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Roomate termination due to break of verbal agreement? (ATL)

 
 
darold
 
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 12:12 pm
Hello everyone. I am sorry I have to introduce myself on such negative terms, however I am in desperate need of your help.

My girlfriend and I have recently started renting an apartment together. Before moving in, we asked a friend if she would like to room with us. We interviewed this friend, and asked her some of the essential questions to determine if we could be possible roomates. These questions included things like:

Do you mind living with a couple.
Do you mind if I (Darold Cole) pay a slightly lower rent because I have another apartment, and will be providing a majority of the furniture/art/food/etc?
Are you ok with the fact that my girlfriend and I are planning on owning a dog within the next few months?

She said YES to all of these, plus a few other questions we asked to make sure that there were no major problems. After we knew that she was willing to live with these terms, we included her in the apartment searching process. This is when my girlfriend and I realized we may have made a mistake. She proved to be unwilling to compromise. Although we should have begun searching for a new roommate immediately, we were foolish, and continued to go out of our way to appease her. After getting into a stalemate about where to live, my girlfriend and I offered the ultimatum: We have decided on an apartment, and since we need to move in before school starts, we are going to sign this lease with or without you. She decided to join us in the lease (although she refused to sign ANY lease at first). Now the three of us our on the lease. Now she demands that I pay full rent, although we clearly agreed I pay a lower rent until I was finished with my pre-existing lease. I have bought over 80% of the furniture/art/food/other accessories. However, this is not the issue...

The other day, my girlfriend and I adopted a dog. When she came home and found this, she stated that she will not live with an animal, and quickly developed allergies (although she has two dogs at her home). She refuses to move out, and refuses to live with the dog. This animal is something my girlfriend and I have been planning on, and our views were clearly made visible to her. Had she told us that she would be unwilling to live with an animal, we would never have continued to consider her as a roommate. We allowed her to room with us as a favor.

What can I do legally? My girlfriend and I afraid that because we did not have a written agreement, we will be hurt by this situation. Although we could continue to pay for rent without the help of the roommate, it would be eextremelyhard for us to do. We would have to replace her as soon as possible. I also am aware that if the roommate refuses to pay us for the rent, my girlfriend and I are required to pay for her. Our apartment complex considers our apartment a single check, not three different people.

What can we do to protect ourselves? Can we force her to move out if we give her ample warning (2 months?). My girlfriend and I were planning on staying at this complex for a few more years (Although our current lease is for 12 months). We are only 3 months into that lease.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Where else can I go to for free/inexpensive legal advice?

We are afraid that we will have to continue paying for her part of the rent. If this happens, will we be forced to take her to small claims court? Is there any way that would allow us to either get her off the lease or allow us to break our lease without incurring penalty?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 1,507 • Replies: 10
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 12:20 pm
What a mess.

I'll be interested in hearing what people have to say on this.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 12:44 pm
darold: first of all, welcome to A2K.

Secondly, I'll second what ossobucco said: what a mess!

OK, the immediate problem seems to be the dog.* You say you had a verbal agreement beforehand that you would be adopting a dog, and now your roommate says she won't live in the same apartment with it. This is not, however, a situation where we have to determine if the oral agreement is binding. You have all entered into a written lease (I'll assume that your roommate has signed it): that means that your living arrangements are dictated by the terms of the lease. If the lease allows pets, then you're allowed to have pets, and your roommate can hardly complain that she doesn't want to live in a place that allows dogs when she has already signed a contract permitting exactly that.

On the other hand, although I'm sure that you'd like nothing more than to kick out your roommate and replace her with someone more dog-friendly, you can't do that. That's because she has signed the lease, so she has as much right to stay there as you do. You can no more kick her out than she can kick you out. So we're left with a situation where you have a right to have a dog and she has the right to make your life miserable.

You say that you're attending school: if you are living in university-approved housing, there might be some dispute-resolution mechanism available, either as an addendum to the lease or just as a service to students. Check with your school's ombudsman or housing office. They may have mediation services available for this kind of thing. Getting an impartial third-party involved may be a good way to defusing the situation.


*I'm not clear, from your post, if your roommate has stopped paying rent or has only threatened to stop paying rent. Obviously, if she isn't paying, then that's a bigger problem than the dog.
0 Replies
 
darold
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 01:19 pm
Joe, thank you so much for taking the time to help me with my situation. You are spot on about what is going on. Although I do have a university approved apartment, the three of us are living in a second off-campus apartment.

