Landlord & Roomies won't let her leave...

craigswifeApril 23, 2007

Hi everyone!

My someday future daughter in law was living in a apt in California with her roomies, she ended up leaving because one of the roomies moved in a boyfriend whom she does not trust.

The lease is on a month to month now. And her landlord will not remove her from the lease until her roomies give her permission to do so. The roomies won't give her permission and they want her to pay rent even tho she is not living there. It is really a mess.

I thought that if your lease is up you can move out. I am afraid things are going to get bad and we'll see her on Peoples Court.

Please any suggestions, please post.

Thanks, Cindy

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If the boyfriend isn't on the lease she can threaten to report him living there for violation of the lease. Sorry I don't have more advice than that.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 6:51PM
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Surely if the lease is on month-to-month now, then one month's written notice would be sufficient to have your future DIL removed from the lease.
Is there some kind of free law clinic you could consult as to the legalities of this situation?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 10:31PM
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Definitely get legal advice. The situation's wrong and she's being held hostage. Did she give 30 days notice? That should cover things, and she may just be letting them intimidate her (and the landlord's allowing it to go on).

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 5:55AM
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A few more details would be helpful:
How long was her initial lease term, what were the dates?
When did she move out?
Did she give notice? If so, verbal, written? How far in advance?

My someday future daughter in law was living in a apt in California with her roomies, she ended up leaving because one of the roomies moved in a boyfriend whom she does not trust. In all likelihood, this was in direct violation of the agreement that your future d-i-l signed, and is grounds for terminating the contract. The proper thing to do would have been to put it all in writing, voicing that it is in direct violation of the agreement, that she is ill at ease living in these circumstances, and that if Boyfriend is not removed from the premises in xx number of days she will be leaving based on violation of the occupancy agreement. That should have been sent certified (signature required) to each individual roommate and the landlord. Landlord at that point should have swooped in and made sure Boyfriend was removed from premises. If landlord did not remove Boyfriend who intimidated your future d-i-l, thus violating agreement, she would have had the right to send him a second notice that she would be moving out based on the fact that Boyfriend was still residing at premises in violation of their Agreement and she was ill at ease with this person's living in her residence. (But I'm going to conclude she's younger, and probably didn't know protocol for handling this type of situation.)

I thought that if your lease is up you can move out.

You can. The contract is up. Notice is typically given in advance that party(s) will not be renewing. This assists all concerned in making a smoother transition to new occupancy/new lease term. However, if I have a tenant who moves out at the end of their lease did not give me notice, I cannot legally force them to continue to pay rents once a contract has expired. It's my job as landlord to keep communication open and see what their intentions are. Also, contracts with roommates are in general a big pain in the ***. I have one house now that has had various roommates over a 5 year period. Only one young man has stayed consistently. Typically, one roommate will 'bail' for greener pastures at some point during the annual term, typically with the attitude that remaining roommates are sufficient to carry the lease and come up with rents. (Not always the case.) Since alternate roommates are pretty readily available to the remaining tenants in my case, it's simpler for me to terminate the lease and start a new one rather than take abandoning roommate to court. Typically what I do is send a "Termination of Lease Notice" to all involved indicating that I'm immediately terminating the lease because one of the roommates abandoned the premises, in direct violation of terms of lease, etc. I then immediately initiate a new lease with remaining roommates and adding the new roommate they got to fill the abandoning roommates place. And abandoning roommate has lost their deposit.

Concluding there are no 'quirky' clauses in the lease, (it's written in 'standard' language), I'll toss out a few scenarios from a landlord's perspective. If she was on a term lease, and it's expired, her commitment has ended. Additionally in her favor, if since her departure and expiration of agreement she signed, the lease/contract has changed terms to month to month, and she did not sign the new contract, then she's no longer party to any agreement or bound to it. In other words, say she signed an annual lease that went from 1/1/2006 to 12/31/ 2006, she moved out 10/31/2006. When the annual lease term expired 12/31/06, that contract was exhausted. Subsequently, a new monthly contract was drawn up effective 1/1/2007. She didn't sign it expressing her compliance or agreement to the new terms, in fact she's not even living there. She's not bound to it. No two ways of getting around it that I can see. However, she is technically liable for rents through the entire term of the original lease agreement she signed. (Unless she got a new roommate to take her place, it was done in accordance with any roommate change clause in the lease, and all parties concerned were in written agreement). So if she left 10/31/06, term expired 12/31/06, no agreed upon roommate was introduced to take over the rents, then she is liable for rents for Nov 2006 and Dec 2006 using my example above. She can probably kiss her deposit goodbye, but she was probably anticipating that.

