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What Legal Options are Available when a Subtenant does not Adhere to an Agreement?

Discussion in 'Rental Agreements & Subleases' started by banana_hammock, Jun 23, 2020.

  1. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hi all, I'm stuck in a bit of a complicated situation.. Any advice and help would be really appreciated. I basically have a subtenant who refuses to pay rent. His is not on the lease but I am, and it expired June 22, 2020. But he moved out of the apartment during end of April before the lease ended, leaving May and June rent for me to pay.. I sent him an email prior to his move in with details regarding paying rent/utilities, when they are to payed, and also that if he decides to move out before the lease ends, then he would have to find notify me 30 days ahead of time and find another person to replace him, so that I'm not stuck paying rent for his room and my room (its a 3 BR apt where each person in a room pays their share). the condition was that if he cannot find someone else to replace him, then he would have to pay the rent until the end of the lease.

    He notified me 30 days ahead but was not able to find a replacement for May and June. I told him that according to our agreement which I emailed him that he would have to pay the rent, but he is refusing to do so claiming that he does not have enough money. What legal options do I have to pursue him and make him follow the agreement that we had, and receive the rent he was supposed to pay me for May and June?

    FYI there was no formal signed agreement or sublease contract between us explicitly stating that he agrees to all the terms and conditions I provided to him to pay the rent. My leasing office does allow for non-lease occupants to stay for longer than 30 days by registering them with the office (which I did) so the office knows I am having someone not on the lease staying and contributing to the rent.

    Would I be able to legally pursue this person some how to receive the rent money? Again any help/advice would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Sue him...
    But don't ever expect to see a penny.
     
    army judge likes this.
  3. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Did he ever agree in any manner to what you wrote in this email?

    Sue him. Did you really not know that?

    Of course. "Able to legally pursue" means sue. Anyone can sue anyone for anything. But having the ability to sue doesn't mean you'll win and, even if you win, it doesn't mean you'll necessarily be able to collect.
     
  4. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Well said (again)!
     
  5. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Here's my advice. Get your own apartment, even if it's just a studio or efficiency and stop getting involved in roommate/subtenant nonsense.

    I agree with the others. You aren't likely to ever see a nickel from the subtenant.
     
    banana_hammock and hrforme like this.
  6. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    He agreed to it in person when I met him after I sent the email. But he never sent an email back replying that he agreed..
     
  7. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I'm new to law and all this so forgive me. So then what would be the point in sueing him then if its not likely that I'd be able to collect the rent he was supposed to pay?
     
  8. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Is it really worth it to sue then in this case? because I'm guessing sueing takes time and money
     
  9. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    The point is painfully obvious, bringing a lawsuit against a deadbeat is a waste of more money and time pursuing money the deadbeat doesn't have, which the plaintiff will never collect.

    The plaintiff walks away with a pretty piece of legal paper affixed with a shiny seal endeavoring to collect the object of the judicial decree from the fleeing, rascally deadbeat.

    Furthermore, most people who sublet (not ALL people who sublet) often have a record of previous evictions, a poor FICO score, a pattern of unpaid and/or past due financial obligations, income insufficient to rent an apartment through landlord-tenant channels, etc...
     
  10. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Since you have nothing in writing, if he appears to defend himself, it will be your testimony versus his.

    Good question.

    That's for you to decide. And yes, suing takes both time and money (at a minimum the filing fee). Your case isn't as strong as it would be if you had something in writing. As far as collecting, no one here truly has any idea of the likelihood that you can collect because we don't have relevant information. Did the guy pay you with cash or by writing checks? If the latter, then you know where he banks and can levy. Do you know where he works? If so, you can garnish his wages.
     
  11. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I actually recently found a text message from him saying that he read the email I sent him and that "Everything sounds good". But I'm not sure if that's anything substantial that can be used to sue him and win. Technically he did agree through text, but there wasn't any signature or formal contract/agreement, so couldn't he just say that he never signed anything explicitly stating that he agrees to all the terms and conditions? It seems like the chances of me sueing and winning are slim.. The only case I have against him is that email I sent him and that text saying he agrees.

