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Roommate Gave Notice, I Signed Lease and Re-Rented the Room. Now Roommate Won't Leave

Discussion in 'Rental Agreements & Subleases' started by njzx, Mar 5, 2012.

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  1. njzx

    njzx Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The situation:
    I've been living with my roommate (let's call him Steve) for about a year. He was on a month-to-month agreement with the landlord.

    December 21: Landlord calls me, and tells me that Steve is considering giving his notice. I tell the landlord i would be willing to sign a lease for the apartment if this happens.

    January 1: Steve gives notice to the landlord that he is moving out at the end of the month. Landlord accepts, and offers me a lease to the apartment, which i accept and sign.

    January 14: I send several text messages and voicemails over the past two weeks requesting to take pictures of the room for advertisements. On this day, Steve uses my digital camera to take photos of the room (he took the photos himself, using my camera).

    January 18: I get a call from the landlord saying that Steve is requesting to stay for one more month, because the deal he had with his new place fell through. I accept, with the provision that Steve pays the money he owes me before paying the February rent. (i paid a utility bill in his name using my debit card because he didn't have the money for it, and the power had been out for a week in December because of it). Steve says he'll pay the utility money by the 20th.

    January 20: Steve doesn't have the money. He says he'll pay "tomorrow"
    January 21: Steve doesn't have the money. He says he'll pay "tomorrow"
    January 22: Steve doesn't have the money. He says he'll pay "tomorrow". I show the room to a prospective tenant, anticipating that Steve is going to break the terms of our agreement. The prospective tenant tells me that the room is very messy, and he wouldn't rent it unless it was cleaned first. This is only relevant to me because 7 days earlier, Steve had sent me a text saying, "The room is seriously dirty…Seeing it in that state would probably make you less likely to rent it." Steve knew i would be showing the room, and left it dirty anyway.

    January 23: Another prospective tenant comes to see the apartment (by appointment, of course). Steve refuses to open the door. From behind the door, Steve says that he's staying, and there is "no need to show to room." I ask him if he has the utility money, and he says no.

    January 25: I call a meeting with Steve and my landlord. Steve gives the February rent to the landlord, and says he will pay the utility money by February 1. I give Steve and the landlord each a written letter stating that, in this meeting, Steve has agreed to pay the utility money by February 1, and i have agreed to let Steve stay in the apartment no later than February 29. Steve is very rude to me and to the landlord, stating, "I'm not signing this shit."

    February 1: Steve doesn't have the utility money. I hand deliver a letter to Steve telling him to move out by the end of the month, as i now hold the lease to the apartment. I cite his habitual non-payment of utilities, evidenced by the utility company shutting off the power 3 times in 2011, his continued non-payment of money owed directly to me, and his poor conduct towards me and my landlord during the January 25 meeting.

    It is now March 5. Steve is still here. The utility money is not paid. Steve actually hasn't given me any money whatsoever, and the rent was due on the 1st. Steve also has not contacted the landlord at all since January. The new tenant is still waiting, living at his parents' house until the room opens up.

    What do i do now? The lease is in my name only, and i owe the full amount of the rent, whether Steve pays or not. I need to rent that room, because i can't afford to rent the entire apartment by myself (not comfortably anyway).
     
  2. shrinkmaster

    shrinkmaster Well-Known Member

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    Since rent is paid to landlord not you , you have no eviction powers. Your letters for him to move are meaningless. You can sue him for utility bill you paid and bring any written promises to pay or witnesses and/or witness statements. You cannot force him to leave and your lease may actually be invalid because "Steve" is there unless named as occupant. You might have a case with landlord for breach under these grounds. However this could cause you to lose apartment. Talk to an Attorney on what legal actions are available to you in this issue.
     
  3. njzx

    njzx Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you for the reply.

    After speaking with the landlord, he says he took the money from Steve because Steve owes back rent; he wasn't accepting February rent, but rather letting him catch up.

    The lease i signed has my name on it only, and the landlord has told me that he expects me to be the only person paying him each month (i collect from the roommate, and give the landlord the full amount).
     
  4. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    If you want him out, then you have to bring an eviction action to have the sheriff oust him.

    Evictions are not only for monetary damages, some evictions are brought to determine possession.

    Your action relates to having him evicted, so you can enjoy rightful possession.

