Can I salvage anything I've spent?
June 11, 2008 1:49 PM   Subscribe

About to move into a huge (and expensive) house with a couple of friends when we broke up and she started going out with another housemate. I moved out even before I moved in. Can I recover any rent that I've spent on this place?

Yes, I moved out, but still paid three months of rent for a crappy little room (that I hadn't expected to be living in anyway) until I found someone else crazy enough to pay the unreasonably high rent for it. I've got my security deposit back from the new tenant, but am still out about $2000. I realize I was legally responsible for the amount since my name was on the lease.

She feels "responsible" for the situation, but when I asked her exactly how she plans to act on it, she clammed up and has refused to speak to me since, doesn't respond to emails, and avoids my calls.

The other housemates are varying degrees of friends that I can't reasonably avoid.

Is there anything I can do now? How do I start a conversation with her when she refuses to listen?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total)
No, there's nothing you should do. She, nor anyone else, has any responsibility to refund any of your money, legally or ethically.
posted by electroboy at 1:54 PM on June 11, 2008

It sounds like the answer to the rent-recovery question is "no," but the question is so vague and confusing that it's hard to say for certain.
posted by brain_drain at 2:00 PM on June 11, 2008

Response by poster: You're legally responsible?

Well, there's about your answer. Sucky shit happens.

If she's not offering repayment immediately, there's a 99% chance you're shit outta luck. What are you going to do, gather up everyone on your side and storm her bank account?
posted by Anonymous at 2:04 PM on June 11, 2008

I'm not sure how you both paid for three months' rent and moved out before you moved in, but it doesn't sound like you have much recourse either way. Your ex and your housemate may be people who did a jerky thing, but you chose to move out and your name was on the lease. In my in no way expert opinion, they should have been responsible for finding your replacement from an ethical point of view, but it's too late for that.

Sorry. People suck.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:06 PM on June 11, 2008

I'm not a lawyer, and I haven't seen your lease. So keep that in mind.

Super nice common decency would say that you'd get your money back. But even regular common decency would say that you'd get your money back minus the time that room was empty (ie it takes them 1 month to find a replacement so you pay that month's rent).

Don't ask how she plans on fixing the situation, tell her you'd like your money back. Not returning calls or emails in this situation is just poor form, although depending on the specifics of the breakup it could be understandable.

But like brain drain said, the whole thing lacks enough specifics to really give you a good answer.
posted by theichibun at 2:09 PM on June 11, 2008

You agreed to pay for the room. It sucks you won't be living in it, and it sucks that you paid $2,000 to not live in it. But it's not *her* responsibility and she doesn't owe you reparations.
posted by KAS at 2:19 PM on June 11, 2008

short answer: no.

longer answer: it sounds like the decision to reimburse you is theirs and theirs alone. since no money and no offers are forthcoming, it sounds like you're pretty much S.O.L.

sorry man.
posted by alpha_betty at 2:21 PM on June 11, 2008

If you prepaid three months rent, and you got someone to move in for those three months, then get the new tenant to pay you rent for the first three months (hence reimbursing you) and then pay the people in the house after that. If the people in the house complain, tell them to screw off -- they don't have any right to be paid rent twice for these three months.

Of course, that puts the tenant in the middle of it, which they might not want to do.

Wait, I just reread it -- did it happen like I said above, or did this happened three months ago and the room's been empty ever since? If it's this case, you're out the cash, and you should've found someone to move in immediately after you moved out. Yes, the people in the house (especially her) could've helped, but that's a nice thing to do, not a necessity.
posted by inigo2 at 2:30 PM on June 11, 2008

I think you're SOL here, personally. Also avoid making the breakup about money - that's only going to make things uglier. If this is, in fact, about the money, and you're in a hardship position because of it, then I feel for you. Yes, you got royally screwed in this situation and I'm sorry for you over that. However, sometimes cutting your losses is better than fighting tooth and nail over something which, though not insignificant now, will seem less so over time. And the reality is you signed a lease and it sounds like you did, in fact, live in the place for 3 months.

