Legal help?

Nov. 9th, 2009 11:07 am
[personal profile] eldergoth
So... I'm dealing with a roommate issue, and need some legal advice:

Three of us live here in the apartment, and we initially signed a one year lease with all three of our names on it. The lease was from December 2007 through December 2008. We became tenants-at-will following that period. The three of us each pay our rent individually to the landlord, due on the first of every month.

Our landlord left a note yesterday asking us to call him regarding ROOMMATE#3's rent. I managed to speak with the landlord in person this morning to find out what was going on, and it seems that ROOMMATE#3 has not paid his rent for last month, and is late with this month's payment. Since the three of us are responsible in whole for rent for the apartment, that inevitably leaves ROOMMATE#3's unpaid rent falling on ROOMMATE#1 and ROOMMATE#2 to cover, which we cannot afford to do.

Aside from the rent issues, ROOMMATE#3 has never once contributed to the upkeep of the apartment, nor to any of the household supplies such as paper towels, garbage bags, and the like. He is also always late paying ROOMMATE#1 the utility bills, which are all in ROOMMATE#1's name. ROOMMATE#3 has also been stealing food from us when we are not around. Sometimes he claims that he was drunk and doesn't remember doing it, but the fact still remains that he has been doing it.

We are pretty tired of dealing with this, and of ROOMMATE#3 jeapardizing the relationship we have with the landlord. This was a very strained relationship for a while, but we have worked hard to build it back up. We like the apartment and don't want to leave it! We don't like the issue that we have been facing with ROOMMATE#3!

Can anyone advise us of what real legal recourse we may have in this situation?

Date: 2009-11-09 04:38 pm (UTC)
ext_36052: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Hrm. I would post this to [ profile] law_questions, and mention that you're in MA. Housing/tenant rules tend to be state-specific (and sometimes city, like Chicago), and without knowing anything about MA law, I'm not much help.

Date: 2009-11-09 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So I spent a lot of time reading up on roommate law a few months ago, but I'm not sure how much of what I learned is generalizable and how much is specific to California. First of all, in our situation we only had one person's name on the lease, which means that that person acts as a 'master tenant' and has some of the rights of a landlord over the rest of the tenants. In your case, because all three of you are on the lease, this is *probably* something your landlord needs to deal with rather than you. While the lease may not specify how the rent is split (and in fact that may not be down in writing anywhere) the fact that you have a verbal agreement with your roommates and long-standing practice will probably stand up, legally, as 'yes, this person actually owes money'. Therefore, your landlord could proceed with an eviction notice against Roommate #3 for nonpayment of rent. It would probably help if you made clear to the landlord that this is something you are in favor of - otherwise he may think it is all of you or none. The eviction notice process basically gives the offender a chance to pay the rent 'or else', so this is not necessarily a sure fire 'get them kicked out' method, but if it comes from the landlord it is not likely to get them pissed at you, at least.

Date: 2009-11-09 04:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
sadly, there are a lot of legalalities to go through the get someone evicted. You could do your own research, but I'd recommend (if you're all on the lease or were at one point) that you put this owness on your landlord. He'll need to go through evication proceedings regardless and if you do this without him being on board you may find yourself in deeper water later on.

Tons of web sites with laws:

I have a lawyer friend who deals with these kinds of issues, but he's currently in Japan. Let me know if you need any help with it and I could reach out to him for some recommendations of lawyers.

Good luck!

Date: 2009-11-09 05:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Have you tried just asking him to leave? Calmly give him the "you're not paying for rent and utilities and we can't cover for you; we're asking you to move out so we can find someone who can pay" schpiel. See what happens - this can be a lot easier than going through an eviction.

Date: 2009-11-09 05:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There's a local lawyer I got some good advice from about landlord-tenant in the past. (He graciously spent about 1/2 an hour explaining things to me free of charge.) Email me if you'd like his number. AIUI,

- Start (or work with the landlord to start) the eviction process on the roommate RIGHT NOW. It takes 30+ days. In the future, the proper way to communicate "your rent is a month late" is an eviction notice, even if you'd prefer not to kick him out, because it at least starts the clock so you have the option when you need it.

- You're jointly and severally liable, so it's up to you to pay the landlord and chase/sue #3 for what you're owed. Sucks. There are many things one can get 3x damages for in MA landlord/tenant law, but I'm not sure if this is one of them.

Get real from-a-lawyer legal advice on both these questions, seriously.

Date: 2009-11-09 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
yikes. i got the note and was hoping it was just regarding this month's.

i'd also try cross posting to b0st0n during work hours when people are bored and reading- i've seen similar stuff posted and it's likely at least one person has been in your boat before.

i hope you guys get this worked out since i've obviously seen firsthand how quickly he can jump to evicting all of you if it doesn't get handled.

Date: 2009-11-10 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
could you ask your landlord about signing a new contract with just you and Jedi, and keep Dumbass out of it completely? Essentially write him out of the lease. Basically see if your landlord is up for throwing just him out?
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