Yet another "roommate advice desperately needed" thread

I live in New York. I am the lease-holder on an apartment in which I live. I also rent out one room of the apartment to another woman. The arrangement is informal, with no contract or written documents. (If I had it to do over I would definitely write up a contract.) I find living with her more and more stressful. She can’t always afford to pay me on time, and she is critical of me, occasionally insulting me and threatening to do little things to make my life unpleasant. I find myself hiding out in my room, or spending time in coffee shops because I don’t want to go home.

So I figured, it’s officially my apartment. I gave her written notice to be out in a month. I felt bad about it, but I pay a lot for this apartment (twice what I ask of the woman) and why should I be miserable? To my astonishment, she has refused to move out. I can’t imagine how she could think this is okay, and I don’t know what to do. Does she actually have some legal basis for saying she doesn’t have to leave if she doesn’t want to? I’m really stressed out by this situation. I used to think she was basically a normal, decent person, who I just didn’t click with. Now I worry that she is a crazy person who could do something awful to me or my stuff.

Please advise!

Sounds like you need legal advice. As a non-attorney, I don’t see how she could think she has a right to say if you don’t have a written agreement.

So sorry you’re going through this stress. Hope you’re able to find a quick resolution to this .

You do need legal advice. Don’t throw her stuff in the street - find out what you need to do to legally evict her. My memory is that New York has some pretty pro-tenant laws, so be prepared for it to be a horrible pain in the butt.

I am not mean enough to throw her stuff in the street even if I legally could, but I’m afraid she’s aware of this and thinks she can call my bluff.

I’ll second Nugent, don’t throw her stuff out or change the locks or anything because that could wind up hurting you. You’re going to have to take her to court.

Ditto the legal advice. From what I’ve read (here), even without a written contract, as long as money was exchanged, you’ve got a landlord-tenant situation and you’ll have to follow those rules. But, before paying for legal advice, my suggestions would be to either contact your local bar association and see if they can help you out (often free or cheap) or see if there’s a housing authority that will talk to you about this.
Also, if your landlord is aware (and okay) with the situation, I’d suggest you talk to him (or her). Not necessarily for help in removing her, but because he probably has experience getting rid of people that don’t want to leave and may be able to walk you through the process. Of course, if he’s not aware or there’s a clause in your contract that says you can’t have roommates or sublet the place, you might not want him involved just yet.

I am allowed to have her living here and the apartment management is aware she is living here. I guess that’s a good idea to ask the management for advice.

The fact that the managers are not only aware, but okay with this is a huge advantage for you since you don’t have to keep this quiet. Otherwise, she’d be able to hold that over your head.

If you’re on friendly terms with them, I think that would be a great idea. Especially if you make it clear that your not asking them for help (but I wouldn’t turn it down if the offer), just what the protocol is. OTOH, you might find out since they have a vested interest in the property, they might be willing to go to bat for you. Once they step in, it might just take a stern conversation about ‘what’s going to happen next*’ between the manager and the roommate to get her out of there.
*Something along the lines of “Listen, here’s the deal, you’re roommate tells me you aren’t paying rent and asked you to leave. Here’s the deal, if you’re still here in 7 days, we’re going to start eviction proceedings, that means blah blah court blah blah all your stuff will be removed blah blah won’t be able to rent anywhere for 7 years blah blah”

The thing is, she does eventually pay the rent. I am hoping that I can ask her to leave just because living with her is so stressful, in other words, I’m hoping I don’t need to give a reason. Suppose I had a friend who could pay more and I would enjoy living with, couldn’t I tell my current roommate she needs to move out even if she paid the rent faithfully and was a model roommate? Or is that incorrect?

I saw this information:
Tenants who do not have leases and pay rent on a monthly basis are called “month-to-month” tenants. In localities without rent regulations, tenants who stay past the end of a lease are treated as month-to-month tenants if the landlord accepts their rent. (Real Property Law § 232-c)

A month-to-month tenancy outside New York City may be terminated by either party by giving at least one month’s notice before the expiration of the tenancy. For example, if the landlord
wants the tenant to move out by November 1 and the rent is due on the first of each month, the landlord must give notice by September 30. In New York City, 30 days’ notice is required, rather than one month.

The termination notice need not specify why the landlord seeks possession of the apartment, only that the landlord elects to terminate the tenancy and that refusal to vacate will lead to
eviction proceedings. Such notice does not automatically allow the landlord to evict the tenant.

