Am I screwed?
September 30, 2007 8:04 AM   Subscribe

yet another Roommatefilter: Subletter informed us yesterday that she would not be staying for October. Problem- she had not planned on paying for it.

Any legal recourse?

Any way nice way let this bitch know how badly she's screwed us over?

How can we make sure she learns her lesson? This girl is 17 and it's her first place away from her parents. I'm afraid if we let her off too easy and just absorb the financial screwage, she'll think it's ok.

posted by sunshinesky to Human Relations (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you think she even has the money? Most kids at 17 don't exactly have savings, I'm guessing if she wasn't planning on paying rent for October, that money is long gone. It really isn't worth your time if at the end of the day she has $57 in her bank account.
posted by whoaali at 8:10 AM on September 30, 2007

Yeah, if this was a legal sublet, then sue her.
posted by Falconetti at 8:12 AM on September 30, 2007

I'd keep away from the "bitch screwed us over" and shift to the "oh that's impossible" miss manners way of dealing with it. "No, you can't give us one day notice that you are moving out. We require [whatever your agreement was, you did have an areement, right] and we'll need that from you."

Basically, do you want to try to find a way to make her pay you, or do you want to just "get back at her"? If she's not paying and moving out anyhow there are some variables that need to be investigted. This, like all roommate questions depends entirely on the specifics

- did you have a written or verbal agreement about the move-out terms?
- where do you live, geographically?
- is this a legal or an illegal sublet?
- did she pay you any deposits that you can withhold?
- is it going to be difficult to re-rent the room? (I know that's not the point and that it's not your responsibility to make up for her shortcomings and that in most ethical universes she did you wrong but this becomes less of an issue if it's just feeling shitty about it and less dealing with the loss of actual cash)
- what exactly happened?

So, you need to make up your mind about a few tings, think about the answers to these questions and decide what to do moving forward. Whether you have legal recourse depends pretty much entirely on these questions. At the very least you can be a bad reference for her for future places to rent, but this isn't a very big stick to hold against someone generally.
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 AM on September 30, 2007

Tell her that it's standard for renters to pay a deposit to cover their last month's rent in order to prevent this type of situation, but that, since you neither asked her for that deposit or asked her to agree to give you a certain amount of notice, that now you are sad.
posted by bingo at 8:14 AM on September 30, 2007 [4 favorites]

In many jurisdictions, a contract with a minor is voidable. If that were the case then you wouldn't be able to sue her. It looks like Ontario contract with minors law is a bit more complicated though, so it might still be possible. You should research it more fully before taking action.
posted by grouse at 8:17 AM on September 30, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, I figured I was pretty SOL.

There was an aggreement of sorts a simple verbal "don't move out without one month's notice/rent".

The reason she is moving out is because she wanted to move in with a friend. The reason she said she didn't tell us until now is "cuz it sucks".

Mostly I want some magical way of approching her that will result in my receipt of the rent. I'm still SOL eh?
posted by sunshinesky at 8:22 AM on September 30, 2007

Bingo, that's not what the deposit is for. Or rather, it's only what a portion of it is for.

"First, last, and deposit" is quite common. The "deposit" part of this is actually to cover any damage the renter may cause to the property, and that's why you leave it.

The "last" bit, if it exists, is to prevent this happening. If it doesn't exist, in some places it's definitely *not* kosher to just leave the deposit as your last month's rent.

You should also tell her that most legal agreements require at least 30 days notice; your jurisdiction may even have this as the standard agreement when nothing is officially set up otherwise. And that it just isn't *polite* to try to move out with less.
posted by nat at 8:30 AM on September 30, 2007

Contracts with minors for "necessities" are not voidable, FYI. A contract for shelter would (should) hold up. IANAL.
posted by andrewdunn at 8:39 AM on September 30, 2007

Sounds like you're out of luck if it was just a verbal agreement. You might be able to take her to small claims court if you had anything in writing, but it doesn't sound like you do.
posted by adustum at 8:59 AM on September 30, 2007

nat, I'm well aware of the various types of deposits. But the fact remains that as the landlord, you either take one or you don't. If sunshinesky had taken a deposit against damages to the walls, but not against the last month's rent, do you think he'd be returning that deposit to his renter right now?
posted by bingo at 9:01 AM on September 30, 2007

In many US jurisdictions, contracts with minors just don't work as one might hope, no matter what the contract is about. I mean, in many states 17-year-olds can't even legally consent to sex. Basically, a contract with a 17-year-old is the same as a contract with a 3-year-old under the law. Dunno about Canada, but I'm guessing that a lawsuit is just not going to be very productive.

