune, you could be on the hook for her back rent.) I mean, how great is this place? Any other vacancies in the building?

If it were me, and I know you don't want to hear this, but: I would have my atty obtain a statement from the building that me and BF are square on rent and the lease is terminated immediately. Even if I had to pay the building a sum to do this. Then I'd move. ASAP. Let the building and the legal system deal with her.
posted by kapers at 3:21 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


My Pacific Heights roommate is finally out today. After 4 months of not paying rent. My advice is biased because this experience was so traumatic that I winded up in therapy to handle the stress.

There are people who actually squat for a living. They are not going to feel guilt or remorse. They will not feel awkward sharing the house while knowing they stole from you. They know how to use any action against you, even if it is just to buy themselves an extra week or so. You are not the landlord, so it won't be as hard for you to deal with, but the behavior of this woman will affect your time in that house.

Evictions can take a really long time. No joke. It might not be worth it to be in fear of your things/safety for the next 4 months, and may be better to cut your losses and leave. Especially if it is putting any stress on your relationship.

I have no words to express what a bizarre nightmare this was. Now I only have to dig myself out of the financial ruins she left me in, and hope I don't lose my house because of this...

Run. She has no money to pay you, you will never see it.

And I'm in the same location as you. Feel free to me mail me if you want specifics.
posted by Vaike at 7:50 AM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


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