Roommate moving sooner than expected and it feels...not nice
November 30, 2017 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I live with a roommate - I'm on the lease, he's not. When he moved in, landlord required him to sign away his right to stay in the apartment should I move out. Well, I'm moving out! I promised I'd give him ample notice if I were ever to leave, and I did. I'm moving out on Dec 30th and told him on Nov 14th. He was cool with it, appreciative of the notice, said he was fine with moving after Christmas. I offered to help, be a reference, etc. Today he told me he's found a new place and will move out on Dec 8th, sticking me with the lion's share of the rent for next month.

We live in a competitive housing market and I get that things move quickly and sometimes you have to pounce. He's not legally bound to me (I don't think? Since I basically said "you gotta move out by this time") but it feels pretty crappy (we've had a good relationship) and it's not how I would've done things. I congratulated him on finding a place so fast, and that I wish he'd told me he was considering moving so soon, as he's giving me a week's notice that I'm on the hook for almost the full rent, which is a big financial strain on me. His response was, "It's not ideal but gotta move when you gotta move!" It sucks, and I feel like my hands are tied. What would you do?
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Human Relations (46 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your hands are tied. Sorry, but he did nothing wrong. Knowing I had to move in a month, of course I'd take what I could find, when I could find it, and I wouldn't want to pay two rents either if I didn't find something until mid month.
posted by agregoli at 12:12 PM on November 30, 2017 [62 favorites]

I would make sure that the next time I have a roommate they're on the lease. If he's not bound by a lease or sublease to pay any rent after he vacates, it may be a nice move of him to offer to pay a chunk of the remainder of the month, but he's not bound to. If this is a big burden to you, you may want to say "hey roommate, this is a big burden to me, do you think you could see your way to paying a little more of the December rent?" But that's as far as I would take it. But overall, I agree with roommate, it's not ideal but gotta move when you gotta move, especially in a competitive housing market and when your old lease isn't locking you down.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:12 PM on November 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

I think you forced his hand. After giving him notice, you can't expect him to wait until the most convenient time for *you*, especially if it's a competitive market. I think there's nothing you can or should do about it.
posted by number9dream at 12:13 PM on November 30, 2017 [93 favorites]

Do you have a signed agreement that he pays you rent monthly on the 1st? What about notice?

If so - it's not clear to me why he thinks he doesn't have to pay for the full month - it's nice that he's moving early, but paying rent is not contingent on you actually physically being in the apartment.
posted by notorious medium at 12:13 PM on November 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

Did you actually concede to him in this conversation that he only owes you for that part of the month? Because every roommate arrangement I've ever had, if you moved out partway through the month, you just... paid for the month, because that's how apartment rent works, unless someone else was moving into your space before the end of the month. Even if it's just a verbal arrangement month-to-month, if he's always paid rent monthly at the beginning of the month for the whole month, I don't think it's at all weird or unreasonable to expect to receive the full rent check regardless of whatever his plans were. But all that said? You probably have to be realistic about whether he actually has the cash that you can collect from him for this, even if he does owe it to you, since he's paying for the new place... and how much it might cost to acquire it if he refuses to pay.
posted by Sequence at 12:17 PM on November 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

Did he actually tell you he was only paying 8 days' rent, or is that something you are assuming? IME in these situations you rent by the month or the half-month. Paying day-by-day is unusually flexible (like, you're not an airbnb).

However, since he's not on the lease I don't think there's anything you can do to actually make him pay up. By being in this arrangement he's taking the risk that you can tell him "hey, you need to move out" at any time, and you're taking the risk that something like this can happen.
posted by btfreek at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

You have no signed agreement or sublease at all? Without that, you don't really have recourse. The only thing that you can really do is make sure that if he plans to only pay until Dec 8, that every last shred of anything he owns is out by midnight that day and his keys are returned and everything is clean (though, without an agreement or sublease, I'm not even sure you'd be able to compel him to clean). He shouldn't be able to get free storage if he's leaving you footing the bill for most of Dec.

