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Understanding the Situation

HELP!

I (a poor college student paying $650/month in rent) signed a "joint and several" lease for a house from June 23 to May 24, along with 4 other people. However, one of the 5 signers never moved in or paid a single cent of rent, and subsequently went missing. Despite this, our relationship with the landlord was decent, and we had no issues with rent payment until the end of the lease.

The Problem with the Lease

When the lease ended, the landlord sent an email alleging that we owe $833.33 each ($5,000 split evenly among us, plus an additional $833.33 for the individual who didn’t live with us) for estimated tickets and damages. I found this suspicious, as we didn’t receive any tickets or cause significant damage, so I asked for clarification on the damages and tickets. The landlord claimed they were investigating and provided estimated figures, but seemed dismissive when I expressed concerns.

The Landlord’s New Claim

Later, the landlord sent an email stating that the $833.33 was part of the rent owed by the individual who didn’t live with us, and that if we paid it and signed a release of liability document, we would be removed from the lawsuit he was planning to file. He also claimed that if he wins the lawsuit, we would receive the full $650 security deposit and the additional $833.33 back, which seems unusual since the original document only stated $650.

Questions and Concerns

I’m unsure what’s really going on behind the scenes or if the landlord is being transparent. Should I pay the $833.33, or can I ignore the lawsuit? I don’t want to be liable for something that may not be justified.

How AI Legalese Decoder Can Help

AI Legalese Decoder can assist in this situation by:

  1. Analyzing the lease agreement: AI Legalese Decoder can help decipher the terms and conditions of the lease, providing clarity on our obligations and responsibilities.
  2. Reviewing the landlord’s claims: The AI system can analyze the landlord’s claims and identify any potential issues or inconsistencies with the alleged damages and tickets.
  3. Assisting with communication: AI Legalese Decoder can help you draft a response to the landlord’s emails and concerns, ensuring that your messages are clear, concise, and professional.
  4. Providing guidance on legal options: The AI system can provide guidance on your legal options, including potential legal actions you can take or legal advice you can seek.
  5. Identifying potential lawsuits: AI Legalese Decoder can analyze the situation and identify potential lawsuits, including the likelihood of success, to help you make informed decisions.

By utilizing AI Legalese Decoder, you can gain a better understanding of the situation and make informed decisions about how to proceed. Remember, it’s always better to be cautious and seek professional advice when dealing with complex legal issues.

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14 Comments

  • DysClaimer

    It sounds like he’s kind of offering you a good deal. “Joint and Several” means that each of you – individually – are responsible for the whole thing. So if the landlord felt like it he could choose to sue just you for the entire $5000. Technically you (and everyone else on the lease) are responsible for the unpaid rent.

    You could try to negotiate him down or work something out, but if he actually took you to court he’d probably win.

  • modernistamphibian

    > we owe $833.33 each ($5,000 split evenly between us

    He could sue anyone or everyone, individually, for the the full $5,000. That’s what I assume he’ll do.

    I might consider paying the $800 if he gives me a signed release of liability, to avoid a possible $5,000 judgment.

  • ihtsn

    Just went through this.

    Unfortunately, the landlord is actually not being a dick. He doesn’t (initially) have to go after that one person who broke their lease agreement. He could just go after any or all of the easiest targets.

    Depending on your state and the lawsuit, there may be a limit on the amount the landlord can push for at small claims court.

    IMO, your best bet is to try to negotiate with him and hope he sympathizes with your situation, because the cards are not stacked in your favor.

    Good luck.

  • ToxicOstrich91

    A quick note to add onto what others are saying. Joint and Several Liability means that the plaintiff can sue any or all of the defendants, obtain a judgment against any or all, and collect from any or all. If the total damage is $5k he could try to collect $5k from any defendant.

    It would then be up to the defendants to sue other defendants to collect those others’ shares of the damages.

    Your landlord releasing you from the lawsuit may not indemnify you against this suit from your would-be roommates if he sues one or more of them and collects from one or more of them.

    This is state-dependent, and there are rules to protect against this double-dipping by plaintiffs, but the rules can get murky and can depend on the wording of the release agreement that the landlord signs with you.