    But assuming I do win, the guy payed me through online money transfer via Zelle and I also know which company he works for. As far as collection goes, if I sue and win would I be able to get an order from the judge telling him he has to send me the money? Or an order from the judge to garnish his wages? If so, is that enough?
     
  12. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    No need. He stayed, paid at first, gave you required notice, and acknowledged inability to find a replacement or pay. You can show he was familiar with and advertise the agreement. It doesn't have to be a formal document.
     
  13. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Does this person have any assets? If he doesn't have cash you could potentially use your judgment to place a lien on property and get paid if that property is sold.
    The amount owed should help you determine whether to pursue it or not. While collection can be difficult, it is not impossible.
     
  14. shadowbunny

    shadowbunny Member

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    A cursory Google search brought up the instructions on how to request a wage garnishment to satisfy a civil suit: https://njcourts.gov/forms/10548_wage_exec.pdf so it appears that it is possible to garnish wages IF you win a civil suit.

    Disclaimer: I did no further research as to when this would be an appropriate pleading to file.
     
  15. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Based on what you have provided here I would say your chances of getting the judgment are good. Collecting is your main concern.
     
  16. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    The OP will want to research NJ law to make sure such an arrangement doesn't run contrary to the law. In effect, the OP is attempting to lock the tenant in to an agreement that requires a longer notice period than that which is required by state law. If this were taking place in my state (California), and I understand that it's not, but if it were, then such an arrangement would likely not be enforceable.
     
  17. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    I disagree. I think that text would be extremely helpful. A signed, written agreement would not be needed.

    No, but you will be able to enforce the judgment as permitted by New Jersey law..

    Wage garnishment is one of the primary means by which civil money judgments are enforced against individual debtors. I don't know how the process works in NJ. In at least some states, it's self-executing once you have a judgment.
     
  18. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hmm so from what everyone is saying, it seems like the general consensus is that I would be able to win the judgment just based off the email i sent him and his text saying that he checked the email and everything sounds good. I also know what company he works for so in NJ I could file for wage garnishment after I win the judgement. Which I guess solves the problem of collecting, unless he files and objection to the court about it. But even if he did I'm not sure what his chances of successfully appealing the garnishment would be so he wouldn't have to pay.

    That being said, just to cover all the bases before making a final decision, is there anything that he could do to somehow to win the judgement? If not is there any action he could do to not have to pay after losing the judgement? Whether it be appealing the wage garnishment and winning, or just outright refusing to pay if the judge gives him an order to pay? Please be harsh and honest. I would rather just know the truth up front so I can plan for it and not have any false hope..
     
  19. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Your ex tenant doesn't likely have much of an argument to make and may not even show up.

    The only thing that comes to mind that may work against you is if the point is raised that you apparently made no effort on your own to find a new tenant and minimize your loss, even after your tenant notified you he was unable to find anyone.

    Be prepared. Know what to expect when you appear in court. Have printed copies of your documents and emails for yourself, for tenant, and the judge. Sum it up- agreement was made, tenant failed to keep the agreement, and you seek whatever damages.

    If you get the judgment you will have to wait a bit until you can seek a garnishment. Research the procedure for it, but know it will likely require additional effort on your part a month or so after you have received your judgment.
     
  20. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Litigation is never a sure thing but I tend to agree that the odds are a bit in your favor.

    No way to predict.

    He could do lots of things. Quit his job and live off the grid. Close out his bank account. Skip town. There's no way to predict any of that. Do you have any idea what kind of work he does? How long he's been employed? How important is job it to him? If you had some idea you might be more comfortable with the idea of suing.

    The judge doesn't order him to pay. The judge signs a paper (the judgment) that says how much he owes you. Then it's up to you to use whatever methods are available. If you petition for wage garnishment, the judge signs a paper ordering the employer to pay you part of the defendant's earnings each paycheck. If you petition for a bank account levy the judge orders the bank to take money from the defendant's account and pay it to you. All that is overly simplified, of course.

    Even if you can't collect, there is always some satisfaction that the judgment will stay on his credit report for many years and may one day screw him up if he has to buy something on credit and can't qualify.
     
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