You could look at whether he's stayed long enough to be considered a tenant even with no written agreement in place. Many cities/states have laws that define legal tenancy, even if there's no written agreement. Those laws are usually in place to protect tenants, but they also can define what responsibilities tenants must meet. Whether you want to do that research and start that conversation really depends on whether it's worth your time given that you're also moving.
posted by quince at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is the issue the money or that it feels not nice?

Because forget about the latter. It's incredibly difficult and sucky to find a place and you have to take what you can get when you can get it. You're the one who said you were leaving and he had to go, so you don't really have a right to begrudge his efforts to secure his living situation as quickly as possible.

If it is the money, it's not entirely clear what your agreement was, especially without paperwork, but I doubt it would be worth it to pursue even if you were entitled to the money. 3 weeks' rent is not peanuts but letting this go would be worth it to me.
posted by kapers at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2017 [14 favorites]

Given how the apartment was rented, he was effectively your sublettor, and you goofed in not clarifying terms of the rental in advance. Lesson learned for next time, but this time you have to suck it up. I imagine that only having six weeks' notice to move wasn't super fun for him either.
posted by metasarah at 12:25 PM on November 30, 2017 [19 favorites]

Frankly he did nothing wrong and I would have done the same. That news would cause most people tremendous anxiety, especially if it wasn't their lease and they were sort of at the mercy of whatever your plans were. You gave him close to a bare-minimum heads up in the first place, in my state Notice to Vacate is 30 days by law.. with a 'friend' I would be informing them a lot sooner if I was thinking of relocating and knowing it would effect their living situation as well. You seem to be offended here like he was a friend who bailed on you so, giving him so little warning wasn't friendly on your part either. If you want to always be splitting bills down the middle then whoever you live with needs to be contractually bound by the same lease you are on, and you need to communicate well with that person long before changes are made.
posted by Avosunspin at 12:37 PM on November 30, 2017 [28 favorites]

If it helps, don't think of it as you're now on the hook for paying twice as much rent - think of it as you're now living solo for a month, and that costs more. But it also means you have a lot more space to spread out, be loud, go pantsless in the kitchen, etc. He didn't do anything wrong, and while it sucks to be in the situation you're in, it's still better than if it were a few days before the lease ends and he still didn't have a place, with all the drama that could have led to.

Did he have his own room that you could AirBnB to make up some of the money?
posted by Mchelly at 12:37 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I honestly think he did the right thing here, and I think it would be a jerk move to try to put him on the hook for the whole rent for December if he'll only be there a week, some of which will be moving into the new place. I don't think he wronged you in any way - you were the one that started the emergency, so of course he had to react quickly.

As soon as you told him you were moving, that was his notice to do whatever he could to get a place. Waiting to make sure it was for exactly the same dates as you might have left him /homeless/, since he had no right to remain.
posted by corb at 12:38 PM on November 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

No, wow, I disagree with almost everyone. When you give someone 45 days' notice, then you both plan to move out at the same time, especially as it's at the end of a month. Yes, it is tough to move in a synchronized fashion, but that's just what you do; you both look for places with Jan 1 start dates. Wow, remind me to never let any of you all be my roommate.
posted by salvia at 12:49 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Some clarifying things: Our agreement only says that he is bound to pay rent by the 1st of each month so, as I said, he's really not obligated. When he moved in I asked him how much notice he'd need if I were to move and he said 30 days felt fair, so that was our written agreement. I acknowledge that this was a risk we were both taking and that he felt he had to act quickly. I suppose I'm feeling taken aback, since he said he'd plan to move after Christmas, and then sprung on me that he's only paying rent for 8 days. As I said, it sucks and my hands are tied. Thanks all!
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 12:49 PM on November 30, 2017

Why on earth does he/you think that moving partway through a month means you don't have to pay rent for the entire month? Triply so when its with one week notice??

