How do we kick out our roommate?
April 27, 2008 3:37 PM   Subscribe

How do we kick out our deeply entrenched but antagonistically unpleasant housemate?

I'll try to keep this short.. I live in a large house with a total of 6 people, none of whom are on any sort of lease or rental agreement. The house is owned by a woman in another state who takes our rent and nothing more. There have been many, many generations of roommates since the original agreement and none of those people live in the house now or have for years.

The roommate who has lived here the longest has on 4 separate occasions in the last 18 months given 30 days notice verbally, then rescinded it. This happened again this month, this time everyone else in the house wants to enforce it and remove her.

She is firmly rooted here however, and is the only person who ever talks with the owner of the home as rare as that is. She has made everyone here miserable and asserts that it is "her house" for no logical reason.

We intend to tell her that she can no longer live here, and the expected response is going to be a refusal to move. At that point, what is the best course of action?
posted by mediocre to Human Relations (26 answers total)
Next time she gives notice, ask for it in writing. Then find a new roommate.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:43 PM on April 27, 2008

You can't do anything. Only the landlord can. If you try this without the landlord, you'll only make a mess. If the landlord won't kick her out then your options are put up with her or leave yourself.
posted by winston at 3:46 PM on April 27, 2008

Response by poster: She's just the one who has lived here the longest. 3 years versus everyone elses 1-2. By entrenched, I just mean she has a ton of shit and the biggest bedroom.

I am going to try to obtain the landlords contact info without having to talk to the problem roommate and establish with the owner that the problem roommate will no longer be living here. Hopefully that will negate any attempts at sabotage from the problem roommate..
posted by mediocre at 3:49 PM on April 27, 2008

The buildings department in your city should be able to tell you who owns the building.
posted by nicwolff at 3:59 PM on April 27, 2008

any chance a "missed" rent payment would result in the owner getting in touch? or is everything handled through the undesireable roomie? (well, not missed, but late, with an explanation of the perhaps justified reason)

if it is really difficult to get in touch with the owner, id pay a $25 late fee for that.

of course, im sure my credit reflects this attitude...
posted by gcat at 4:16 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I actually just found the landlords contact info, have tried to call but there was no answer yet.. so I have the owners contact info no problem..
posted by mediocre at 4:19 PM on April 27, 2008

So let me get this straight:
- Nobody living in the house has anything approaching a lease agreement.
- You only recently found out the landlord's contact information
- You've been living in the place for almost two years?

You, my friend, have a helluva lot more problems than a problem roommate. You do realize your living space is at stake? At any point, the landlord can kick you out? What guarantee do you have that when the landlord hears your complaints she won't decide to kick you out for causing problems with her favored tenant?

Basically, you have no legal standing to kick this woman out. Period. You can't tell the landlord to do anything, you can't tell the roommate to do anything, and no attorney in their right mind would argue you have any sort of case. You cannot make this happen simply because you want it to.

If you got a lease drawn up that had all of your roommates besides the problem roommate there, then you would be getting somewhere. But the landlord would have to be willing to do that--which unless she wanted to kick out the first roommate anyway, I don't know why she would. And from an ethical standpoint, doing that behind problem roomie's back is a pretty fucking dick move.
posted by Anonymous at 4:31 PM on April 27, 2008

Depending on what county you are in, you may be able to check with the appraisal district (or whatever it is in your state) property tax rolls online. It should list the owner's name and contact information.

Contact the landlord. If five of you make it clear that you will all stay and find a new roommate to replace the bad one, she may prefer to have 5-6 guaranteed tenants than risk all of you moving out and leaving her with just one tenant paying her rent.

A lot of people assume that the problem roommate is best buds with the landlord, it may not be the case. Just because she's the only one in contact doesn't mean that the landlord favors her over the other 5 people sending her money each month.
posted by fructose at 4:51 PM on April 27, 2008

We intend to tell her that she can no longer live here, and the expected response is going to be a refusal to move.

What schroedinger said. What authority do you think you have to do this? From what you've written it appears that you have none.

At that point, what is the best course of action?

For you to move.
posted by grouse at 4:53 PM on April 27, 2008

As much as you dislike this woman, one way that certainly will *not* get her to move is to call her a whore or any other antagonistic names. That will just escalate things.

Calling women whores when you don't like them doesn't do anyone any good, actually.

You don't have many options, as others have said. I had an antagonistic roommate situation a few years ago (hoo boy!), and asked him to leave. It was the most unpleasant scenario I'd ever been in. He didn't want to be there any more than I wanted him to be. When I told him I wanted him to move out, I had to suffer in silence as he screamed at me, telling me all my friends hated me, that I was a terrible person and other such charming things. We were on a lease together, and I paid him back his deposit in full (and kept the receipt) and paid for his moving truck. I was motivated--at that point it was just a matter of whatever worked. He stiffed me on some bills, too, but he was OUT. It took me a long time to recover from living in such a toxic situation.

