Am I legally allowed to be at home with an order against a roommate?
January 10, 2017 2:18 PM   Subscribe

This question is partly law, partly human relations. Law part: My landlord (occupant of same house) is saying my partner and I are not allowed home because we have a protective order against a roommate. Human Relations: How should we proceed with LL to smooth things over to stay there until another housing situation gets settled? Lots of details ahead!

Roommate, Moe, is frequently plastered, has caused problems at the house several times. (we've been looking to move for a while). He also has a long criminal history. A week or 2 ago he got into a drunken fight with a friend in the middle of the road, broke glass everywhere, assualted the LL, as well as LL's dog. Partner had to get involved to break up the fight. At that time the LL gave Moe a 30 day notice.

Saturday afternoon Moe was very, very drunk, could barely stand, and had little touch with reality. He then tried to convince my partner to commit a robbery with him. Partner shrugged it off as drunk ramblings. Moe started getting aggressive about it, and eventually threatening. This escalated to assault (choking) and death threats, towards my partner and then myself. We left immediately (Moe was drunkenly passed out).

From my sister's house we contacted LL who was very flippant about the situation. Once we put pressure on, he said he'd call the cops once we were back at the house to meet the police there. My partner went back to the house, with my sister for a neutral party, and the cops did not show. LL did not call the cops for us, (though there is slight evidence he called he best friend who is an officer in order to intercept, though we have no proof) and he called Moe to let him know we were involving the police, so he could lay low. (We do have proof of this).

Since we were getting no help from LL, partner went to court and had a preliminary protection order placed. Moe managed to dodge the police until today, where he was served the order. In the middle of all this, LL gets absolutely irate at us for being "a nuisance", and texted us an "eviction" notice.

We had been staying at a friend's place, had plans to return this afternoon after I got off work. (that was the extent the friend could help). LL was aware of this.

While at work today, LL texts me that Moe had finally been served the papers. And that while the police were there, they said that the protection order expires tonight at midnight, so we shouldn't come home until after then, also that since Moe has lived there longer he has the right to call the cops if we show up early, and if Moe feels we're instigating trouble, we could be charged.

I responded with an image of the fine print that says that the protection order is valid 72 hours from when it is served.

His response was that means we can't come home for 72 hours. I told him the order is against Moe, not us, so it has no bearing on where we can be, and I asked for the name, car number, or badge number of the officers he'd gotten the information from. LL ignored that and reiterated that if we show up, it will be us "in trouble", not Moe. Then he said by the way don't forget you've been served an eviction notice. LL then made thinly veiled threat to get a protection order against partner and I because my sister said she was potentially going to talk to LL's chief about everything that was going on at the house that he wasn't taking step to fix. (dogs fighting, drunk misconduct, etc.) and concluded with "so don't tempt me because I will"

I told him I was aware of the thirty day notice, and I'm done with talking to him. I reiterated that we'd be by later that evening, and if Moe was there we'd contact the police. He asked what time we were coming by "to plan accordingly". I did not respond, because I did not have an answer. Then, randomly, he just sends me a close up picture of the filled-in part of the order that says it expires at 11:59 tonight.

of note: we're going to the courthouse tomorrow to get the protection order extended while we look for a new place to live, the extended order grants more protection thanthe preliminary. Or at least that's what we were led to believe. We visited he magistrate for advice, but she could not offer any advice other than that it did not expire tonight because the courts have been closed due to the weather, and the order granted no one residency. And the sheriff's office's only advice was that we could ask for a police escort if we wanted to "get our things". But we don't want to just get our things, we have nowhere for them to go.

What we want is for all of the drama, drinking, and violence to stop. we want to live there for the next couple weeks until we find a new place. That is it.

1)this is not legal advice and you are not my lawyer, but does anything LL say about us not being able to come home sound true? I live in south-eastern VA.

2)Based on LL's behaviour, does it seem like we can try to appeal to him to just let us keep our noses down and resume things civilly until we find another place?
posted by FirstMateKate to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have the means, it would be a great idea to speak with a lawyer in your town. Just to know your rights and the best legal way to proceed. If that isn't possible, perhaps you can call the local police and ask for clarification on how the order of protection works, and its expiration.

Sorry you have to deal with all this.
posted by Cranialtorque at 2:28 PM on January 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

This sounds completely bullshit. It sounds like your landlord just likes Moe better, but 75% or more of what he says is bullshit. It's Moe who needs to leave when you show up, not vice versa.