I mean, even with adequate notice it's not like you could find someone to start renting right on Dec 8. There's a reason rent is typically described in $ per month. It's completely ridiculous for him to not to pay for all of Dec, without a previous agreement allowing you to do that. Would your landlord reduce your rent by 50$ if you leave Dec 29 instead of Dec 30? Yeah, didn't think so.

That said you might be screwed if he doesn't want to pay you, like you are in any other informal subletting scenario where your subletter stops paying you rent for any reason. Realistically there's not much you can do that won't cost more than the amount he owes you.
posted by randomnity at 12:52 PM on November 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Does the agreement also say how much rent is, if you have that in writing? If you didn't agree on it per-day, I don't know why you think your hands are tied from that perspective. From a practical perspective, if you at least go into the discussion like you believe you're owed the whole month, you might at least be able to get him to compromise and paying half.
posted by Sequence at 12:53 PM on November 30, 2017

I also think he should pay you for his share of the month. He said he was moving out at the end of the month and this is what you planned on. You could have avoided this by telling him with 30 days notice as per your agreement. Him assuming he can pay a pro-rated amount seems ridiculous to me. Why should you be punished for giving him notice?
posted by sockermom at 12:55 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

And with your update, your agreement states that he is bound to pay the Dec rent by Dec1, and that 30 days notice is required (not the 7 he gave you) . It doesn't say he gets a discount for leaving halfway into Dec. I seriously don't understand why either of you think he doesn't have to pay rent for all of Dec.
posted by randomnity at 12:55 PM on November 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

Our agreement only says that he is bound to pay rent by the 1st of each month so, as I said, he's really not obligated.

I don't track this at all. Why wouldn't it be...he is bound to pay rent for December by December 1st? In his shoes, I'd certainly expect to pay for the amount of time until I was told my housing would end. Especially given that the difference is pretty massive. Maybe if it was five days' difference, you could cover the pro-rated cost as a gesture of goodwill and apology for forcing the move-out, but not more than that.

In a competitive market, you may well be able to find a sublettor (or even airbnb) who wants a few weeks' housing to cover the gap. It's up to you - I'm sure it's not ideal while moving, not to mention probably not allowed by your lease - but if the price is right, someone will take it.
posted by mosst at 12:56 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

But yes, if that's already done, then your hands may be tied. It's a good idea to get a contract (or even just an email of expectations) done next time. Whatever is "right" may not be the same thing that small claims would find, and plus, if you both agreed to the pro-rated rent, he was perfectly within his rights to find a December 8th place and not expect to pay double rent.

Part of being the one on the lease is that you assume risk, unfortunately.
posted by mosst at 12:58 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If it helps you think of it as more fair, he is the one that bore all the risk in this situation:

* not entitled to legal protections of a tenant
* has no say at all in when he moves

and generally in economic systems people are compensated for risk in some way:

*getting to move out without being legally obligated to pay for rent when he's not living there.

If I were him I'd probably throw some money your way, maybe half the rent for that 3-week period he won't be occupying the room, but I understand that not everyone has enough money to be nice. I think the suggestion of Airbnb-ing his room is worth looking into!
posted by lalex at 12:59 PM on November 30, 2017 [25 favorites]

I think he's completely justified in what he did. Put it this way, if you'd told your room mate he had to leave at the end of the month and he couldn't find a place due to the tight market, would you be putting him up somewhere? There's nothing wrong with you looking after your best interests, but don't begrudge him when he does the same, you're the one with the power in this situation.
posted by Jubey at 1:19 PM on November 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

I agree that he's justified. He's already being forced to work with your schedule, having to move in what you call a competitive housing market without much notice. Your expectation that he move between Christmas and December 30 gives him a very narrow window to work with - it would have been amazing if he'd managed it. And yeah, if he hadn't been able to find a place, would you have offered to put him up?
posted by FencingGal at 1:28 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I mean...have you asked him to pay the full month? Presumably his agreement says rent is $x due by the y of each month.

My lease is clear on what I owe when and what the early move-out penalties are. I would never expect to pay pro-rated, but his situation is different.