If I were you, with such a tenuous situation as you have lack-of-lease-wise, I'd just suck it up and move myself.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:24 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

On what grounds do you intend to ask her to leave? It sounds like you want her out because she's unpleasant, which I can certainly understand. But all you have to go on is a verbal 30 day notice from her to you, which is not required or binding by any standard under the sun. I would not suggest using that as any kind of rationale because it won't stand up.

If you all want her out, you need to all stand together and bring unanimous social pressure to bear upon her. But this won't be easy, and shouldn't be taken lightly. It helps to have good reasons. And you all need to be prepared to leave if you want to get the landlord's attention. If she has the landlord's ear she could pull some maneuvers to make all of your lives more complicated if she wanted.

Entrenched, unpleasant people who've been there longer than you often win. I find that only cheap people with a very high tolerance for a crappy living situation wind up being this "entrenched senior renter" in the first place and it can be much harder and slower to maneuver them into leaving than it is to find a better situation yourself. I know it feels like "losing" if you move out instead of her, but if you goal is to create a better living situation for yourself, you should consider all options and not make this a vendetta.

You should think long and hard before you undertake to remove someone from their residence. You don't get to overturn someone's housing arrangement just to make your own more pleasant. Well, I take that back. If you own the place or are the primary lease signatory, you do. Not when you're a renter without a lease, though. If there are solid enough arguments to unify the rest of the roommates, then present them to her as a unified front. That's your best shot.
posted by scarabic at 5:38 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

fructose has it perfectly. Present it to the landlord as you've presented it here - she's given notice four times and the rest of you are tired of her disrespect for you and the disruption she's been causing and want to continue living there without her, which would actually be less disruptive for the landlord, too. Be sure to point out that last part.

But I'd also start looking at other places now as a backup if I were you.

At any point, the landlord can kick you out? What guarantee do you have that when the landlord hears your complaints she won't decide to kick you out for causing problems with her favored tenant?

I don't know where mediocre lives, but it's the law in most (if not all) U.S. states that even without a written lease, a landlord has to give notice and follow legal procedures before trying to kick someone out. I'm pretty sure that would apply in this years-old situation, even though mediocre never talked with the landlord directly. Probably best to call a local tenants rights organization or legal aid office to be sure.
posted by mediareport at 5:41 PM on April 27, 2008

I'm betting that the owner will say, "you kids work it out on your own." If she cared about really managing the property, she'd know the identities of her tenants, FFS.

You can have a house meeting and try to pressure her to leave. You can agree that whoever gets along with her the best or is the most persuasive have a private chat with her about her behavior. I don't think you have any way to make her leave, though.
posted by desuetude at 6:18 PM on April 27, 2008

Since only the landlord has any legal grounds to make this happen, I'd make sure your group of roommates is very firmly behind you, and then present it to the landlord as 'The five of us are looking for your help on this issue.' Only if the landlord refuses to help you under those circumstances should you consider moving on to 'The five of us will be forced to move out unless you can help us with this issue.'

Be prepared to move out.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:19 PM on April 27, 2008

Talk to your landlord. I was in a similar situation (kind of) and I really wish I did. I moved out (I did even have the landlord's number and the entrenched roommate did all the lease stuff for them). The entrenched roommate was insane and controlling, after I moved out (I was only there for 2 months it was that bad) the landlord called asking me why I left, apparently the house had a really high turnover rate and they had no idea why. They told me they were going to kick her out. I could have saved myself a lot of hassle and handpicked my next roommate if I had just taken the extra effort to find the landlords and not just assumed they were going to take the one roommate's side. Landlords are business people, if 5 of their tenants hate one person, they'd much rather lose one person than 5 of you, it's a pretty easy decision to make.
posted by whoaali at 6:37 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've been there. Your landlord really doesn't care about any drama in your house, so long as she receives rent. In other words, the landlord has zero motivation or reason to get involved.

I suggest all of you having a sit-down with the roommate to find out what's going on with the 30-day notice stuff.

If that doesn't work, you and your roommates (minus the unpleasant one) could contact the landlord and propose a 1-year lease at or above the current rate. This might satisfy your landlord's desire for steady income.
posted by zippy at 1:10 AM on April 28, 2008

Your best action is to meet with the other 4 people, and contact the landlord as a group. State specifically you are having issues with tenant X, and all of you have decided either she goes or you all go.

Tenant X has been able to get away with what she is doing simply because of the nature of the house. It has been free flow, and so one or two people get fed up, they move out, someone else comes into the space. So there house is never low on rent, and the landlord is never aware of the issue. That will change if all of a sudden you have all left, and since you don't have any legally binding agreement, you can do that.

Get a one year lease, with the 5 names of the people who are going to stay in the house, starting June 1st. You want your names on the lease because when you decide to find another place to rent, you will have a good rental history / background, among other things. Then confront the roommate, stating "you had given us 30 days notice, we took that as a sign to get a new lease drawn up for the 1st of June without you on it, so you should probably move by then." Also, if she is such a fickle person, she will probably not want to commit to a one year lease.

