I Want my Roommate GONE!
June 18, 2008 12:53 PM   Subscribe

I want my roommate GONE. We have no formal, signed agreement, all verbal. What do I do? What are my rights? I'm in Arizona.

At the end of January, a girl (20 years old) I know moved in with me (29 year old female), into the condo that I own. We're more casual acquaintances rather than friends, but our parents are friends. We agreed on a rent amount, but I had her sign nothing. Dumb, I know. Anyway, in the 5 months since, she has never once paid me rent on time or in full. She has borrowed money from me and I have paid for many trips to the grocery store, dinner, etc.

She has a decent paying job and has received her stimulus check, which she told me she'd give me when she received to pay for back rent but didn't.

She moved in with me because her parents couldn't deal with her problems and issues, and wanted her gone. Now, she's gone nuts. She has a long history of really crazy, erratic behavior. I don't want to go into it, but all of that isn't really why I want her out.

I want her out because she still owes me half of last month's rent and all of this month's rent. On the 13th, I told her that her living with me wasn't going to work out and that I'd like her gone by the end of the month.

She hasn't spent the night at the house since I told her this, and she's still coming by and getting clothes, but all of her things are still there.

I want to change the locks and alarm code ASAP. I'd let her in the house, but only when I'm there. I don't know that she'd do something to my house or steal anything, but who knows...

I know from some volunteer experience with the police department that she's established residency (or whatever it's called) in my home, so I'm thinking that I may have to go through the normal eviction process.

I don't know if the normal tenant/landlord laws apply here since we have nothing in writing, I live in the house with her, etc.

What do I do?

Oh! Also! I have had NO contact with her since I asked her to move out. This morning, I sent her an email reminding her that rent was due, in full, next week. She responded threatening legal action. It actually made me laugh. I am not one bit worried or scared that she'll take action. Conversely, I DO have a lawyer and CAN take legal action. There's almost nothing I'd like better than to sic my lawyer on her, but I'll try to play nice...
posted by TurquoiseZebra to Law & Government (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I were your position, I'd get some friends over, move all of her stuff to a storage locker, pay for one month's rent and give her the keys.

I've actually done this once before in a situation very similar to yours. In my case the roommate had a bench warrant for years of unpaid parking tickets (I believe) and was terrified of talking to police about anything.

Problem solved - though I'm not sure how legal/illegal any of it was.
posted by terpia at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Uh you've played nice for a really long time. Too long. Stop. You own the place. Call your lawyer up for a chat.
posted by spec80 at 1:06 PM on June 18, 2008

I don't know about Arizona, but I dealt with this in Maryland once. You're right about establishing legal residence, and not being able to lock her out.

HOWEVER... you could change the locks and security code by claiming that your pocketbook was lost and your keys and info were in it. To protect yourself, you found it necessary to take the precaution of changing the locks, etc. Send her an email (pleasant) alerting her to this fact, and ask her to make arrangements to meet you so that you can give her the new code and key. Perhaps have the meeting place be away from the apartment, neutral territory. Tell her that this meeting would be a convenient time for her to bring CASH or MONEY ORDER for the overdue rent, as you have had the expense of changing the locks, and have closed your bank account temorarily for safekeeping. Put this in the pleasant email.

Then, change the locks and wait.

If she doesn't respond, you'll need to escalate, but first you need to find out what AZ says you can do. Such as, can you send her a certified, registered letter to her parents' house, telling her that she's got until ----- to remove her personal possessions, and that after that date, you'll box her stuff up and send to her parents' house? You'll likely forfeit the rent, but at least you'll be rid of her.

Do you know where she is staying? You'll need to know that if you plan on formal eviction, I think.

Good luck. My old roomie actually broke into our house when we were gone, and we came back to find him destroying our stuff. We had him arrested. Bad scene...
posted by Corky at 1:07 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

A verbal contract is still enforceable, but you can still evict, obviously - and usually, you have more options since you own the place.

This link seems to have the relevant law - you're a Resident Landlord, which Chapter 10 deals with.