Asking once is fair, pursuing it seems pointless and overly legalistic.
posted by kapers at 1:30 PM on November 30, 2017

It seems you confirmed how much notice your roommate required, which you met, but not how much notice you required, which they've met.

If you're asking my opinion, it's unreasonable for you to hold this against them either emotionally or financially.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:35 PM on November 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

Setting aside the legal/ethical questions, if money is tight, could you sublet the room for a few of those weeks?

With housing so tight in SF I imagine you might get some bites.
posted by kylej at 1:48 PM on November 30, 2017

Response by poster: I will definitely try to sublet the room for those three weeks. If I were him, I'd also try to lock down a place ASAP. But I also wouldn't expect to only pay rent for a week. I don't necessarily feel good about holding him to paying for the whole month, but I do want to talk to him about it and attempt to find some middle ground. I'm certainly not going to pursue it legally. At this point I think it's more of an argument about what's in good faith. Any tips on how to have this conversation? Thanks for all your input so far!
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 2:15 PM on November 30, 2017

You were 'terminating' his lease as of Dec. 31. You gave him 45ish days notice.

Full rent for December was due on Dec. 1. Why did he not pay full rent at that time?

If he moved out on Dec. 25, would he have cut his rent short by 6 days? At what point would he have paid the full December rent?

There is no reason he didn't pay the full December rent, regardless of when he moved out. If you were to move out today, you'd still be on the hook for the whole Dec. rent.
posted by hydra77 at 2:18 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ideally the person who leaves is supposed to give notice to the person left with the place, roommate or landlord. In your case this seems strangely inverted. If you took him on saying you would give him 30 days notice, and you informed him on Nov 15, he's on the hook at the most till Dec 15. Given that you had the privilege of calling the shots you either had to give him notice at the end of November, your agreed upon 30 days, or absorb what happens. He can't be expected to align precisely with your moving date. For next time clarify how long they owe rent and the other person will adjust their search accordingly.
posted by whatdoyouthink? at 2:21 PM on November 30, 2017

Best answer: Do you have any agreement in place, in the event that he wanted to move before you did? If you had asked for 30 days notice, then he owes you the whole month. If you asked for 1 weeks' notice, then he's in the clear.

As far as chatting with him about it, here's how I'd approach it: Hey Bob, I was expecting you to stick around until later this month, and I was actually counting on that rent money. I understand that you needed to grab that rental that you found, but it's leaving me in a tight spot. I'm going to try to sublet it for a bit of time to see if I can make up the $xxx dollars, but if that doesn't pan out, can we meet halfway?
posted by hydra77 at 2:23 PM on November 30, 2017

Did you end up with my old roommate?

The law provides assumptions when there is no written lease, since informal leases are common. (Which means that he's always had similar rights) In San Francisco, the notice requirement is based on the frequency of rent payments. If he pays rent once a month, then both the landlord/master tenant (that's you) and tenant must give at least 30 days notice.

He can't just spring a week's notice.

I get that it sucks to pay rent at two places. But in SF, that's really common. The alternative is giving notice before you've secured an apartment, which is very risky in this tight market.
posted by politikitty at 2:40 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would ask him to pay more because he originally told you he'd move out after Christmas and now, with one week's notice, he's telling you he's actually leaving on Dec. 8. I can understand not wanting to push him for the full amount, and I understand he wouldn't want to pay the full rent since you're essentially kicking him out, but maybe you can find a middle ground where he pays through the 15th?

It sounds like you let him off the hook pretty easily on the rent. Have you even tried to ask him for more? Everyone has their own ethical understanding of this stuff (I'm not a lawyer, so I won't touch that), but if I were him, I'd be expecting to pay all of December, personally.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:43 PM on November 30, 2017

But I also wouldn't expect to only pay rent for a week.

Why in the world not? I missed that this was even offered. That and the fact that this is in SF, which I also missed, I'd say you really shouldn't hold this against them.