Also the protection order can include the residence so that he has to vacate, not you.
posted by corb at 2:29 PM on January 10, 2017 [17 favorites]

Honestly, this might be a situation where I would find a storage unit, stash my non-essential stuff there, and get an AirBNB/motel/other short-term rental for the couple of weeks you need it. This sounds like a nightmare, and I'd want to avoid interacting with all of these people as much as possible, especially if the roommate has been shown to be dangerous and the landlord indifferent. This is one of those where I'd prize my personal safety over my principles, but YMMV.
posted by superlibby at 2:31 PM on January 10, 2017 [31 favorites]

Also to be clear: you know LL is an unreliable narrator. Don't trust anything he says, at all, about anything.
posted by corb at 2:31 PM on January 10, 2017 [15 favorites]

Based on this information relevant to Virginia: "The court can order the abuser to leave the house or apartment that you and the abuser share, even if it is the abuser’s home." It sounds like the order MAY require Moe to leave rather than you, but it would be specifically ordered by the court -- what does the text of the document you received say?
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:31 PM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just a thought - could you call a domestic violence hotline in your area? They might be able to advise on the protective order and other options available to you.

Good luck. Sorry this is going on.
posted by bunderful at 3:17 PM on January 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

Not to be alarmist, but if the landlord, who is clearly not on your side, has access to your place of residence I would get the hell out of there. Your situation sounds untenable and I'd be nervous about your stuff and your safety.
posted by Wretch729 at 3:44 PM on January 10, 2017 [22 favorites]

This is crazy talk, and who needs the effin' DramaZ? Get your stuff and put it in a storage shed. Go stay on a couch with a friend for overnight. As soon as the court house is open tomorrow, go get the paperwork for a smalls claims case against the LL. Ask for pro-rated rental return for the rest of the month, any security deposit, two weeks of motel rental rates, and the money to rent a storage outfit for a month, plus any deposit. When the LL stops gagging and swearing, then tell him you'll drop it for the prorated and your security deposit back, immediately, in cash, you'll go to the bank with him to get it. Then get the heck out of Dodge and use the money to get a room. If he threatens you or refuses, haul his arse to court and make sure you have all this crap documented for the judge so you can eventually get the money.

Get out before you get hurt.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2017 [15 favorites]

LL is supporting/creating a situation where you can't return to your home that you've legally paid him for. Meanwhile he gets to keep your money. This sounds like all kinds of illegal. Don't believe anything he says, it's in his best interest to lie to you. Lawyer up, move out, (physically so you're safe) but not formally before you find out where you legally stand by doing so.
posted by Jubey at 4:51 PM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Check your MeMail.
posted by virago at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2017

You have two things to address: 1) the protective order against your roommate and 2) the bad behavior of your landlord.

To resolve #1, go to the police station. Explain the situation. Do not rely on the landlord to explain it. I expect, as rainbowbrite indicated, that it's Moe that has to get out, not you. The police and/or court can clarify that and can support you in enforcing the protective order.

To resolve #2, look up the tenant's advocate office in your city/county (or a legal aid office). The landlord's texted message threatening to evict you is potentially a cause for action against the landlord; see this VA Housing Development Authority page.

You may have to stay away for a day or so to get this resources lined up, but the law is likely on your side, not Moe's and not the landlord's. Get the support from the police and the state to use it to your advantage.
posted by gritter at 6:09 PM on January 10, 2017 [10 favorites]

What Bluehorse said. Don't fuck around, just do that.
posted by fshgrl at 7:46 PM on January 10, 2017

Just on your #2 - nope, not at all. Your LL is escalating all of this drama and bullshit and you should take that as a sign that he is not interesting in being civil (or even reasonable).

I know it's easy to say that you should just leave, crash with a friend, and put your stuff in storage... and it's not bad advice, but if that's not possible then please update and perhaps some locals can chime in with more specific assistance.
posted by sm1tten at 8:47 PM on January 10, 2017

Hooooly crap, this is so far beyond anyone here's pay grade that I'm struggling to see why anyone is offering advice. You need a lawyer, and you need one three days ago. At the very least, your landlord has served you an illegal eviction notice, and is attempting to deny you access to your own belongings. You need to get your things and your selves out of that house, but you also need to document every cost you incur while doing this, and every interaction you have with either the landlord or Moe, because it's going to become very relevant in the lawsuit that is ~80% likely to occur when this is all settled. Make no further contact with landlord, and get in touch with a tenant right's attorney immediately, lest you do something to compromise your position.
posted by Mayor West at 5:31 AM on January 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

Point of clarification: you refer to LL's "chief."

Is LL an LEO? A retired LEO? A fireman?

If any of those things are true in addition to what you've posted, just get out. I mean, get out anyway, but get out double time if the LL who appears to have some kind of relationship with the dangerous, criminal drunk, is himself an LEO. This is not safe.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:54 AM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

So if I understand correctly, your LEO-adjacent landlord is getting cozy with your violent roommate who has a criminal record?

You can get advice from all the lawyers in the world, but to me, that is strict pack-your-bags and get-out-of-town territory. Go to your apartment tonight, take anything and everything that is important to you (rent a U-Haul and hire some college kids if you must) and never go back. Seriously.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:25 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Call the police to be present when you do move out.
posted by goggie at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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