If you insist on trying to force her to honor some sort of ethical or moral code here - which seems to be a weak spot for this woman, apparently - then what I would do is call her and leave a message like, "Hi. It's Mike. Listen. I don't want to meet up or anything to talk about the breakup. I am, however, now in a financial bind because of this situation. Truly, the $2000 I spent on this place is money that I need now to go on with my life. I need the money and that's all I want. If you're willing to talk about this, call me back." If she calls back, remain calm, detached and rational and state your case. Don't talk about the relationship or the breakup. Ask her if she's willing to pay you back all or a portion of the money. If she is, tell her you'd like cash or a money order and have her meet you at a neutral place. Don't linger; just take the money and leave.

If she's not willing to pay you back, drop it, chalk it up to experience, and be done with this person. If she doesn't call you back at all, drop it, chalk it up to experience, and be done with this person. Sorry.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think she carries some ethical responsibility for this: you signed the lease on the assumption of your continuing relationship, and while I've known many people to suffer through a period of living with someone they'd broken up with so as not to have to pay two rents, doing so while the person is actively engaged in a relationship with another member of the household goes beyond the pale in my opinion.

Her saying she felt responsible was meaningless, she's made it clear she's going to try her best to avoid being in the sights of the only weapon you've got, which is a guilt trip. Whether to pursue it further, which is going to involve being a creep on your part (i.e. intercepting her in person) is a question only you can negotiate involving your stomach for being a prick, potential repercussions (like the new partner getting involved), the likelihood she could actually pay, and how badly you need the money. There's no guarantees because that money was your legal obligation. I would call getting half back an extremely optimistic scenario.

In this situation if I could conceivably eat it I would do so in the interest of getting this individual the hell out of my life immediately. Getting a bad ex out of your system is worth more than $2,000 and accepting this as an expensive and unpleasant life lesson would be a good start. I assume that if getting the money back was really a financial necessity you would have mentioned it.

As a slight compensation it seems this course of events saved you from paying close to $700 a month for a "crappy little room" in a share house, over the long term you are coming out ahead.
posted by nanojath at 7:55 PM on June 11, 2008

(I'm assuming, unlike Tilapia, that you paid a second rent and lived elsewhere while seeking someone to take on the lease. If you did in fact live in the crappy little room nobody owes you anything ethically or legally).
posted by nanojath at 7:58 PM on June 11, 2008

If this happened just now: three month's rent in advance is ridiculous anyway. You're entitled to a refund of rent once you're replaced by someone. Tell them, "Because I broke up with Judy, I'm not going to live here. So I need to be off the lease. I'll help you find a replacement flatmate, who can refund as much as possible of my money. Now, because some of you are still friends of mine, I won't just shove the first homeless crack-dealer I can find at you. But I would like some help finding someone suitable to replace me. I'll pay for an ad in the paper, I'll put up posters, list it on Craigslist, whatever. I'll talk to the people, but I need your signatures on the paperwork to replace me, which I have here in my hand, and I want you to either help me find my replacement if you know someone who needs to move, or interview my replacement to make sure you get a good flatmate, or else to agree to live with whoever first stumbles through the door clutching rent money. Which will it be?"

If it's three months gone: you've done your money. Sorry. The thing to do was, find a replacement then.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:37 PM on June 11, 2008

Doh, didn't read the question properly, just the responses. Sorry. :(

No, you've done your money. Rent is paid in advance, and advance rent is recoupable from whoever replaces you, but past rent is gone. Bummer. :(

All I can suggest is, read this book: He died with a felafel in his hand and realize that, however bad it was, it could have been far worse. You dodged a bullet. Live on.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:40 PM on June 11, 2008

The money isn't worth the pain of interacting with her. Remember it isn't a substitute for any behavior she might have engaged in.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:51 AM on June 12, 2008

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