Maybe I live in a different world or a different time. That's entirely possible.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:56 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I am another one who didn't think the roommate did anything wrong. The control was in your hands and the risk was in his. It would be nice if he agreed to pay for all or part of December, but I wouldn't expect it. I can imagine myself in a similar situation saying that I'd move out after Christmas because that's what I'd assume and I'd want to reassure the person that things were cool, but if I found another place before then... well, I'd have to take it in a competitive market.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:35 PM on November 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: So many differing opinions! Very enlightening. I'm going to discuss it with him tonight. If he's not willing to meet me halfway, I'll drop it. Lesson learned. It's not a battle worth fighting and I want to leave on good terms, and maybe I'll find someone who needs a place to crash for a few weeks.

(anyone need a place to crash in San Francisco?)
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 4:18 PM on November 30, 2017

I asked him how much notice he'd need if I were to move and he said 30 days felt fair, so that was our written agreement.

You asked him how much time he'd need to find another place. He told you 30 days, and you gave him 30 days. So your obligation was fulfilled. But he doesn't have a rental agreement with you or the landlord (and so bore all the risk) so it doesn't sound like you discussed (or that he agreed to) any notice for *him* moving out. Unless you haven't been clear.

It'd be 'nice' for him to try and line up his new place to align with moving out of your place so he can afford to be generous and pay the rest of the rent. But basically you told him he needed to be out by the 30th and if places are hard to find and he had to leap on somewhere, then so be it. Remember. You told him he had to be out. You didn't mutually agree to leave, you basically gave him his notice. I don't think he has any legal requirement to pay you rent when he's not living there, nor much of a moral one from my perspective. I think if he couldn't shift the move in date to align with yours to help YOU out, then I guess that's the price you pay for having a sub-tenant that was prepared to be so flexible and not demand an agreement (and so have rights).
posted by Brockles at 5:57 PM on November 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

Evicting someone in the month leading up to Christmas is not great, but hey, sometimes these things can't be helped and you gave him reasonable notice. I think he's a decent room mate in that he just accepted it and set about finding a place.

But to then get annoyed that he didn't manage to move out in the week between Christmas and New Year, in a hard rental market already and to charge him for this makes you a bit of a Scrooge. Given that to acquiesce to this really unreasonable demand means him risking being out on the street over Christmas just to try and time it to make it perfect for you. The person evicting him. I would drop it.
posted by Jubey at 6:11 PM on November 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: I haven't made any demands, y'all. Nor did I expect him to move out at the same time as me. HE offered post-Christmas as his timeline. Sheesh. I submitted a glowing reference so he could get the place! Signed, not a Scrooge
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 6:32 PM on November 30, 2017

I'm a landlord. If a tenant approached me with this situation, I would ask the tenant if they had a (signed, notarized, etc.) agreement with the housemate that specified the preferred timeline for both parties with respect to when this person moved out. If one didn't exist: yes, your hands are tied. You gambled, you assume the risk. Please don't be upset at others for pointing this out--without a formal agreement, you have no recourse and little-to-no wiggle room. It's an unfortunate situation for the both of you, but you don't have the upper hand here.

If your response to peoples' advice is, "sheesh," I suspect you already know this.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:13 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For the next time you're in this quasi-landlord role, I have three words of advice: first + last + deposit.
posted by salvia at 8:59 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

For the next time you're in this quasi-landlord role, I have three words of advice: first + last + deposit.

Heads up that this is actually illegal in some places.
posted by eisforcool at 5:19 AM on December 1, 2017

Where? Can you clarify?
posted by salvia at 7:02 AM on December 1, 2017

Well, for one example, it's illegal here in Washington, DC. See #2 here.
posted by capricorn at 8:16 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's illegal in Montreal
posted by eisforcool at 3:55 PM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Assuming you're in the US, for the next time you're in this quasi-landlord role, read some of the books from Nolo Press so you know your rights and obligations.
posted by Lexica at 4:42 PM on December 1, 2017

I live with a roommate - I'm on the lease, he's not.

Didn't you have a sublease agreement or roommate agreement between you and him? It should cover this situation.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:32 AM on December 2, 2017

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