Two Against One. Can We Drop Someone From Our Lease?
July 9, 2007 10:02 PM   Subscribe

How do I/how hard is it to take someone off a lease?

Okay, About two months ago, I moved into a 3 bedroom house with two friends I go to college with. All three of us signed the lease, and it was cosigned by my father, who put up the third required month's rent towards the security deposit.

One housemate, J, has been nothing but a pain with regards to financial issues. We had to cover his first month's rent, a pro-rated payment coming to slightly over half a regular month's rent, as he had no money left. Admittedly, he had been having trouble finding a job, though was employed at the time. He did not receive his first check until after the rent was due, but he did not offer anything he had. We threatened to take him to small claims court unless he paid us back1..

When J paid me, and the housemate back for this payment, he did it exceedingly grudgingly, and said he would take out a loan to cover his remaining share. We agreed under the condition that he not throw fits over paying bills.

When I informed him of cable and gas bills that arrived two weeks ago, he said he did not get paid until that coming Sunday. I informed him the bills were not due for two weeks. He still complained about being TOLD of the bills existence. Similarly, when the second month's rent was due, he threw a fit when I asked him for a check, as the loan had not come in yet.

Ultimately, I had to embarrass him in front of a friend he had brought over on Saturday to get his $15 share of that cable bill, and get the $45 he owed me for the first cable bill, and a SEPTA Transpass I bought him to get to his summer class2.. This, he had owed me, for nearly six weeks, even before the first month's rent was due.

He is leaving for California today, coming back August 1st, the day rent is due. I asked him to leave a post-dated check, and he exploded, calling his mother to get her to help him convince me to let him slide until his return, so he could pay all his remaining rent in one lump sum, as the loan he took out was delayed. He, essentially, accused me of extortion, even though this would be a post-dated check made out to the property managment company, not to me. Also, he left a threatening note to the other housemate, R, and I, causing R to fear for his life. Rather than live in a Demilitarized Zone, I told him that we're taking him off the lease ASAP.

So, first, do I have a case here? Secondly, I have contacted the property management people we are dealing with, and left a message explaining my situation: what can I expect to happen when I talk to them? Third, will I be able to take his person off the lease?

1. We only did this because of his cavalier attitude. It felt like he wouldn't pay us back.

2. A class he routinely showed up an hour late to—and failed, and then blamed me for it, saying he should never had taken the class by my suggestion.

posted by SansPoint to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Additional information. He's 33, we're in our early 20s. He's stated that when he lived on his own in California, his landlord didn't care if he paid rent two or three weeks late. We told him that this landlord is different. The lease says that after five days, they charge a 10% late fee, after ten, they send the account to collections, and after fifteen, they move to evict.
posted by SansPoint at 10:14 PM on July 9, 2007

do you still have the threatening note? if r can get a restraining order against him, he won't have any choice except to move out, and then you should be able to tell your landlord that he's left for that reason and should be taken off the lease.
posted by lia at 10:20 PM on July 9, 2007

lia, I do indeed.
posted by SansPoint at 10:26 PM on July 9, 2007

First off, I don't think it's a wise idea to bring your landlord/property management folks into your infighting. Try to deal with it reasonably without giving them an excuse to raise your rent when they draw up your new lease minus the offending roommate, or to deny you a new lease altogether when your current one is up.

Secondly, don't conflate the personal amounts of money you've essentially given him (as my dad says - a loan is only a loan if the person actually pays you back!) with the money he has owed as a tenant. The bus pas, and even the cable bill have nothing to do with your lease. Those are separate matters that your lease likely does not address.

Threats of taking him off the lease, etc, are probably a waste of your time, especially if he owes you money. Write out a letter to him (which he can then share with his mom, his lawyer, whatever) outlining all the times he's been late with rent, utilities, etc. Express your concern that he cannot afford living there, and if he cannot meet his portion of the lease (1/3 of the rent), then he needs to sublet. All three of you are responsible for the total rent, so if he doesn't come through, it's up to the other two (and your dad) to pay it, and he's using that to his advantage.

