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Ex roommate threatening small claims over $4000 he says I owe him

Discussion in 'Other Legal Issues' started by Grrzzlybear, Jul 11, 2020.

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  1. Grrzzlybear

    Grrzzlybear Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    New York
    My exroomate of 3 years contacted me and is threatening to take me to small claims court over his personal estimate that I owe him $4000 in back rent and other random expenses.

    The lease was in his and his brothers names and was a standard month to month, but my name was never added and his brother's name was never taken off.

    I was responsible for less than half of the bills as I primarily occupied only my bedroom. I had a few rough patches where I was not making any money, I was a server, and he let me slide on the rent more than once. We never had a formal rental agreement. We never set up anything to pay him back the times he let me slide, him stating more than once that it was fine and he just wanted to make sure I was taking care of myself. At the time we were very close friends.

    He told me he was ending the lease at the end of month z and that was with one week left in the prior month. So I had 5 weeks. Reasonable. With no actual lease agreement this was within what im aware of as a legal time frame. I was out in 3 days anyway. I also cleaned the room I was in doing everything except shampooing the rugs. I had no pets.

    He has given me 2 weeks to make a payment plan with him or he will take me to small claims court and have my wages garnished. I have only just returned to work after being unemployed due to covid.

    I'm clearly not well versed in any law. And I don't want things to end badly for me. How do I handle this legally and what are my options?
     
  2. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    First of all there is no "threaten" to sue. There is only sue or not sue. So, until you get served a summons and complaint you are free to ignore the hot air coming from your former roommate if you want to.

    If you do get served with a lawsuit he cannot garnish anything until he gets a judgment.

    The problem there is that you admit you didn't pay rent on occasions. Doesn't matter that you didn't appear on paper. You had an oral month to month agreement to rent a room for X dollars a month. If he can prove you owe any amount at all, even a fraction of $4000 he wins a judgment with which he can garnish wages.

    Do you have any documentation of rent payments while you were living there? Receipts? Cancelled checks? Anything?
     
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  3. Grrzzlybear

    Grrzzlybear Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Nothing. I always gave him cash. Nothing was in writing. There are texts and pictures to prove I lived there. But nothing written out or signed. I used it as my legal address for 3 years. That's probably enough.

    I don't think I owe him anywhere near that amount. But I also cannot prove that.
     
  4. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    There digress not have to be a written agreement, but the burden is on him to explain an agreement was made.
    He also must prove what you owe. You do not have to prove what you do not owe.

    You do not have to do anything unless you are ordered to appear in court. Until then, make yourself scarce.
     
  5. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Then this may be an expensive life lesson from the school of hard knocks. Never pay rent in cash. Use checks or money orders or get signed receipts. Always get your rental agreements in writing, even if you are on month to month and just don't live with anybody who doesn't want to do that.

    Enough to prove you lived there. Not enough to prove how much or when you paid rent.

    That's a problem.

    Yeah, he might have to. Tax Counsel has explained it thus:

    If the plaintiff has a credible story then the defendant may very well have to prove what he does not owe.
     
  6. leslie82

    leslie82 Well-Known Member

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    Doesn't matter - oral agreements count too. I looked into it at one point because my stepsister owed me money. By the time I looked into it in the state we were, the statute for oral agreements expired.

    She did eventually pay me back - it took her like 8 years to do it. But she did. I may or may not have eventually gotten petty about it...

    Like was said - until you get a summons don't worry about it. Even if he does take you to small claims, it doesn't mean he gets a judgement in his favor. If he does, meh. I've seen people win in small claims and then it takes forever to get the money they won.
     

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