Please note that I am NOT a lawyer of any type. You have a lawyer; you need to talk to him/her. You want to play nice - though you've done so for a long time already - but it needs to be legal nice, especially since an eviction isn't the kind of thing you want to just wing it on.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:08 PM on June 18, 2008


You told her you wanted her gone by the end of the month. She hasn't slept there since, but she comes in to get clothes and some of her stuff is still there...

I don't understand what the problem is.

If anything she is being accommodating by not staying there. She probably is still arranging to move her stuff...

She's actually doing more than what you've asked.

If her stuff isn't gone by the end of the month, set it on the street.

If you're weirded out by her behavior, just ask her what the deal is. Is she going to have her stuff out before the end of the month, or not?

In the meantime, hide any valuables you have including any sensitive records (credit card records, stuff like that) and keep a close watch on the place.
posted by wfrgms at 1:13 PM on June 18, 2008

Conversely, I DO have a lawyer and CAN take legal action

You have a lawyer. One who, presumably, knows the relevant facts and law in your state. That is the person you should be talking to right now.

Evictions are serious business and most states have a number of laws in place to protect you and your tenant. You do not want to run afoul of any of them.

You have no non-legal options left at this point. She lives there now. What you need to do is follow eviction procedures to the letter, and the most certain way to do that is for your attorney to advise you on the next step.
posted by toomuchpete at 1:17 PM on June 18, 2008

Don't play nice. Talk to your lawyer.
posted by arimathea at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2008

The laws do apply even if the lease is verbal. This is periodic tenancy in month-to-month form because she was supposed to give you money each month in exchange for a place to live. She's obviously a total nutjob flake, so don't expect to resolve this in a reasonable manner. Unleash the attorney now and ask what you can do to protect your property in the meantime. Also, even if she is moving out on her own, by going through the eviction process, you may make it easier to sue for back rent and any damages that may result.

Get her while you can.
posted by pandanom at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2008

I agree with wfrgms, but I also understand that you'd feel better if she wasn't coming and going as she pleased. Unfortunately you gave her until the end of the month, and if you really wanted to "play nice" you would be sticking to that.

I'd say the biggest thing she's doing wrong is outright avoiding you. Not too much you can do. I'd avoid someone too, if they asked me to move out with some sort of notice like that.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2008

Although this a classic talk to your lawyer situation, you might want to consider talking to her parents first, since they are friends with your parents. If nothing else, giving them a heads-up about whatever you are about to do might prevent an awkward situation between your parents and them.
posted by TedW at 1:31 PM on June 18, 2008

OK, I'm seconding the Use A Lawyer angle, but...

Bear in mind that lawyers will tell you what could happen, while in real life, tenants almost never resort to courts & the law. Screaming, throwing shit, and storming around, plus possibly showing up with a "big" friend to enforce their "rights" while getting their shit, is what happens the other 99% of the time.

I've ben one of those tenants who sued (and won); didn't realize then that I'd have to sue again to get the court decision enforced. It's a pain in the ass.

I've also been a landlord who took my above advice, on two occasions. One tenant took an extra 2 weeks to bug out; the other left on time, but left the place trashed. In both cases, ultimately: problem solved, with only relatively trivial costs.

Also, Corky is a genius.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2008

When tenants have fallen behind in their rent payments:
1. You must notify your tenants, in writing, that they have five calendar days in which to pay their past due rent, or your rental agreement with them will be terminated, and they will be evicted. You can give them the written notice any time the rent is past due.
2. You must either hand-deliver the five day notice to the tenants, or send it to them by certified or registered mail.
3. If you send the notice by certified or registered mail, it will be considered received on the date the tenant signs for it, or five days after you mailed it, whichever occurs first.

Things You're Not Allowed To Do
a) You cannot keep tenants' belongings in place of rent money they may owe you.
b) You cannot lock tenants out of the rental dwelling (or intentionally cut off electric/gas/water or other essential services) until one day after an eviction order (called a Writ of Restitution) signed by the court has been served on the tenant(s).
c) You cannot raise the rent to specifically retaliate against a tenant for complaining about housing code violations, for joining a tenant union, or for complaining about your failure to keep the dwelling fit.
posted by mattbucher at 1:47 PM on June 18, 2008

Oh, one other thing...

Consider that this chick is such a flake. She won't get her shit together enough to pursue any legal recourse against you. Stuff like that takes focus.

