An unhappy move
August 3, 2007 4:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm being kicked out of my apartment, but I've done nothing wrong! Can I do anything?

I live in a fairly nice, large downtown apartment which is run by a building manager who answers to the building owner. I've met and deal with the manager on a monthly basis, but have never met or spoken with the owner. There are 6 upstairs units in the building and one downstairs business area for lease. I've lived in the unit for 1 year now. When I originally signed the lease, it was for 6 months with the understanding that it would go month to month after that (a big mistake, I realize now). I had been planning on leaving the city around this September, though that never panned out, so I was planning on staying in the apartment for at least another 6 months to a year. That's just not going to happen, now.

On August 1st, the building manager and I had scheduled a maintenance man to come repair my dishwasher. I told him to come in if I wasn't there--as usual--and he came and fixed the appliance, also dropping off a notice that my lease is being terminated and that I must leave in 30 days.

I immediately tried to call the building manager, as this was a total shock to me. I live 2 blocks from where I work, I no longer own a car, and I pay my rent one month in advance. I've had no problems with the unit, had everything repaired promptly and have kept it immaculate, regularly cleaning the carpets and obsessively washing/dusting/wiping down everything else. All of the tenants have become great friends of mine, and life is, as they say, good. The manager would not answer her phone. I called 6 times in the span of 2 hours before getting a response, and she feigned ignorance. She knew I was being kicked out, but couldn't tell me why.

She would not give me a reason for the eviction, stating that I have been a great tenant and that she would gladly give me a recommendation, but that the owner has decided he wants the unit for "other purposes" and that she doesn't know what's going on or why he wants it. I demanded to speak with him but he is conveniently on vacation and I have been unable to reach him by cellphone. The building manager--despite our regular contact--made no indication that this would be happening anytime soon, and has never once mentioned that my apartment might be needed for something else. In fact, in the morning I had spoken with her about the dishwasher, and she conveniently forgot to mention that I was being evicted, but managed to have a nice conversation with me about everything else going on in my life.

This is what I strongly suspect happened: the downstairs business tenant was a record store, and they relocated. The new tenant is a sandwich chain opening their first store in my city. They have been working on construction for about 4 months now, and are planning to open in another month or two. I think that the owner has decided to give my apartment to someone affiliated with this store so that they can live and watch over it--and have some nice digs.

Neither my building manager or owner has told me why I'm being kicked out and it is infuriating me. This is the worst possible time for it to happen: I have been trying to dedicate this month, August, to studying for the GRE which I have scheduled for mid-September. Now I will have to concentrate on not only moving, but finding a new place, within walking distance of work. I also happen to live in a college town, and all of the units in the city are pretty much rented up now, as August is when school starts and consequently the worst month to start an apartment hunt. Also, I have no car. After a few days of calling, I've realized that all downtown apartments are full, and I'm simply not going to get one.

Is there anything I can do here? I feel that I have been evicted for personal reasons. I'm the only tenant under 25 and though I am established, with a good job and a college degree, but I hardly fit the stereotypical mold, so to speak. On top of all that I have said, two units came available in the apartment complex just last month (an incredible rarity, as these apartments are highly valued and in a great location), and one was rented to a couple, the other to a single female. Why wasn't that used for whatever purpose mine will be used for? Why wasn't I offered a chance to switch apartments?

I realize that on a month-to-month lease, I can be kicked out for any reason at all, but this just makes no sense to me, and the timing couldn't be worse. I want to have some kind of recourse but I feel completely on my own and unprotected. Is this simply a case of "life isn't fair, move on?" or is there something I can do, legally, or not? Even if I cannot keep the apartment for another year, what can I do to make this landlords life hell? Can I stay in the unit for another month past the eviction? Can I hold the keys? Is there anything? Am I just whining? Sorry for the long post, but I'm in a bad spot right now.

I'm in Nebraska, if that matters at all for the legal aspect.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (20 answers total)
You could try offering more rent/month, outbidding whomever is moving in. If you go that route, make sure you sign a lease this time.

Otherwise, you've got bupkis. It's a month-to-month rental, you got your 30 days notice and yes, life's not fair and move on and out. (do it with dignity, for pete's sakes. None of this hiding the keys or making the LL's life hell nonsense.)
posted by jamaro at 4:14 PM on August 3, 2007

Nebraska Landlord-Tenant laws, located here don't seem to offer any resolution in the event of notice of eviction(is that the right word for this?).