1) The contract is probably void due to the age of the renter
2) Verbal contracts are typically unenforceable anyway.
3) Even if you won, a 17-year-old isn't exactly a treasure trove of cash. You probably still wouldn't be paid.

In the future, you might ask for first and last or you might just not sub-let to a 17-year-old or you might have a written agreement or all of the above. Count it as a hard-learned lesson and move on.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 9:03 AM on September 30, 2007

Call her parents.
posted by fshgrl at 9:10 AM on September 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Personally, I'm afraid that if you sue her based on an "agreement of sorts," you'll think that's OK.
posted by rhizome at 9:27 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Call her parents.

Did they by any chance provide the first check? If so, inform them that you consider it a contract with them.

In the future get first, last, and deposit. That's three months rent to move in. Some people won't be able to take the place, and that's a good thing. When a subletter tells you on the 10th that they won't be staying, you will have that month, plus the one month to be returned when they give you the key back.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try telling her the situation. She can wait and live with you guys for another month and have no legal problem, or she can move out early, and you can take her to small claims court. If it's likely she'll think it's a bluff, you could get one of the small claim court forms and fill it out and show it to her.

(If you want, you might want to make an agreement with her that she'll only have to pay for the part of the month that you haven't found anyone to take her place.)

P.S. If you feel like sharing, I'll bet it's an interesting story how a 17y.o. came to move out of her parent's place and into yours.
posted by JakeLL at 10:01 AM on September 30, 2007

JakeLL: just look at sunshinesky's AskMe tags. There's a whole novel there.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:17 AM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Definitely call her parents, and definitely show her the small claims form. At the very least, you need to scare the shit out of her.

Better yet, send her parents an official-looking bill for the October rent, with whatever legal language you can find/get away with stating non-payment consequences.

Can't hurt to scare the shit out of them too (IANAL, nor a Canadian.)
posted by nax at 10:23 AM on September 30, 2007

Oh, and everybody on AskMe who has read one of these situations (seems like daily), stop subletting rooms. It just never seems to work out.
posted by nax at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2007

Do you want your money, or do you want her to learn not to do this in the future?

If the second one is what you're after, suing her will probably be counterproductive. You might sit down and explain how you won't have enough money coming in to cover the rent, don't have time to find a new renter as you would if she had told you sooner, and explain what you feel she should have done.

If you just want your money, in the US (IANAL, and this is based on some hazy recall from a class I took some time back), there is some sort of legal precedent that parents have to pay certain expenses incurred by their minor children for things like food, shelter, etc. I have even less of an idea what the situation is in Canada. No matter what the actual laws are, you might have some success contacting the parents and explaining the situation. I would avoid referring to the former roommate as "this bitch" if you take this route.

In the future, collect some sort of deposit and last month's rent upfront. Tenants take off suddenly, it happens.
posted by yohko at 10:40 AM on September 30, 2007

A 17 your old would likely not have any concept of why she would have to pay rent for an apartment that she was not living in.

I'd say give it up.

(askme sure makes me I glad that I don't have to deal with rent/roommates/leases anymore)
posted by davey_darling at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2007

If you want your money, just read the Ontario Tenancy Act. In lieu of what is stated in the (non-existent?) written lease agreement, the Act applies. Your tenant is legally required to give 60 days' notice. If it's just week to week or daily tenancy, they only have to give 28 days' notice.
posted by acoutu at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2007

If you were also 17, what you would probably do is freak out emotionally. "But what are we going to do?? Rent is due! We have to send them $2100. Bob only has $700 and I only have $700! How are we going to pay?? You said you'd give us 30 days notice." I'm not saying you should necessarily handle it this way, but it would communicate "this is a real problem" in a way she might understand. Act like it's her problem (it being, where that other $700 comes from) because it should be.
posted by salvia at 10:58 AM on September 30, 2007

Emphasize that the money is now going to come out of YOUR pockets. And because you all had an agreement, she now owes you money.

