(no subject)

I'm in the middle of some pretty stressful renters/roommate/lease drama and looking for advice.


I’ve been trying to get out of my apartment lease for a few months now because the rent increased to the point where I can’t really afford it anymore. I can give more backstory on this if anyone is interested, but long story short the only way I could move without big financial repercussions was to get a roommate. The problem was that the apartment is a super tiny one bedroom that is nowhere near big enough for two people and I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to share it with me. I found a friend who agreed to go on the lease as my “roommate”; I moved out, he moved in, we are both on the lease and he is paying 80% of the rent (paying 20% of the rent at the old place AND rent at my new place still saves me about $250 a month, so I’m fine with this).

Everything fell into place this past weekend, he moved all of his stuff in on Friday and I moved the last of my things out on Saturday. On Friday night he dropped off a check for September’s rent and caught a flight out of state for a 2 week trip. Two days after I deposited the check I checked my bank account balance and saw that it had been withdrawn. I spoke with my bank and found out that his checking account had been closed.

I don’t have enough money to cover all of the rent and won’t for two weeks. Even if I were to borrow enough to pay all of it, that would leave me no money for food or transportation to work. The “roommate” is out in the middle of the desert with no cellphone reception or access to internet and I won’t be able to get in touch with him until a week after the rent is due (late fees in this building are ridiculous, I’d be paying hundreds of extra dollars). From what it looks like on my end he wrote me a check, closed his checking account, and left the state.

I don’t know what to do. I have three other people interested in the apartment, two of whom would be willing to move in ASAP and pay rent up front, but all of this guy’s things are there and I don’t have the time or resources to move or store them. He has so much big, bulky furniture and so many boxes everywhere that I can’t even really show the place to anyone because it’s so cramped and messy. Several people have suggested that I sell his things (he doesn’t have a reputation for being super trustworthy and most of our mutual friends think he intentionally did this to get free storage for his stuff for September) but I’m really not comfortable with that.

I’m also considering just not paying the rent and getting evicted. I know this seems dramatic but this is the third month in a row that I have had trouble making rent and I’m pretty sure if I’m even a day late on rent they are going to start eviction procedures anway. I live in Washington state and I’ve heard/read mixed information on evictions here, but I do know that the 20% rent increase wasn’t legal because I wasn’t given 60 days notice so hopefully that would help my case. If I ended up getting evicted it would be all on my rental history since the paperwork for the “roommate” hasn’t been processed yet. Also, all of his stuff would be in the apartment and like I said, I don’t have the ability to move it or store it so I have no idea what would happen with it.

So, what would you do? This is super TL;DR, but I would appreciate any advice or insight, this rent is due in full by the 5th so I’m in a major time crunch and really not sure what I should do.

UPDATE: One of my boyfriend's friends is moving in the apartment this weekend, thankfully! He knows the situation, is fine with having the furniture around for a bit, and said he wanted to be there if/when the other guy picked it up just in case he got physical with me or anything. I don't know what's going to happen next but for now it looks like everything has worked out.
Call him. Tell him if his shit isn't out of the apartment by this Saturday, he either a) owes you for rent for the month, because you are storing his stuff, or b) it all goes to goodwill.

If you don't hear from him by Saturday morning, call him again and reiterate.

Then do it.
The "roommate" is out of cellphone reach, and is basically incommunicado. Any message the OP leaves will be a courtesy message.

My opinion is that the OP should go ahead and leave that courtesy message, because no one writes a check and closes an account accidentally. The message should go something like, "You've done x, y, and z, so I'm taking this action. If I don't hear from you in two weeks your stuff is going to Goodwill." Then she should put his stuff in a corner of the apt. and move to make herself whole with someone who is more trustworthy.

Good luck, OP!

Watch out, because it depends on laws. I live in new York, and you have to go through eviction proceedings on roommates, so an illegal lockout can get you in a lot of trouble.

Yeah this is what I'm fuzzy on. I hadn't even turned in his rental application to the landlord yet when this happened so he is not on the lease, and our verbal agreement was that he pay me September's rent before he left on his trip. I should probably get a lawyer I guess..
Wait.

He's not on the lease?

Guess what. No paperwork. No deal.

Double check that, but if he's NOT on the lease, then he has no lawful say.
Sorry, I wasn't super clear in my post. He was going to be on the lease per our original plan but all of this was decided a week ago and we weren't able to get the paperwork to him in a timely manner so he couldn't fill it out before moving his stuff in. I was literally about to walk out the door to drop it off with my rental company on Monday when I thought to check my checking account balance and figured out what had happened with the check.
Intentionally writing a bad check is a felony. The op should threaten to press charges if the "roommate" gives them any trouble, and then call the good will or salvatikn army to come pick up the stuff. Alternatively, you can hold on to it and refuse to give it back to him until he pays the rent.
Word. It's not a felony in my state unless the check is over a certain dollar amount and this check is just under, but it's still a misdemeanor and a more serious offense than just writing an NSF check because the account is closed. My bank is encouraging me to file a police report just in case.
I have called him several times, left voicemails, sent text messages, messaged him on Facebook...I even got in touch with most of our mutual friends to see if they knew what was going on or if I could reach him but no dice.
Could you speak with your rental company, just to let them know what's happened? In most cases, letting someone know what is going on will usually give you some grace period.

As for all of his stuff ... You're right not to sell all of his things. If he is on the lease, there isn't much you can do until he has come home. That's his apartment, too.