    I won't waste your time or mine explaining the WHY of this, you can Google it.

    What you need is to bring an action for eviction/possession in NJ.

    Determine the exact location for your address (city, township, county, etc...)

    Here is a site for the state of NJ, published by the NJ State Courts:

    http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/civil/civ-04.htm

    Do not try to oust him yourself, or lock him out.

    It'll be simpler if you avoid asking for money, getting him out is your priority.

    He won't pay you anyway, even of you get a judgment.

    Expect the process to take 6-8 weeks if he doesn't fight you.

    If he does fight the process (his right to do so), expect the process to lengthen.

    It all starts with you giving him a letter to quit (get out) and making sure he got it.

    Then follow all the rules that the state outlines.

    You mess up one thing, you have to start all over.

     
  5. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    As said above, only the landlord can evict Steve. If you are on good terms with the landlord talk with him about doing that.
    However, the landlord is getting his rent money and may not want to evict Steve.
    If you want your utility money you will have to sue him in small claims, but even then you are unlikely to see the money. It is gone.
    Your fastest solution to be rid of Steve will be for you to move away, not him.
     
  6. njzx

    njzx Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks again.

    I'm not worried about a quick solution. I'd rather stay since i like the apartment, the location, and the price (not to mention that i signed a lease).

    The landlord has begun the process of eviction. He didn't specify how much back rent is owed, but the money he received at the end of January was a late payment, and he hasn't had any contact with Steve since then.

    About small claims: Do i claim the entire amount of the bill i paid, or HALF of it? I paid the entire bill in his name on my debit card, but half of that bill is my responsibility anyway. The reason i never paid the other half is because Steve never produced a bill with the amount due during the 3 months that it went unpaid.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  7. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    OP, if you have a lease, then you also have the EXCLUSIVE right to use and enjoy the apartment.

    Steve has no rights superior to yours, and neither does the landlord.

    The landlord has no standing to evict Steve.

    Why?

    Well, once you negotiated a lease, the landlord has no standing to evict anyone BUT you!

    Steve is your tenant, notwithstanding a signed lease or not between you and Steve.

    At this point, the ONLY way to get Steve removed is for you to evict him.

    You can also sue in the eviction action for monies you claim Steve owes you pursuant to his tenancy or occupancy of your apartment.

    The landlord's eviction will fail, as he has no standing to evict a person form your apartment.

    There is one exception, if your lease prohibits you from subletting.

    In that case, your tenancy could be at jeopardy for subletting or taking in boarders.

    Read, study, and understand your lease!
     
  8. njzx

    njzx Law Topic Starter New Member

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    My lease states:

    "Use of Property: The Tenant may use the Apartment only as a private residence for the following persons:
    [blank]
    referred to as 'household members...'"

    I filled in my name in the blank space. The landlord knows that the 3rd bedroom is being rented out to an additional tenant. He gave me the option of having the additional person (whoever it ends up being) on the lease, which i declined.

    There is nothing in the lease explicitly prohibiting subletting. The landlord read my Craigslist ad offering the room for rent, and commented that he liked how thorough it was. We've spoken numerous times about my renting out that room. If i'm not allowed to sublet the room, this would be a strange way of showing it, no? ;)
     
  9. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    No, Steve is the original tenant and was month to month. The OP came along and signed a lease, but with Steve still present. They would be cotenants. Steve is not a subtenant to the OP. Only the landlord can bring an action to evict either of them.
     
  10. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Steve gave notice as a month to month tenant.
    Steve had no lease.
    Steve gave notice that he was vacating.
    LL offered OP a lease.
    OP signed a lease.
    OP's written lease trumped Steve's oral, month to month lease.
    OP's lease may not be valid, but in property law, written trumps oral.
    This could be a very interesting dilemma for the LL.
    The LL relied on Steve's promise to vacate.
    Steve has paid no rent.
    OP has paid rent.
    LL accepted some of Steve's unpaid rent.
    OP appears to owe no back rent.
    Is OP's lease a valid lease?
    Does OP still possess a tenancy?
    Has the LL illegally evicted Steve?
    I suspect only the court can decide these questions.
    But, a court can't seek cases, people must bring their cases or issues to the court.
    These people have a nasty mess brewing.