Have you thought about trying to get a petition signed by your neighbors to possibly convince the landlord to let you stay?
posted by skwillz at 4:34 PM on August 3, 2007

Most of the details in your long post are extraneous. When you're month to month, you can be asked to leave for any LEGAL reason. The illegal reasons are things like race and sex and religion, and it doesn't sound like that comes in to play.

I've been in your situation, and it's really shitty to have to uproot your life on such short notice. You might ask if you can have an extra month, at least, but I wouldn't expect more than that if the landlord has plans for the place.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:36 PM on August 3, 2007

Do not make your landlord's life hell unless you'd like to screw up a reference to a future landlord.

And yeah, it's a month-to-month lease. You got 30 days notice, which is legal. You don't say where in Nebraska you live, but if your city has a tenants union, you could certainly contact them to see if they think you have a meaningful discrimination claim, but from what you've presented here (IANATenantsLawyer!) it doesn't seem like anything beyond your "feeling."

I sympathize with the fact that the timing sucks -- I've had to move during terrible crunch times as well (a few years ago I had to move in the week between a major deadline at work and going into the hospital for major surgery, which happened to fall two days after Christmas). But timing just sometimes randomly sucks in life -- apartments, jobs, relationships, etc. don't come with a guarantee to always fit in with your plans. You can deal with it well, or you can deal with it badly, but you've got to deal with it one way or another.
posted by scody at 4:37 PM on August 3, 2007

According to this Nebraska legal aid thing, the landlord can terminate the lease for no reason so long as he follows the procedure for doing that as laid out in the lease itself.

Though there might be additional rules that the landlord has to follow depending on what city you live in, you're probably out of luck.
posted by Zach! at 4:38 PM on August 3, 2007

I realize that on a month-to-month lease, I can be kicked out for any reason at all

Sad to say that's the only important thing here, short of convincing the owner that he should let you stay, and odds are he doesn't even want to talk to you.

On the up side, I've been through similar circumstances (usually with buildings going condo) with year-long leases, but that's kind of what you sign up for with an apartment versus a house; if you keep the bills, taxes and insurance paid, you get to keep your house (short of it being condemned, of course) but keep the bills paid on an apartment and you're at the mercy of the landlord (within the boundaries of the law, of course.)

Sorry to hear about it, but you don't really have much in the way of options here.
posted by davejay at 5:28 PM on August 3, 2007

pretend I didn't say "on the up side" in the previous comment, because there isn't really an upside -- I typed that, realized there was no upside, and forgot to delete it.
posted by davejay at 5:28 PM on August 3, 2007

I'd definitely contact a tenants' union in your area, if one exists. There may be some sort of discrimination angle at work, if the landlord is simply going to rent the apartment to someone else. I agree with the other posters that it's probably cut and dry, but it couldn't hurt to talk to a tenants' union person, just in case.

Sorry to hear about your misfortune.
posted by Brak at 5:53 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with everyone who said that's just what a month-to-month lease is. If you were giving your 30 day notice, would you think it was reasonable for the landlord to make you stay another 6 to 12 months? Or to scrutinize your reason for leaving as to whether it was sufficiently reasonable, etc.?
posted by mcguirk at 6:43 PM on August 3, 2007

Call the higher ups, explain your situation, and if they dont want to play ball offer to pay 100 dollars or so extra a month and demand a 12 month lease. That's a tough offer to pass up. Maybe start with 75 and work up? Up to you.

an incredible rarity, as these apartments are highly valued and in a great location

Well, thats your problem. You have a sweet apartment and the management thinks they can get a lease for more money.

You may be screwed if management wants to give your spot to a friend or relative. Still offering a 10 or 15% rent increase and a lease may go a long way.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:52 PM on August 3, 2007

You're not being evicted. Your landlord is just not renewing the lease, which is not the same thing.
posted by oaf at 7:23 PM on August 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

I suggest you ask to speak to the building owner. If you've been a good tenant this shouldn't be a problem.

The angle you should take would be, "I've been a great tenant, I love the apartment, I was really planning on staying, I'd be cool with paying (significantly more money)." State what you'd be willing to pay. Also in this discussion, maybe towards the end if you make no headway, you might mention that 30 days is tough for you because of the GRE and if this could be extended to 60 days it would make your life easier. As a final question if you get nowhere, you might ask the owner if he has any other units vacant or coming vacant, or if he knows anyone who might.