A landlord may raise the rent of a month-to-month tenant with the consent of the tenant. If the tenant does not consent, however, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving appropriate notice. Real Property Law § 232-a and § 232-b. (end quote)

However, I saw something that worried me on another site, that if the person’s name was on the lease as a co-tenant, they have equal rights as far as the management is concerned. I was under the impression (I’m pretty sure management explained it to me this way) that I am the only lease-holder, having gone through credit checks, proved I make a certain amount of money, have held my job for more than X number of years, etc. The roommate has signed the lease as a tenant, meaning only that she is recognized as officially living in the apartment. She hasn’t gone through an application process and would absolutely not qualify to sign a lease for this apartment because she doesn’t make anywhere near enough money. But I’m worried that her name on the lease may give her some rights?

Well based on this new info (management being ‘officially’ as opposed to casually aware of her presence) I would go and talk to them before you do anything else at all. This kind of stuff could get really messy if you make a wrong move. I’d hate to see her say “okay, I’ll leave” and then turn around and sue you for illegally evicting her or have the management company take some type of action against you (have no idea what though) for kicking out one of their tenants without their permission. My suggestion is that you wait until Monday and go and talk to them. I wouldn’t even explain all the reasons why you want her out. Just go down there and say “You know I have that roommate living with me. Well, I’ve been having a lot of problems with her lately, and I asked her to leave. Actually, I asked her in writing to leave and she’s flat out refusing. Is there anything you guys can do to get her out. Or rather, can you tell me what I need to do to get her out? Do I need to take her to court or can I just wait 30 days after I gave her the letter and put her stuff outside and change the locks?* etc…” Just something along those lines. If they happen to ask why, I’d just tell them that she doesn’t pay her rent and leave it at that. They aren’t counselors or R.A.'s and have no interest in going anywhere near something they see as drama. But I’d even leave the money part out if possible. I’d just try and explain to them that that I need her out, she’s refusing, what do I need to do to make this happen.

I’m thinking they’ll probably want to help you since her name is officially on their books somewhere, so any legal action that involves her will likely involve them as well. That is to say, if you do something wrong and she decides to take you to court over it, the management company will likely be listed as a defendant as well…if she gets a lawyer.

*Not that you’re going to do that, but hopefully saying something that most likely runs afoul of the law will get them to jump in and say “nooooo, don’t do that, you need to…”

I really appreciate that you are giving me advice here. I agree that I should talk to management, but I probably can’t do that until Monday, so I am trying to think of what I could say if she confronts me before then…

I know this woman cannot afford a lawyer. She is completely broke.

I wonder what would happen if I told her I would have to raise her rent by $150 a month if she is going to stay. It would still be much less than I pay. Then, assuming she wouldn’t/couldn’t pay it, would I be on more solid ground, by claiming that she wasn’t paying the rent? I could easily find another roommate who would pay the higher rate, I basically offered a really low rate when this woman moved in because I felt sorry for her, but since she’s being so unlikeable I don’t want to keep giving her basically charity. With no contract between us there’s no legal reason I can’t ask her for more rent, if I give her 30 days notice, right?

I wouldn’t rule out her not being able to afford a lawyer. There are lawyers that work pro bono for low income people as well as the bar association that will help out for free and the housing authority that will step in if they think something is happening unfair (all thing that you might want to look into as well). As far as raising the rent. On the one hand, I would say, don’t stop at 150, tell her it's going to be 50/50 from this point on. I don't know when rent her rent is due, but you could tell her (in writing) that the next payment after 30 days from now it will be _.. (I’d make sure that there isn’t a percentage that you’re not allowed to raise it above before I make a huge jump though).

If I were in your shoes, and really didn’t want to wait until Monday and was the confrontational type, I’d spend the next few hours pouring over NY landlord tenant law as well as looking over form letters for raising rent. I remember when I was renting years ago getting a letter saying that my rent was going to be raised. The letter also made it clear that I was welcome to use this as a reason to break my contract if I chose. I just can’t remember how it was worded, but you might poke around for something like that. Problem is, she’s not likely to sign anything.

Sigh. I’m not confrontational at all. I hate confrontation.

