Roommate Advice

chi83September 29, 2010

Hi all,

I'll try to keep this as short as I can. I signed a lease on 5/1/10 for a 2 bedroom which I qualified for on my credit alone. I got a roommate a month later who also, per the rules of the complex, had to be added to the lease.

Since I had met her via Craigslist, I drew up a roommate agreement for her to sign. It outlined the rent distribution, and that we would each pay half of the utilities. I also added in that if either of us needed to leave for any reason, we could as long as we found someone to take over the lease who the other roommate agreed to. This was key to me as I didn't want to get stuck with someone.

Fast forward a month and it's obvious it's not working. She's weeks late paying utilities, she brings over her boyfriend and his 4 and 7 year old who camp out in my living room all weekend and make it so I can't enjoy the space. They put up tents in the living room. She leaves her dog overnight and he barks ALL night keeping me awake. She routinely has between 3 and 6 people over all the time and no fewer than 5 people regularly shower in my apartment.

That's just a few of the problems I've had with her. I gave her notice that I was going to find someone to take over my lease. I spent a few weeks interviewing people and found a few that I thought would be good matches. Upon asking when she would be around to meet them, she informed me that she would not agree to me leaving because she didn't want the complex to run her credit because she decided to buy a house and didn't want her credit score to go down because of the credit inquiry.

So I am completely stuck in this lease because she wouldn't agree to let me leave. It finally got to the point where I moved out to stay with a friend. I'm still paying over $900 a month for a room that I do not use.

I pay the rent on time. My question is this. Since I'm not there, I don't think I should have to pay for utilities. I shut off the vent in my bedroom so we wouldn't be heating/cooling that space. She says I still owe her half of the utilities. We did agree to that initially in our contract but she's also broken the contract several times so in my mind, it's already invalidated.

If the utilities are in her name, and I am no longer living there (the management office is aware that I have left) can I be legally liable for paying half of the utilities?

She threatens to sue me constantly and I'm wondering if she would have a case against me for these utilities. I've done everything reasonable - shutting my vent, having the utilities switched over to her name - to keep costs down. The fact of the matter is that I have tried every single thing I could to leave this place and she has blocked every attempt except for an illegal sublease, which I was uncomfortable doing. I feel like she's left me no choice. I'm paying rent and she gets a $1700 condo for the $700 she's paying. I think it's absurd that she wants half utilities on top of that.


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All you're concerned about are utilities? Why on earth did you not take more action in the first place and not leave instead? And you're continuing to pay? You must go to the management, tell them about the barking dog (if they haven't already had complaints), tell them about what she's doing/done in general, boyfriend, kids and all - do you know if it's even legal landlord-wise for them to be there - it often isn't. Why are you just caving? Speak to a lawyer if necessary. Do something!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 9:44PM
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I have gone to management. They won't do anything about the guests since they are only there on the weekends. I also cannot break the lease because we are both on it and she would have to sign off and she refuses.

The management office will not work with me on this.

I know I'm being way too passive. I think it's time for a lawyer.

Thanks for your advice!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 1:08PM
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Unlike other forums here, folks rarely respond or come back to share their results of apartment disputes. It would be great if you would, Chi.

I live in NYC and often hear stories like this (different details, same emotion). The credit score comment only indicates the roommate is not very bright. Even someone with borderline credit should choose to resolve it as you suggest than risk a lease skip or break -- especially if they're considering a mortgage in the next few years.

A lawyer can tell you instantly if the original roommate contract is binding or simply a promise of good faith.

About 10 years ago, in my early 20s, I was subletting from a friend and the landlord called to tell me there was a potted plant too close to the fire escape and I needed to move it within 24 hours. I told her I wouldn't be back in town for a week but would move it then or she could ask the building super to do it. She informed me she was also an attorney and that if it was there in 24 hours, I would be sued, lose and have to pay all her court fees. I immediately interrupted her saying that she'd need to send, in writing, any further direction to my attorney (a friend of the family) and could no longer contact me regarding a potential lawsuit. I called the lawyer to let him know and he sent her an email with his address, but she never sent any communication. I moved the planter when I returned to town a week later. My point is to not make a decision based on threats of a suit. Be reasonable but do not simply acquiesce to bullying.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 10:02AM
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How's this for lucky? When I was 18 I signed up for gym sessions on a Friday, but then changed my mind by Monday when I incidentally was beginning a new job. Well the gym did not want to do the right thing and I thought I was stuck for a couple of hundred dollars. I told my new boss, a lawyer, about it and next thing I knew he'd pulled out a file belonging to the gym (and this was in a biig city!), made a phone call, and that was that (I got my money back)!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 11:06AM
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It's great when someone with knowledge (or inside info!) can work it out for you. That is very lucky. I suspect you agreed to a commitment, but I'm sure the gym made a few dollars off people who wouldn't or couldn't do anything. It's likely part of the profit model.

That doesn't answer the real question: what was in your boss' file?!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 11:47AM
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The whole thing is just incredibly frustrating. I regret it so much.

She's driven me to the point where I cannot live there. She accused my cats of attacking her dog, with no proof, and threatened to mutilate them by de-clawing them herself if they ever did attack the dog. Of course when she said that, I got them out of there. Even if she was bluffing, it's not worth risking their safety.

I only brought my clothes and some kitchen stuff with me when I went to stay with a friend. She immediately shoved all my other furniture and belongings into the corner and put out a bunch of her crap all over. It looks awful in there now. She said if I moved back in, I'm not allowed to move anything and I have to store all my stuff in my room since her stuff is out there now. I realize she has no right to make her claims and I'm certainly not submitting to her bullying but just wanted to throw that out there to see the extent of her entitlement issues.

She sent me an email the other day agreeing to pay for all of the utilities (that are in her name, that only she is using) in exchange for me continuing to pay my $910 in rent, moving ALL of my stuff out of the apartment AND giving her my bedroom and private bathroom to use cause she would rather have the bigger bedroom. Generous of her, eh?

Needless to say, I didn't bother replying. She's delusional.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 12:10PM
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She also went to the leasing office and asked if she could refuse to let my pets back into the place if I tried to return. She also tattled on me by saying I have 3 cats when the lease only allows 2. This is true but I have been paying the $45 pet fee. The manager didn't seem to care when she told me all of this.

So I may have let it slip that she had a dog living there the whole time that she never registered with them and hasn't been paying the $55 a month dog fee. She'll be getting a bill any day now and I expect a very irate phone call. :o)

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 12:21PM
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If your landlord won't help, have you tried showing all this (what's she's done) to municipal housing authorities? She's obviously totally nuts and you should not have to deal with it all!
WestVillager - the file in my boss's office was the one of their client, the gym in question. The chances of that happening were one in a million as the city has thousands of lawyers... that's what was so incredible!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2010 at 6:39AM
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My hope is this doesn't progress into a tit-for-tat. Without anyone on your side (police, other local authority, lawyer, etc.) with written record, it becomes more difficult to resolve in your favor.

larke: That is one in a million. I might share that the next time a similar issue comes up if that's all right. Lol, good stuff!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2010 at 1:42PM
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