You're probably best off just counting down the days.

And I like to suggestion about talking to the girl's parents. They may even come get the chick's stuff...
posted by wfrgms at 1:48 PM on June 18, 2008

corky seems to have given very sound advise but IANAL.

my main point here is that you really need to stop dragging this out. you have long enough been the sucker in this equation and she's played this game with you in spite of financial recourses, which means she used you merely because she could.

I would have been a lot less reasonable a long time ago.
posted by krautland at 2:42 PM on June 18, 2008

Wow, as more, um, seasoned poster who has had several experiences really requiring a lawyer, I would say, try a lot more before you get a lawyer involved. I agree with the poster above -- she's a flaky kid and she may be just stowing her stuff and trying to find a new place. Send her another "where's the rent/end of month" email, and at the same time, call her folks and apprise them of the situation, mention how terrible you'd feel if you had to change the locks at the end of the month and nicely ask that they come and get her stuff. I would so not escalate. After all, she's 20!
posted by thinkpiece at 3:54 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're talking about my sister, so I feel for both of you. She's probably been through something like this before.

From personal experience, my parents would definitely want to be told that something of this magnitude was happening to her. They wouldn't pay her rent money or anything, but they might get in touch with her and offer to provide her a place to stay for a while... which would increase the chances of her leaving your place on time. So do contact them, especially now while there is still some time left.

HOWEVER, do not offer to ship them any of her stuff like Corky says. 1) it's not your responsibility to either box up or pay for shipping for her stuff, and 2) they probably don't want it anyway.

It will be enough for you to inform them of what is happening and offer them a chance to come and pick it up on that date. Or even suggest that if she hasn't moved by that date, you'd be willing to work with them on finding a date that week that *they* could come in and move her stuff. That would certainly seem to reduce your potential liability for a less than by-the-book eviction.

I know you're tired of playing nice (who wouldn't be?) but these things take time to finish without leaving a bunch of loose ends.
posted by GardenGal at 4:09 PM on June 18, 2008

Since she's threatening legal action you need to talk with your lawyer. But - I would call the girl's parents and try to sort it out. They have a relationship with your parents and may be willing to come and pick up the stuff.
posted by xammerboy at 7:03 PM on June 18, 2008

What TedW said. Use social pressure through parents rather than bothering with lawyers who are (a) expensive; (b) don't, in the final analysis really give a damn about you, the flatmate, or the house, it's just a job to them; (c) are generally considered to be serious escalation of a situation.

Ring your folks. Ask for the name and number of her folks. Ring them. Tell them "Jenny's gone nuts. I'm sorry, but I have to get her out of my house. She owes me about $1000 and she's been doing X, Y, Z which I don't approve of and which is causing me serious annoyance." (Don't bother with details unless they ask, just give them the broad outline. Do mention drugs, or having shady characters over, or anything else that might lead to real legal trouble.) "She really should get psychiatric help. I haven't seen her or spoken to her in days though she's been back to get clothes. I don't know where she's been staying. I need to rent the room out, and it looks like I'll have to change the locks as well. Can I get you to come get her stuff, please?"

Best case scenario, Jenny's folks show up and give you $1000 and an apology and take her stuff away. (They know what she's like too, after all.) They track down Jenny and take responsibility for making sure she's OK. If anyone calls or comes looking for her, give them her parents' number.

Expected scenario, Jenny's dad shows up and takes her stuff away. You change the locks. If she shows up, you tell her her dad now has her stuff. You've taken her repeated failure to pay rent and her disappearance as abandonment of the premises, so you've given her stuff back to her dad and you don't want to see her again. She can come in to take a look around to make sure her dad got everything, but after that, if there's anything else she discovers missing, she's to have her dad call you, and he can come collect it if it's here. If it's not, it's not your problem. Otherwise you don't want to see her or hear from her again. If anyone calls or comes looking for her, you'll give them her parent's number.

Worst case scenario, Jenny's folks refuse to have anything to do with her. In which case, it's lawyer time: you need to establish a legal eviction (shouldn't be difficult) and you need to let her get her stuff and take it away. Putting it in storage, in your lockable garage or in a rented locker, is probably fine.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:37 PM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

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