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impossible roommate

Posted by DK on September 03, 1999 at 12:45:31:

In Reply to: Getting rid of an impossible roommate posted by Tamara Inglis on September 02, 1999 at 14:31:29:

: Hi...
: I've been living in a house in Suffolk County for 5 years with different roommates at different times. The initial setup was that the landlord would collect the rent from each of us.
: As I've been there that long, the landlord has left finding roommates and collecting the rent up to me. We don't have a lease or written agreement, but he trusts my judgement regarding who I take in as a
: roommate.
: The problem is that one roommate, who was to move out at the end of August, decided to stay(she's lived here for 1 year now)
: I want her out because she has her boyfriend there all the time, but she refuses to leave and has paid this month's rent to the landlord directly instead of giving it to me. The landlord asked me wheter I wanted him to give back the check, and I said "yes".
: However, he says that there is nothing he can do to her legally. The 2 other people living there were chosen by me and have just moved in. All the bills are in my name, and the "hold-over roommate" is refusing to pay her share of any
: of the bills. She is planning on paying the rent only to the landlord.
: I need to know what my remedies are, since I cannot afford nor do I want to move out. Should I insist on a rental agreement or lease from the landlord? Would that give me more authority?
: Would I be able to force her to leave, legally if I have a rental agreement with the landlord with only my name on the lease or agreement?
: The landlord doesn't want to lose me as a tenant(he had never met this girl before this situation); should I "force" his hand?
: Speedy suggestions are really appreciated,

: Thank you
The first step in analyzing your problem is to determine the legal pigeonholes which fit your relationship. This is always tricky, even when everything is in writing. When the agreements are all oral, there is lots of wiggle-room to argue that there is some other way to characterize the relationships.

I see four possible descriptions of the relationships: (1) you are all co-tenants; (2) you are the tenant and the others are your roommates; (3) you are the tenant and the others are your subtenants, and (4) you are each separate tenants.

It would appear that the most desirable outcome is for you to be the tenant and to have roommates. Eviction of a roommate is relatively easy. You must personally deliver a ten-day notice to quit. (See Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law 713) If the roommate does not leave by the end of the ten days, you can bring an eviction proceeding in the town or village justice court.

Right now the situation is somewhat ambiguous. If the others are paying rent directly to the landlord, they are probably co-tenants, although if each has clearly defined space it might be possible to argue that each has a separate tenancy. One co-tenant cannot bring a proceeding to evict another co-tenant. Therefore, the best way to proceed would be to get the landlord to serve a notice terminating everyone's tenancy (including yours) and to bring a proceeding to evict all of you if the unwanted person refuses to leave. Before the landlord serves the termination notice, you might also want to get a written agreement (or better, a lease) which will confirm your right to take over the space after the eviction. Once the landlord obtains a judgment awarding possession, you and the landlord would have the right to force
the unwanted person to vacate, either by a marshal or by locking her out (you could not use the post-judgment lockout in New York City!) Your new lease would take effect and, hopefully, you would then be clear on who is in control at the space.

If the landlord is not willing to cooperate, and you cannot show that you are the sole tenant of the space (with the others as your roommates or subtenants) then your only alternative is to move if you are unable to reconcile with the others
This is not all that different from a situation where you can't stand your neighbors.

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