Here's a different scenario. Lets say she had stayed on to the end of her lease period, resided there, paid the rent, tolerated the boyfriend. Then landlord decides to change terms of the agreement at renewal. Landlord and other roommates agree on it but future d-i-l does not. If she isn't happy with new terms of new contract (and it could be anything: change to monthly lease, pets are now allowed, increase in rents, etc.) the others cannot attempt to force her to accept a new lease wherein she finds any changes in the terms disagreeable to her. And that, in essence, sounds like it is exactly what they are trying to do here.
Seems to be a double standard here. One roommate is allowed to violate the terms of the agreement by introducing a non-contracted party, and all other parties concerned are expected to 'look the other way'. Yet they are trying to force future d-i-l to continue paying rents on a contract she's no longer party to at a residence she no longer resides in. lucy above said it quite well, she cannot be held 'hostage' .

If it went to court, she would in all likelihood be held liable for unpaid rents up to the time of original contract expiration, probably lose her security deposit, but that is likely where it would stop. It's almost laughable that the landlord has essentially introduced a new contract with new terms (monthly now) and is insistent that current lessees 'release' her. There's nothing to release her from at this juncture, because she didn't agree to the new contract terms. It just doesn't work that way.

Can you clarify the details for us as asked above? I have a few more thoughts to offer on your future d-i-l creating a paper trail, albeit after the fact, that might be enough to get the landlord to back down and see reason. (Landlord sounds like they're thinking is 'off' based on what you've supplied so far.) But it would help to have some blanks filled in.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 11:12AM
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If she signed the lease when the boyfriend didn't live there, and he does now then the living arrangement isn't what she originally agreed to. She should be able to get out based on that alone.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 11:15AM
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frankly, from a strictly practical point of view, the only person who will expend any energy to chase her, should she just move, is the landlord. I bet the roommates will simply give up; it's too much trouble.

So she should write a letter and send it certified to her landlord, saying, "Effective this date, i will no longer live in your apt.; our contract is up, and I am leaving. I hav e no further legal obligation to you."

And send a letter certified (or several) to her roommates saying, Effective this day, I am leaving. I no longer have any legal obligation to you, as the original lease is over. You have changed the terms of any nonbinding agreement we may have had to share a home, because you have attempted to add another party to the home, and I do not agree to this condition."

And leave.

Let them chase her. Her letters will give her a way to prove that she notified them, and hopefully will scare them off.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 12:31PM
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Ditto what everyone else said. If she is on month-to-month, she needs to give the both the landlord and roommates written 30-day notice that she is terminating the agreement. This will be her defense if anyone tries to sue her for rent. However, the landlord actually has probably a lot of leverage to get $$ from her if roommates don't sign a new lease and don't cover the rent. What does the lease say in terms of how, when, and by who the agreement can be terminated?

I think it actually could be kind of messy, legally. I'm guessing, but the original lease was probably written as a contract between the roommates as a group and the landlord, and was probably written to automatically go month-to-month after the original term. If it were between the landlord and a person, the person gives notice, moves out, landlord inspects and repairs property, returns security deposit as appropriate, re-rents property. In this case, after the original lease expired, the landlord has a valid month-to-month with a group of people, of whom d-i-l is part. The group is not discontinuing the contract and moving out, so landlord can't inspect and repair property, can't adjudicate security deposit, can't re-rent property, and now has a group of disgruntled people who may or may not be relied on the cover the entire rent w/o d-i-l. Landlord can't force them to sign a new agreement without dil (moonshadow's solution--"Since alternate roommates are pretty readily available to the remaining tenants in my case, it's simpler for me to terminate the lease and start a new one rather than take abandoning roommate to court."--is the sensible one, except in this case, the remaining roommates are refusing to sign a new lease, so isn't an option for landlord). He can terminate the existing agreement with 30-days notice, but then he has the same disgruntled people who may or may not cover rent living in his house with no valid agreement. Evicting them would probably be messy and not necessarily in his best interests, so he's stuck in a bad spot in terms of accommodating her.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 4:53PM
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he has no claim on her; he can't force her to continue to be part of the group. The group exists only on a month-to-month basis. She writes him and them she's leaving, she's out.