Neither am I. One of the worst things I ever had to do was take a ‘friend’ to court. Myself and two other friends got an apartment together. During the summer none of us where really there that often (this was during college) so we all just mailed in our checks. One day the landlord called me up to ask me if I was planning to pay the rent. Long story short, turns out two months earlier one of the roommates, in lieu of his share of rent sent a letter to the landlord saying he was no longer living there and sent his key in. He never filled me or the other roommate in. I had to pay his third of the rent from that month, last month and this month (this was a loong time ago), plus an early termination fee since the two of us couldn’t swing it on our own all to keep from getting evicted. He really didn’t understand that you can’t just stop paying rent. No amount of explaining by me or the landlord made him understand that a letter stating “I no longer wish to live here” didn’t release him from the contract"

I ended up having to sue him for all his chunks of rent I had to shell out. Oddly, even in court he sat there and argued “But I sent a letter in saying I didn’t want to live there anymore” “I sent my key in”

Wow, the stupid, it just flowed out of him. Judge ruled in my favor. It was really funny. The deposit check had all three of our names on it, it was mailed to me. I signed my name, printed the other two and put it in my checking account. After the judged ruled in my favor. The roommate and his dad demanded that they get to see the deposit check. The judge said not to worry about it. The deposit was worked into the settlement (and it was). Then the dad said I should be arrested for forging his name. The judge stood up and yelled at the dad and told him to knock it off and stop yelling, Joey didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t forge your sons name etc… The son walked out of the courtroom yelling at me and accusing me of growing “drugs” in my bedroom.
Come to think of it, earlier on, the judge yelled at the dad. The dad was coaching the son from the “audience” section and the judge told him that unless your his lawyer you have to be quiet.

Sorry to double post, but I just found this scary quote on a random message board about a person who tried to kick out a non-paying, abusive boyfriend:
“Hello - I sympathize with you - I recently went through the same experience. And doing so I found out there is a New York City rental law that says (in effect), if a person stays in your apartment / dwelling for more than 30-days, that person has a legal right to stay in the residence - regardless of who holds the lease, who pays the rent, etc. You cannot legally change the locks to lock him out. If you do so, he can call the police on you.”

I have been looking through NYC landlord/tenant laws on various websites and haven’t seen a mention of this rule. Does anyone know about it?

No, you can’t just kick them out. But that doesn’t mean they get to stay forever. You have to legally evict them, with the requisite notice for your jurisdiction. It wouldn’t hurt you to seek advice from your landlord, ya know.

I wouldn’t go the saying you’re raising the rent route - that’s just muddying the waters. You want her evicted, so you need to find out what it will take to evict a sub-letter in New York. Start researching, and good luck! :slight_smile:

Oh yeah, do you have a lock on your bedroom? Put a lock on it, and lock all your valuables in it. You’re right to not trust her.

I agree; don’t try to raise the rent. If you do, and she does not accept it, you’re still going to have to formally evict her.

New York laws are very tenant-friendly. So do your homework (or hire a lawyer*) and follow the letter of the law. It may work in your favor that she never signed an agreement with you.

*Hiring a lawyer sounds like an even better idea if you are planning on getting another roommate after you finally get rid of this one. It’s important for you to know what rights you have, and what rights they have, when you let out a room. Best to know your options ahead of time, so that you can determine whether you should have future roommates sign a sublease or just have them be month-to-month from the get go. Both come with some benefits and both come with some risks.

Again, thanks all for the advice. I went today to the leasing office and talked with an employee there. He said I should come back Monday and talk to the general manager, but that he has seen this situation before, and that I would need to get a lawyer and take her to court. I asked, if I did that would I be successful in having her evicted and he said yes, but that it would take months.

Now I wish I had never brought this up with my roommate. She is not so horrible that I want to pay lawyers and have a court fight. I just wanted to lower the stress in my life, not spend months living with someone I’m trying to evict and have more stress. I don’t know what lawyers cost but I’m not poor so I probably couldn’t get a free one. (I’m not rich either!)

She had repeatedly mentioned that she might not be living with me long, or that when it got warm she’d probably move, so I thought she would go along with it when I gave her a specific date. If she really is going to leave in a few months it doesn’t seem to make sense to pursue an eviction, but life circumstances change and she may decide she wants to stay here forever… Telling her “Okay fine you can stay” after giving her written notice to leave seems like a horrible surrender though. I don’t know what to do. I feel sick.

That’s called manipulating.

That’s the end result she’s looking for.

Of course, I’m not there, so I could be mis-reading this, I’m just saying it’s entirely possible that she said it to keep you at bay. It’s no different then when someone says “The check’s in the mail” even though they don’t plan to mail it for three more days. It shuts the other person up.