Landlord trying to change horses midstream

DISCLAIMER: From lurking for a few months, I know that the best answer to a lot of legal questions on the SDMB is “get a lawyer” or “it all depends based on your jurisdiction”. But this is all unfolding now and today, and I really could use whatever general info would be useful until I can further research getting a lawyer or the rules in my particular area.

As briefly as I can, here’s the situation. Myself, my gf, and a third roommate have been sharing a duplex whose written lease expires at the end of this month. The other roomie has to take the bar exam the very same day we’re supposed to move out, and so we asked him if we could stay an extra month. I don’t think he’d had anyone interested in the place, so at the beginning of this month he gave us a verbal okay.

Yesterday (Sunday), he calls my gf and says he’s got someone interested who wants to move in early. Could we be out by August 20? Oh, by the way, he needs to know that very same day.

Now, under ordinary circumstances I’d do my damndest to try and work with him. But my gf and I are both out of town, and haven’t found another place yet, so to agree would mean that we would be gambling that we could find a place to give us a short-term lease starting in the middle of the month, which in our college town ain’t very likely. And both she and are I out of town, so we can’t even research whether that’s a possiblity. I advise her to tell him no, because it’s just too risky.

As I feared, Mr. Hyde the Moneygrubber takes over for our landlord’s Dr. Jekyll. He claims that we have to be out anyway, because according to him he’s already given us 30 days’ notice, and announces that he’s meeting with the new tenant tonight and ominously suggests that he’s going to sign a lease with this guy regardless of what we say. Basically, he can smell the $$$ of a new lease, and he’s not about to let a little thing like a verbal agreement with his current tenants stand in the way.

The law student roommate is busily reviewing his landlord-tenant law, but he doesn’t want to fight it too hard because he already has a tenative agreement for a new place in another city, and is worried that our current landlord would give him a bad recommendation and sabotage the deal.

So here’s what it boils down to. The whole thing is turning into a big mess and hassle (on my vacation, no less), and I’m going to call him tonight. (Interestingly, he’s never even made an attempt to contact me or the other roommate, and we honestly think it’s because he believes my gf is easier to intimidate.)

We’re looking into it as best we can, but in general, are there any talking points or legal justifications I can drop to impress upon him the need to honor his verbal agreement with us? And what should we do if, god forbid, he does sign a lease with this other guy and set up the situation where he’s agreed to let two different parties live in the same place at the same time? I don’t want to turn this into a drawn-out ugly battle, but previous experience with this guy makes me think it could turn into that.

In the second paragraph, “him” being our landlord that we asked to stay another month with, not the other roommate. Proofread, man, proofread!

As one more addendum, I can only assume that his interpretation of “I’ve given you thirty days’ notice” is that since our written contract expires at the end of this month, he’s counting that as our 30 days’ notice. We’ve never received any paperwork giving us official notice to move out on any specific date.

One option is to say to him “What’s it worth to you?” (This presupposes that there is an amount of money that he might pay that would make it worthwhile to you to undergo the hassle of moving out ASAP.)

To back this up, you remind him that he, you, your gf, and your roommate all know that a verbal agreement was given, and his subsequent actions have fully confirmed that he believes this. So to prevail in a hearing he’ll have to perjure himself and hope to be believed. You further point out that he hasn’t really given 30 days notice. You wind up by saying in a calm voice “So, it’s really up to you whether this thing goes smoothly, or I call my lawyer and we have a big fight. After all, you’re the one who changed his mind and brought on this problem.”

You can play this as a bluff. If he refuses you can either back down or go talk to that lawyer.

Also - make a log of when he called whom, and what he said on each occasion. Might come in handy.

I think yer screwed and you know it. Without a piece of paper in hand granting an extra month to your existing lease, you’d best be out and requesting your walk through by the end of your lease. Anything else will likely lead to forfiture of your security deposit.

If you take it to court, the first thing the judge will ask for is your written agreement.

Well, some further research has revealed that the law is, of course on our side…we think. Per Missouri law, an oral month-to-month agreement is only valid for thirty days, and requires one calendar billing month’s notice of termination/eviction by the landlord, as determined by the day the rent’s due. In other words, if we’d been living on a month-to-month agreement already and he wanted us out by 8/1, he’d have to tell us by 7/1 (since our rent’s due on the 1st). So as it stands now, he has until 8/1 to tell us he wants us out by 9/1, and that’s it. He can’t tell us by 7/15 that he wants us out by 8/15, or any other shenanigans like that.

This is the way we THINK it works, but perhaps a lawyer could clarify it for us. Is this extra month an extension of our current lease, or a new agreement? Since we haven’t modified the paperwork for the original lease, we assume it’s a new agreement, but since we’re already living there we’re not 100% sure it’s not an extension.

and bare, we have a very good case in court, as Xema pointed out. The landlord would have to perjure himself against three people that he gave us an extra month, and then have to perjure himself again and deny that he asked us to move out 10 days early - which clearly indicates that he understood and was operating from an agreement that we had another month to live there.

I have no doubt we could prevail in court; it’s just a messy step that could perhaps be avoided if we can make it very clear to our landlord that we understand just how much we’re in the legal right and he’s in the legal wrong…which is why I’m seeking the Straight Dope on the details.

The net has some info on your state laws (Boy, they are spooky):

Your interpretation of Missouri law is correct. Just be careful that you aren’t considered a holdover tennant who is then responsible for 6 months to a year of additional rental payments. This can happen if you are found to have failed to vacate that end of a one year lease. The best thing to do is to set forth in writing what you think your agreement with the LL is and send it to him certified. Explain to him that you will make an effort to be out of the place by the 20th, but you cannot (and will not) gaurantee otherwise. This way he knows that you are serious about August and likely won’t try to intimidate you further. If he does drag you to court, then the document you sent him will be evidence in your favor and he will be the one relying on oral statements.

Negative, bare. In most states, a lease converts to a month-to-month in the absence of a written extension. Most landlords will do this in writing to cover their butts (and a smart tenant would be wise to request this). But state law says that the tenants can keep the apartment in the absence of anything to the contrary.

That said, this landlord is being a horse’s ass. First of all, thirty days’ notice to terminate the lease is just that: Thirty calendar days. Therefore, anything after July 2 is not thirty days’ notice.

Second, if the landlord’s intent was to sign a lease with a new tenant (and collect a deposit) whether booga (I can call you that, right?) and his roomies said they were going to stay or move or whatever, that’s bad faith and a judge is gonna hammer him on that, especially since the landlord could’ve followed the law, given the appropriate termination notice, and gotten them out legally.

Basically, as I see it, the issue really is not whether booga and friends can stay, it’s whether the landlord is following the law in terms of getting them out. I assume that the landlord drew up the lease. If he did, then the contract (which is what a lease is) is interpreted against him, because he knew of its provisions and chose not to follow them anyway.

If I can offer a suggestion, offer to pay a full month’s rent for August, plus a premium. That might help change his mind and buy yourself some time.


You just spent four paragraphs showing that ooga booga probably has the law on his side. Why suggest that he cave in to what seems to be extortion, and offer a “premium” in order to be able to stay in his place?