It sounds like a jackass move, but honestly if the person is causing such a nightmare for the rest of the house, you have every right to try to get an arrangement put together that works for the 5 of you. And again, you should get a lease going no matter what, so you can get some legal grounds of coverage of your own housing in the future.

This is exactly what my friends had to do to get rid of a problem tenant in their house, who had moved in, and while she was paying rent, she was also creating all sorts of drama and tension in the house. The only way to get her out was to get a new lease drawn up, with everyone in the houses name on it (the landlords didn't care, as long as they were getting checks in the mail), and when they went to her to get her deposit and her commitment to the terms, she managed to 'find another place' even though she hadn't been able to for months before. And they were firm with her, May 31st she was out, no excuses (since she also tried to skip out on utilities last minute). Anything that was left behind they held onto until she finally forked up the rest of the rent and cash she owed people in the house.

If you don't have a lease, there is little if anything you can do to keep her out of the house legally. Your other option is to work with the other 4 people and find a new place to move into.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:08 AM on April 28, 2008

n'thing the "contact the owner, get a lease with your names on it" advice. But, if that doesn't work you don't have to all move out instantaneously as some have suggested. You should be prepared to do that, of course, but the advice upthread about withholding or late paying a month's rent could help drive home the gravity or the situation to the owner, who may then come around. Definitely try to work it out on friendly terms with the owner first, though.
posted by Reverend John at 6:39 AM on April 28, 2008

You have no power to compel a private person to move from a place where they live, even if you live with them, short of an enforceable contract, which, from the terms of your question, does not exist.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:53 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm a landlord, and when the tenants wanted to boot 1 of the roomies, my response was unequivocally "This is not my issue. You are grownups. Deal with it on your own."

Contact the landlord, explain that you wish to implement house rules, and ask if the landlord will support you. Then, have a house meeting, and develop house rules. This also gives Bad Roomie the opportunity to shape up, which is only fair. Address behavior, not personality. Make rules that really work for all of you, not rules that are designed to eject Bad Roomie. It will be a learning experience.

For what it's worth, in the above scenario, the Bad Roomie proceeded to act out so badly, she gave excellent grounds for ejection, and I supported the decision of the roomies because Bad Roomie made it easy.
posted by theora55 at 2:22 PM on April 28, 2008

I'm a landlord, and when the tenants wanted to boot 1 of the roomies, my response was unequivocally "This is not my issue. You are grownups. Deal with it on your own."

What if they had told you that they were all going to leave unless you kicked the person out? Would you willingly take on the loss of up to 83 percent of your rent while you found five new roommates? If so, why?

Not that I endorse this course of action for mediocre—it seems like it would be bad karma. But it seems like ignoring such an ultimatum would be a bad business decision for a grownup.
posted by grouse at 4:03 PM on April 28, 2008

What guarantee do you have that when the landlord hears your complaints she won't decide to kick you out for causing problems with her favored tenant?

Following up on what mediareport said, the penalty for just kicking someone out of a dwelling where they have established residency is severe in many jurisdictions.

In New York State, for example, the landlord could be subject to treble damages. In New York City, in addition to treble damage liability, the landlord could be arrested as an unlawful eviction is a Class A Misdemeanor.

New York State Tenant's Rights Guide
posted by mlis at 10:24 PM on April 28, 2008

But can you establish residency by simply living at a place, even if you have no legal agreement to do so?

And what's to prevent the landlord from at least giving them a 30-day notice, if she so chooses?

All I'm arguing is that the poster is themselves in a precarious legal position, and shouldn't be taking it so lightly. They already mistakenly believe they have some "right" to tell another tenant to leave; do you really want them to start thinking they have a "right" to live wherever they choose without a lease?
posted by Anonymous at 11:01 AM on April 29, 2008

But can you establish residency by simply living at a place, even if you have no legal agreement to do so?

Paying rent is a legal agreement. It doesn't have to be in writing. (Think about this seriously if you ever take money from a significant other or friend to stay in your place.)

And what's to prevent the landlord from at least giving them a 30-day notice, if she so chooses?

Nothing. But the only way to execute that notice is via an eviction through the courts.
posted by grouse at 2:37 PM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: The landlord truly does not care about our petty squabbles and in-house dramas, she takes our rent and doesn't even like to speak with us. It may seem dangerous, but I honestly love the situation. We give her money, she doesn't ask questions about anything we do. It has been this way for many, many years at this house.. We're all poor artist types, what can I say?

As for the roommate, it still hasn't been dealt with. I no longer want to contact the landlord unless it's absolutely necessary since she very very rarely ever has occasion to speak with any of us.. We are just going to handle it socially, friendly, treat her with kid gloves, offer her a free month to save up because she obviously wants to move but maybe can't afford it, etc.. We expect tears, a huge scene, and with any luck.. acceptance..
posted by mediocre at 1:17 AM on May 1, 2008

Did mediocre ever say what jurisdiction this rental is located in? It's hard to give any sort of accurate landlord/tenant advice or suggestions without that information.
posted by mahamandarava at 5:43 PM on May 1, 2008

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