Since you have no legal leg to stand on - and you certainly don't - and since it would be burning bridges, I strongly recommend against doing or threatening anything negative against the apartment, the owner, or the manager. At best this will waste your time; it will poison important relationships, and if you take it far enough it could land you in jail.

The final thing you may choose to think about is how many times you've phoned the manager in the last year to ask for something - including repairs. Although it is very unfair to tenants, it is certainly true that the best tenants are the ones who pay their rent on time and never bother management for anything; taking good care of the unit comes in a distant third. If you have asked for a lot of repairs in a short time, your owner's idea of what kind of a tenant you are may be very different from yours - unfair though it may be.

Finally, I would note that although you have been served a 30-day notice to quit the premises, you don't actually have to quit the premises in 30 days. If you stay longer, you're liable for paying rent (which the landlord won't accept), but it can take several more months for the landlord to get a court order to have the sheriff be present, physically evict you, and change the locks. Be careful, though, because you won't know when it's coming, and you'll risk seizure and forfeiture of your belongings in lieu of back rent; and you'll wind up not getting your deposit back too, most likely.

Your landlord is aware of this possibility, and it is the reason I suggested asking to change the 30 day notice to 60 days. Most landlords would far rather change a 30-day notice to a 60-day notice, politely and in writing, rather than face this kind of protracted legal ordeal with a non-moving evictee.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:28 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and do check your original lease document. You may be guaranteed 60 days; in that case often the 30-day notice would be void.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:31 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you do end up having to move, request a move-out cleaning checklist and make sure that the guidelines in your lease and local tenancy act are all in agreement. Take photographs before you move out -- of everything. The inside of the stove and fridge, insides of closets, bathtub, floors, etc. Keep receipts for everything. If the landlord is booting you out to get more money from someone else, they may also be the type to manufacture stories about the state of the apartment. If you have photographic evidence, this will help tremendously, assuming you do clean properly.
posted by acoutu at 9:23 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Landlord hat on here. Month-to-month is just that. By accepting a change from lease to m-to-m, you signalled to the landlord that you weren't very sure you were going to stay very long, even though that was by no means your intent. (If you ever let slip your September move plans, he may have the sense you could give him 30 days' notice at any time.) This puts the landlord in a position of potentially having empty space burning money. Of course he's going to drop you the moment he has somebody who will pony up and guarantee him an income.

I think your best case scenario, given that you may well be right he has someone lined up, is to ask for another month to give you time to find a new place and move. If he's at all reasonable that's something he'll consider, as long as you're paying up front.

But yes, document the condition of the apartment at check-out, for your protection.
posted by dhartung at 12:19 AM on August 4, 2007

Great advice here, so I'll just add that you shouldn't take it personally. He may just need an apartment for a relative, or someone may have offered him a lot of money for a long term lease, and it looks better than month to month. I agree with the offer more money, etc, but mostly you should focus on finding a new place.

Don't despair, I've been in a similar situation where nothing is available, and then right before move out date, a bunch of apartments open up. The same might happen for you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:50 AM on August 4, 2007

All this "month-to-month" means you have no rights is not true in a number of California cities. Sounds like someone already checked the Nebraska code, so, sorry for the OP. But just FYI for anyone else with this topic in the future. In Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, etc, they have to have a specific reason to kick you out -- they can't just suddenly find someone they like better.
posted by salvia at 3:34 PM on August 4, 2007

Uh, maybe I shoulda proofread that comment. Let me try again:

All these "month-to-month leases mean you have no rights" comments do not hold true in a number of California cities. It does sounds like it holds in Nebraska, so, I feel bad for the OP.

But just FYI for anyone else with this topic in the future -- in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, etc, they have to have a specific reason to kick you out. They can't just suddenly find someone they like better.
posted by salvia at 3:36 PM on August 4, 2007

The only strategy with any possibility of working would be to offer the landlord more money.

Other than that, this is precisely what one should expect in a month-to-month arrangement.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:59 PM on August 4, 2007

Just one other suggestion: could you be moved to another unit in the same complex? It's still moving, but you'd still be close to work, friends, etc.

Perhaps if there is something coming up soon, but not immediately, a deal could be worked out.
posted by frykitty at 1:07 PM on August 6, 2007

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