    Sent from my iPad2 using Tapatalk HD
     
  11. shrinkmaster

    shrinkmaster Well-Known Member

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    If you are renting out room "you" are tenants Landlord! Who does "Steve" pay rent to?
     
  12. njzx

    njzx Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Court date is set, by the way! Landlord is taking Steve to court.

    The person i agreed to have move in has been very patient, by the way, and is still willing to move in even after waiting this long.


    Steve has not paid any rent since i signed the lease. He gave money to the landlord during the last week of January, but this was back rent that Steve hadn't paid when previously due. The landlord has told me that, should Steve want to make any rent payments, they would have to be to me, because i'm responsible for giving the landlord the full rent.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
  13. shrinkmaster

    shrinkmaster Well-Known Member

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    Ok but who has Steve been paying rent to and has that person accepted more rent?
     
  14. njzx

    njzx Law Topic Starter New Member

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    He had always paid directly to the landlord. I started paying my rent directly to the landlord around September.

    The last payment made by Steve was in January, which was a back rent payment.

    Since then, i have paid rent to the landlord, and Steve has paid nothing to anybody.
     
  15. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Dude, you're golden. Steve will get the boot, and you'll rule the roost. The beautiful part for you is, you only need to sit back, get some popcorn and enjoy the fun!

    You're living large in charge and the LL is doing the heavy lifting and dirty work for you!!! Hang on, sloopy, your time is coming!!!


    Sent from my iPad2 using Tapatalk HD
     
  16. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    The landlord is wrong. Steve has never entered into any agreement with you. He owes the landlord.
    Althout Steve gave notice of his intent to vacate, he was under no obligation to actually do so, and does not stop being a month to month tenant until he actually moves out or is evicted, regardless of whether he has paid the rent.
    You did not say whether Steve had a written lease with the landlord or just an oral agreement, but either way he maintains his tenant rights despite your written lease.
    Your lease does not eliminate his tenancy, nor does it transfer Steve's responsibilities to the landlord over to you.
     
  17. njzx

    njzx Law Topic Starter New Member

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    He did enter an agreement with me, though. He asked if he could stay one more month, and i agreed to let him. That was February, though. In hindsight, i should have just said no!

    Based on that, couldn't he just give his notice every month, and then change his mind with a week remaining every month as he sees fit?

    Or do you mean that he must specifically be evicted before my lease becomes valid? As far as i can tell, the landlord is evicting him for nonpayment of rent.

    I had the utilities put into my name yesterday, by the way. The utility company was about to come shut the power off for nonpayment (4th time since i've lived here), but i asked them to "start" my service so i could keep the power on.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012
  18. shrinkmaster

    shrinkmaster Well-Known Member

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    You and your landlord are mudding the water and giving Steve a means to escape eviction. Both you and your landlord cannot make up your mind who Steve pays rent to or who Steve should deal with with "Landlord" issues. Steve could make the arguement your landlord does not have eviction powers because you not landlord is his landlord
     
  19. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    He didn't need your permission. You did not become his landlord by signing a lease.

    If you had said no it would not have mattered. He must either leave willingly or have the landlord bringan eviction. You do not have any say-so over Steve.

    Yes.

    As you describe it, I believe you have a valid lease, but you and Steve are cotenants. You are equals, both subject to the landlord. Your lease did not automatically eliminate Steve's previous month to month tenancy.
    Once Steve is gone, if the landlord permits you to bring in a new roommate and sublet, then that roommate is responsible to you, and YOU can then bring an eviction over that subtenant if necessary. If the new roommate is required to sign a lease with the landlord then you will still be cotenants.

    That is fine. So long as Steve lives there he is responsible for a share of those utilities regardless of whose name the account is in. You will not likely ever see that money, but if you wanted to you could sue in small claims for his portion. It is likely not worth the effort... Steve obviously doesn't have the money.
     
  20. njzx

    njzx Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Alright, i understand.

    The landlord is taking Steve to court anyway (two more weeks!), so it looks like i don't actually have to do anything, except wait and eventually sue in small claims court. Without divulging too much personal info, Steve graduated law school (or went...i don't actually know if he finished...maybe not if he can't afford to pay his VERY inexpensive rent). I don't know if being evicted/sued makes it harder to progress, but apparently he doesn't seem to care.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012

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