So are they, unless they make an arrangement w/ the landlord. And we don't know that the new roommates are refusing, flat-out, to sign a lease.

The biggest thing is, I don't think her landlord can force her to stay--not legally. And I would gamble that he's the only one w/ the resources and energy to chase her in court.

Here's a website for a pending nonprofit--if she can gather all the info into one complete, well organized e-mail, she might get a free answer from a tenant-law attorney.

And here's the link for California's laws on "moving out."

Here is a link that might be useful: Free limited e-mail Q&A with Attorney Ken Carlson; Get a 1/2 -hour consultation with Ken Carlson for only $100!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 5:57PM
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The biggest thing is, I don't think her landlord can force her to stay--not legally.
I agree wholeheartedly, but I do wish Cindy would come back and fill in some gaps/details, then we can hopefully offer something more specific based on those details.

(Nice resources offered, talley_sue)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 7:14PM
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the few times (2) I've been a roommate in a rental apartment, it was in NYC, w/ the same landlord. His policy was, "one name on the lease." You could have roommates, he didn't care, but he wanted to have only one person to deal with, one person to be responsible, one person to hav authority.

He considered the roommates to be the lease-holder's subtenants, and any disputes between them were not his problem.

If one of those roommates had created problems, he'd have gone to the lease-holder and said, "fix this problem or I'll evict YOU, since you have the legal responsibility to uphold the terms of the lease."

I always liked it, mostly because it meant there was clearly one person who should pretty much get their way should there be a dispute. It was a bit risky being the lease-holder, bcs if your roommate moved out and you couldn't get a new one, you had to pay the whole rent. But at least I knew what to plan for.

I also couldn't have relied on the landlord to be the bad guy, or the resident authority; I had to handle moving-out issues all by myself.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 9:18AM
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The reason I said the landlord might hold her responsible for rent... I rent out a room in my house, and when I first started doing that, I hung out on a landlord-chat board for a while to learn a bit. Many of those landlords were adamant about how to deal with renting to non-married groups (of two or more) if they would even consider it. They would insist on a lease "jointly and severally" between tenants, which gives them the right to go after either or both (or any or all) tenants for rent, damage, etc. The tenants are basically cosigning for each other, giving landlord the right to get from one anything the other owes him. As a landlord, they wouldn't have to sort out who paid the rent or who didn't, which roommate broke the door, or whatever. They could go after whoever they could find and whoever had the money. Among other things, they wanted to be sure the responsible one with the good job didn't move out and leave them stuck with deadbeat who wasn't paying rent. This gave them a legal means to hold responsible one with good job liable for rent as long as deadbeat was in the apartment, if responsible one moved out and left deadbeat in the place. I am NOT, not, not a lawyer, but I don't see the difference between this situation (one person moves out, the rest stay but don't cover her share of the rent) and the one these landlords were trying to protect themselves against with this lease language. I also (obviously) haven't read her lease, so don't know if that's the language, but this landlord's attitude sounds a lot like theirs... "not my problem, dispute between roommates, I just want my rent and I'll get from whoever I can get it from".

I do think she needs legal advice.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 10:52AM
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I'm not saying it's right, morally. Absolutely, I think the roommates are being horrendous and she should be able to move out of a month-to-month situation whenever she wants. Even more so since the living situation changed with the introduction of another person. I'm just saying the legalities may be more complicated than common sense suggests.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 10:56AM
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