My roomate (Angela), has not clearly stated that she will refuse rent. Her exact words were, "I am not living with a dog," and "Don't expect me to move out." Although she has already made our lives very misserable prior to this experience, I am positive she will now deliberately attempt to be unco-operative with us in the day to day chores. My current plan is to continue to be cordial. However, the stress of being college students in a relationship and living with a poor roomate is a little more stress than we can handle.

Rent is due on the first of next month, although I plan on writing the check within a few days. If Angela refuses to pay, what are the next actions I should take?

Again, thank you all for taking the time to help me. I know my matter seems trivial compared to others problems.

How would I get in contact with a local lawyer/other person who can give me face to face legal advice? Although I do not expect this service to be free, it would have to be innexpensive. I have researched and found "pay by the month" services where I can talk to a local legal representative for approx $30 a month. Is this a scam or something I should consider?
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 01:30 pm
Just a note, Danold - your post says you pay over 8% of certain expenses, and I suspect you meant to type 80%.
If so, you can edit your post to fix that.
0 Replies
 
darold
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 01:45 pm
Edited, thank you.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 01:59 pm
darold wrote:
Joe, thank you so much for taking the time to help me with my situation. You are spot on about what is going on. Although I do have a university approved apartment, the three of us are living in a second off-campus apartment.

You should still check with the university's housing office to see if they offer any kind of mediation services to students.

darold wrote:
Rent is due on the first of next month, although I plan on writing the check within a few days. If Angela refuses to pay, what are the next actions I should take?

Actually, the next step will probably be taken by your landlord. If you are sending in three checks each month to cover the rent, and the landlord doesn't get one of those checks, then all of you are responsible for the deficiency, and if you don't come up with the money then your landlord can evict all of you. One way to avoid this would be to cover your roommate's share yourself (make sure you keep complete and accurate records). That way, you won't find all of your possessions out on the sidewalk some day when you come home from classes.

If you cover your roommate's portion of the rent, then you could sue her for that money in small claims court (it would be under a theory of "unjust enrichment" or quasi-contract). But if you think living with your roommate is miserable, just imagine what it will be like to sue her.

darold wrote:
How would I get in contact with a local lawyer/other person who can give me face to face legal advice? Although I do not expect this service to be free, it would have to be innexpensive. I have researched and found "pay by the month" services where I can talk to a local legal representative for approx $30 a month. Is this a scam or something I should consider?

I don't know anything about "pay by the month" legal services. Instead, get in touch with the student affairs office at the university. There may be legal aid available, or else they may know of some attorneys who deal with this sort of thing. I'd still check out the availability of mediation services: mediation is a lot quicker than litigation, and a whole lot cheaper.
0 Replies
 
darold
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 02:58 pm
We can only write one check to the leasing office. I am the person who writes the check, and my roomates pay me back. I might be able to find the reciepts from last time, but I will definately be sure to save the reciept for this month.

I looked up the info about getting legal help from the school. The law school apparently offers free legal help to any student with two exceptions:

1) You cannot be suing the school itself

2) The matter cannot involve another Emory student

Unfortunatly all three of us are Emory students. I am definately hoping to get third party mediation, however Angela is not interested. The only time she is willing to talk about it is when she is telling us that she will not live with the dog/not move out. She is not willing to compromise or even talk to someone else about resolving the situation.

My girlfriend and I have attempted several times to come to some agreement or compromise about this, and other problems in the past. None of them have led to any sort of compromise. Instead, we have fully given into the wishes of our roommate. I think it is easy to see why we have finally decided to put our foot down. I am a firm believer in "choosing your battles," and may have made the mistake of not chooising to fight any up until now.

Sad
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 05:02 pm
I might have missed it but did you answer JoefromChicago's question about what it says in the lease about dogs/pets?
0 Replies
 
darold
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Feb, 2005 07:26 pm
Yes, the lease allows pets. We have to pay a pet fee, but that should be cleared up soon.
0 Replies
 
Eryemil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Feb, 2005 01:48 am
::Sigh:: how can people be so petty? Situations like this remind me why I hate humanity.
http://2ni2.com/emoticon/special/gifs_demonios.gif
0 Replies
 
 

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