I've definitely had my share of roommate nightmares, with people fighting, not paying their rent/utilities, etc. It happens and the BEST way to deal with it is keep personal stuff (fights, arguments, girlfriends/boyfriends, dishes) out of the business stuff (rent, bills, etc) and work it out without resorting getting lawyers, landlords, the police or parents involved.
posted by SassHat at 10:35 PM on July 9, 2007

The problem, SassHat, is that the large amount of the fighting has been about business. The personal matters I am useing are examples as to why I no longer trust him.
posted by SansPoint at 10:38 PM on July 9, 2007

I don't think this is going to be as easy as you want it to be.

It's clear that you think of yourself as the "real" lessee, and that J's claim to the property is inferior to yours, but from what you said, you all signed the least. As far as I can tell, you, R, and J all have equal right to the property.

I would be surprised if he could unilaterally "dropped" from the lease without a court order. Your landlord couldn't "drop" you and R from the lease, after all.

As I see it, the four of you (you, R, J, and the landlord) made a legal agreement amongst yourselves that you and R now aren't happy with, and perhaps feel J breached. There unfortunately isn't usually a self-help remedy in such cases.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:45 PM on July 9, 2007

I don't think his claim is inferior to mine. I think he should just shut up and pay his rent and his share of the bills without it becoming an argument.
posted by SansPoint at 11:34 PM on July 9, 2007

We were only able to remove a person from our lease after he stabbed our room-mate, but it was because he stabbed a room-mate not because he was late with bills.
posted by Loto at 2:57 AM on July 10, 2007

Get a restraining order, if he cannot enter the apartment then that is a pretty good reason for the landlord to dump him.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:42 AM on July 10, 2007

SansPoint, I've gotten bad advice on what to do with a rental agreement problem here before. People told me that I had to just suck up and take it. My problem was a bit different than yours, I was trying to get a lease completely annulled or my name removed and people told me here that to do that would be impossible and I should suck up and be responsible for the full amount. It turned out they were wrong and that legally I could get off the lease and I was able to get off it with my full deposit refunded. The reason I was able to get off is because of a California law was favorable to me. If I hadn't managed to find a friend of a friend who was a law student who told me what to do then I would still be stuck on that lease.

Your situation is a bit different, but I think you should do what I did. First, try to find out what exactly your state says about removing roommates from lease. Each state has different laws so some states let you remove in a month while others take up to three if you have signed a yearly lease. California is a very hard state to remove people from leases in. I had a friend of a friend who was sexually assaulted by her roommate and the only way she could get him out in less than three months was by filing a restraining order. If you want someone removed here, depending on the type of lease, you can do it in one to three month's time as long as you follow the law.

You could try just asking your landlord. I've known some landlords who know the law very well and will help their tenants evict a roommate. My new landlord helped me with my rental problem. Far too often though, the landlord will not want to deal with the situation and will not be able to help you or tell you that there is nothing you can do. I suggest doing this next step anyway even if your landlord can help-

You need to find out exactly what the law says in your state about removing roommates. California has it all online but I couldn't find anything for PA. This is where I suggest trying to find a friend or a of a friend who's a lawyer or a law student. You can either ask/pay them to look it up for you or just hire them to deal with it.

Once you find out the law, then you know how you can proceed. Once you figure out what's the earliest you can get them out by then typically you send them a certified copy of an eviction notice that states their must move out day. My friend who went through this process here in California filed a copy with a court as well. Here, once you do all that stuff, if the person remains after the final date of the eviction notice, you can call the police and get them forcibly removed for trespassing. If you can't find a lawyer and your landlord is no help, then call the cops and ask them what they need for them to remove your roommate.

Next time you rent, get references from past roommates and make them put down a security deposit and/or first month's rent before they move in. If they have trouble doing that, don't sign a lease with them.
posted by avagoyle at 11:09 AM on July 10, 2007

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