    I agree with the other commenter that you should ask your university if they have legal services for students.

  • bigfrappe

    In my state this would be a screaming deal. In my state the landlord is entitled to the entirety of the rent owed in triplicate if he wins in court. This is common across many states (though not necessarily your state).

    Essentially he is trying to make himself whole in two separate ways. The easiest way to collect is outside of court by collecting $800 from each of the tenants that has paid in the past. No fuss here. You owe him this money as you signed the lease. Truly you owe him the full $5000 (or 15000 if he wins in court) but he is willing to settle for much less (this is what makes it a good deal). He can then sue the people that don’t pony up for the full 5k. If he recovers damages in court, he will pay back what he paid you, as he has been made whole.

    If it were me, I’d talk to a lawyer. Many campuses offer a free consultation and much of what they deal with is tenant/landlord. If the deal is as good as it sounds, take it and pay the $800. If you don’t have it immediately you can work out a payment plan.

    This is a lesson you should learn. Don’t enter into agreements where you can be liable for someone else’s portion if you can’t afford it. If you don’t have a choice (I was there in college, needed roommates) fully vet them financially.

  • bostonbananarama

    Attorney, Not Yours, Not Advice

    I’m assuming that rent was X per month, and then it was divided by 6, and you and 4 others paid 1/6 throughout your term, but the person that never moved in didn’t pay their 1/6, and you guys didn’t reapportion the rent amongst the five of you?

    The first thing that I would do would be to determine what your state’s laws are regarding tenancy and security deposits. It sounds like you landlord took a security deposit and didn’t give you a clear understanding to what, if any, deductions were made.

    In my jurisdiction, for example, a landlord taking a security deposit has to give a written statement of condition of the premises. They have to deposit the funds in an interest bearing escrow account, not comingled with their funds, and they have to give the bank name and account number to the tenant. They also have to furnish an itemized list of deductions within 30 days of your move out.

    In this situation, it is usually better to go on offense than to play defense. Violations may include attorney’s fees and court costs as well as double or treble damages. In my state damages are set at one month’s rent, and the security deposit cannot be retained for any reason.

    A lot of people are telling you to settle with this guy, but you should realize that your co-tenants can sue you for contribution too. Have you been notified whether or not there are any damages to the unit? Are you comfortable reviewing a release on your own and being certain that it protects your interests? Or will you also need to hire an attorney.

    Settling may be in your best interest, but I would do my due diligence before leaping to that conclusion. You may have more leverage than you think in this situation. Best of luck!

    P.S.:

    > IF he wins against this kid, WHEN the full amount is paid back we would receive the full $650 security deposit AND $833.33 BACK

    Why would he continue to pursue the kid if he’s been completely paid back? You’re never getting a dime back.

  • DomesticPlantLover

    If he sues you, as others say, you will likely lose. The amount you owe will increase by court and lawyer fees, at least. This is a good deal. I wouldn’t be about playing the I’m going to be a mommy card and offer less, maybe 500. But expect him to say no. Asking never hurts.

  • FeekyDoo

    Why did you let you housemate live rent free? This is a you problem by the sounds of it!

  • thatsmycompanydog

    Tenancy law varies by state. Location or no one can meaningfully help you.

  • InvisibleBlueRobot

    Make sure you get the release in writing and a letter stating you have no further financial obligations and are released from any further liabilities.

  • EnoughStatus7632

    When you hear several in this context, think severable. The rest of the parties can be “severed” and he can pick anyone listed to sue. Then that party sues the non-paying party for any of several causes of action. It’s a fairly big part of the small claims system.

  • Rlchv70

    Check with your university. They often have legal resources for students.

  • SXTY82

    Of course he updated the contract eagerly. If you all pay, he doesn’t have to sue the kid anymore. So if you all pay, he gets his money, doesn’t bother with court costs and moves on. You never get reimbursed.

    Did you all sign the same lease or did you all have individual leases?

  • grumpyhippo42069

    Check the local zoning laws. It’s illegal for more than 3 unrelated people to live in a single family residence in a lot of cities. He could be breaking the law by renting to 7 people.