Though I don't think this is legal, perhaps the rental office will let him off the lease if you explain the situation. Then you'd be able to get another person in straight away to sub-lease the apartment?
I have tried to contact them but they are only in the office 3 hours a day and never answer the phone. My landlord is pretty heartless and typically won't work with me on anything, so I'm not particularly hopefuly.

He's actually not on the lease yet because it took them so long to get me the paperwork for him that I just got it back on Friday. I was going to turn it in on Monday afternoon, luckily I was thinking of dropping off my rent check that day and thought to double check my bank account balance or I may have not found out that he closed his account.
Well, in that case, I would do what others have suggested.

Ring him a few times, leave a very specific message, writing it out beforehand, if necessary. Tell him you discovered his bank account had been closed, and he needs to get in contact with you as soon as possible or you're donating his things. Wait a few days, ring him again and repeat the message, only give him a specific date he must call you back by. Again, state if he doesn't, the day after you will be donating his belongings and renting the apartment out to someone else.

Until that specific date, I would move all of his things to the corner and show the apartment to those interested. Just apologize for the mess and let them know the other tenant is in the process of moving out. (Don't tell them the specifics, as that might make them think you're drama.)

Shit, the new tenant may even be interested in some of the furniture. You could ask AFTER they've signed the lease with you. Tell them the old tenant left it in the apartment, it seems nice and ask if they want it?
I posted an update above, but I did find someone to move in that understands the situation and is cool with the furniture being around for a bit.
June. :( There is an option to buy-out but they want a cashier's check for 5 months rent 30 days before I break the lease and that just isn't doable.
Thanks, this is what I feel also. I think there is a chance that it was somehow an accident (wrote a check from the wrong checkbook, I dunno), but I feel like I have to protect myself just in case.

My boyfriend's friend is actually moving in this weekend, he wanted the apartment before but got in touch with me the day after I'd agreed to rent to this other guy. He understands the situation, is totally cool with having the extra furniture around for a couple of weeks, and even offered to be there when he picks up his things just in case, so it worked out okay for now!
Do not do this. Very rarely is this allowed and when he comes back, regardless of what he did, he can sue for the cost of all the items disposed and will almost guaranteed win.
I'm definitely not getting rid of his stuff anytime soon, especially since I don't know for sure exactly what happened. If I end up doing that at all (in the event I never hear from him again or something) I would make sure it went to either his best friend or his family for safe keeping if at all possible.
I agree that he's probably screwed you. Where in WA are you? If it's in or near the Seattle area, you should check with the landlord/tenant union. They have great info for people on rental laws and can advise you where to go from here.

That being said, last month I wrote a rent check and got a call from my landlady saying that it had bounced because the account is closed. Turned out I had written the check from what I thought was my next checkbook (I had just finished one when I wrote it) but was actually a checkbook for a 2nd checking account that I'd had through the same bank briefly but had closed. I'd never ordered checks for it but they'd sent me one checkbook as a freebie and I'd gotten it mixed with my regular checks. I'm pretty organized and together so that kind of mistake was not like me at all, but it did happen and I was in no way trying to screw my landlady.
I live in Seattle, that's good advice and I'll give them a call today!

This guy can be kind of absent minded...he's pretty young and naive and honestly I think it might have been a mistake like that but I have no way to know for sure and I feel like I have to protect myself, you know? The check from the wrong book thing was my first thought. It sucks because I feel like no matter what I do, I am kind of the bad guy unless I put myself more at risk.
depends on what the situation is really
If you're willing to give SubTenant A the benefit of the doubt like this, then yeah, sounds like you've got things settled pretty well: another tenant with whom you're acquainted who's willing to put up with A's stuff until he returns AND be there when he does return...just one question. Is B willing to move out if it turns out A still wants the apartment? or are you willing to just dump A out into the street when he returns? Naive or no, would you be willing to trust someone to sublease your apartment if he's scatty enough to write a check from a closed account by mistake? (Doing that deliberately is another kettle of worms entirely, of course. In that case, make sure B brings several big friends and keep repeating "your check bounced. Your name is not on the lease. You have no right to be here. Here's the stuff you left here and be glad I'm not charging you storage fees."
Re: depends on what the situation is really
I'm not willing to let A live in the apartment after this, I'm looking at buying property in the next two years and really don't want to risk my credit. Knowing him he most likely won't want to ever talk to or see me again, which is fine with me. His parents live here in the same city and he has several friends he could stay with so he'll have somewhere to go at least!
Re: depends on what the situation is really
Yeah, that's pretty much my thought too! A won't be on the street if he doesn't get your sublease, so B it is. (a bit tongue in cheek) just make sure his checking account's open...
Do you have a phone number for his parents, or could you perhaps reach them on Facebook or by email?

I'd contact them to see if they can clean up their son's mess.
Hmm in the middle of the desert with no cell reception? Burning Man by any chance?

I'm glad you got it figured out! I thought the lease would be a hiccup (in your entry it says he's on it) but then in a comment you said you hadn't turned the new one in with his name on it, so Phew!!

What a jackass.
Yeah I should have clarified, the agreement was that he would go on the lease as a roommate but this was all decided just last week and my landlord took forever to get me the paperwork, so he hasn't actually been added yet. I'm so, so glad I realized what happened before dropping off his paperwork for processing!
you should definitely drop this 'friend' from your life. i mean, why move in and close his bank account, when he knows he has to come back and deal with this...unless he took off for good.
Avvo.com is a great sight to ask a lawyer for free. Hope everything stays well! Enjoy your weekend =)