Her options: a) Stay till the end of October. b) Move in with the friend; don't pay rent to the friend for the first month, and fulfill her rent obligation to you. You'll pay her back if you find someone to move in very soon. c) Just leave and pay nothing.

If she won't budge from c), maybe you can talk her into paying half, and leaving October 15.
posted by wryly at 11:59 AM on September 30, 2007

Put on your best "you've been sent to the Principal's Office" fans and sit her down for a talk. Explain why it is not permissible to give you only one day's notice, including such concepts as the fact that her actions are affecting other people , she's responsible for October's rent, the importance of standing by your promises, etc.

No name calling, no hysterics. Be the grownup. I wouldn't bother threatening to sue her. She'll know it's an empty threat. You could possibly bill her or her parents.

Does this sound condescending? Yeah, a little. But she apparently was not taught to take responsibility for herself and her actions. She should feel like she's 'in trouble'.
posted by desuetude at 12:11 PM on September 30, 2007

If you do need to sue through small claims, it probably wouldn't cost you anything. You just fill out the application where you declare that you're in dire financial straits.
posted by acoutu at 3:23 PM on September 30, 2007

desuetude is absolutely right; you need to calmly explain that this is not how the adult world works, and that she is being horribly rude and putting you in an impossible economic pinch for no reason at all. Tell her that she can use the month's notice to have a more leisurely move, but you will be requiring her to live up to her own words.
posted by mediareport at 3:29 PM on September 30, 2007

Oh, and *never, ever* do this again without a written agreement.
posted by mediareport at 3:30 PM on September 30, 2007

("face" not "fans" in the first sentence of my comment above)
posted by desuetude at 3:35 PM on September 30, 2007

You could always try to get her on tape admitting the terms that she originally agreed to (video or audio)- but don't make a big deal about doing so. Once you have it on tape, show it to her and let her know that you will be filing a case in small claims court unless she pays up (whether you actually do or not is up to you)- and let her know that since you have her verbally agreeing on tape it will be the key piece of the case (make something legal sounding up). Maybe it would work.

A fun scenario would be to have a friend walking through the apartment making a video for fun and come across the roomie and say to the tape "and this is the roomie who screwed us- didn't you promise to give us x-notice before moving? And did you?"- maybe she'll fall for the bait...
posted by MayNicholas at 3:42 PM on September 30, 2007

did you have a written or verbal agreement about the move-out terms?

Doesn't matter. Minors can't enter into a binding contract.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:20 PM on September 30, 2007

In Ontario, they can sometimes.
posted by grouse at 12:01 AM on October 1, 2007

Um, everyone talking about first + last + deposit? Not legal in Ontario. Up here, all you can legally require is 1st & last. Nothing more.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:24 AM on October 1, 2007

Minors can't enter into a binding contract.

As mentioned above, they can for necessities like food and shelter.
posted by oaf at 7:31 AM on October 1, 2007

Up here, all you can legally require is 1st & last.

You can't require security deposits in Ontario?
posted by oaf at 7:32 AM on October 1, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, so I pulled the principal face out.

The conversation went well, but her asshole father came in and watched, which I found to be very rude. He also interrupted me to speak to her in spanish. Apparently manners run in the family. He offered no repayment, despite his affluence.

She told me she would find someone to take the room or repay us 100$ per month. I told her money would cure all wounds and that was that.

5 minutes later her father told my boyfriend that she would be finding us a "replacement". I'm not sure she realises we have to approve.

She left her keys today, so who knows what happens next.

Who teaches their children to ignore their financial responsibilities?!
posted by sunshinesky at 2:19 PM on October 1, 2007

Well, congrats for doing the right thing.

Gods know what the family dynamic is that led to the situation you describe. (Maybe the asshole father didn't offer payment to "teach her a lesson?" that he apparently never found time to teach her himself, the easy way?)
posted by desuetude at 2:47 PM on October 1, 2007

oaf, sorry for the delay in responding.

No. In Ontario in a monthly tenancy (whether leased or month-to-month), the maximum that a landlord can require on the move-in date is two months' rent. And, more to the point, the final months' rent can only be used to pay rent, and cannot be used for repairs/etc.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:29 PM on October 4, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed, if you just want to berate the poster the place to do that is in METATALK, not here
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:23 AM on October 5, 2007

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