I was in court today for an eviction. Needless to say, it was an ugly one. The tenant was very nice and in fact, I had met him 9 months prior when we evicted his roommate. Unfortunately, the landlord had backed everyone into a corner by making several overlapping verbal agreements. At court, we had a huge he said/she said discussion going on and it was going nowhere. Here are the major points of where the disagreement were and how this should have been handled in a perfect world.
- Landlord evicted 1 of 2 roommates about 9 months ago. While you technically evict both tenants, he made a side verbal deal with the “good” tenant (that paid his portion of the rent on time). This agreement said that he could pay 1/2 of the rent for the entire home until he found a new roommate. Well, several months went buy and the landlord called the tenant and said that he needed more rent. So they agreed (verbally again) to raise it to 3/4 of the old rent. Several more months went buy, tenant found a roommate and again everyone verbally agreed to pay 90% of the original lease amount. No new lease signed with new roommates and the original lease has expired so they are on a month to month.
- The tenant claims that he has always paid his rent between the 15th and 30th of the month. In court he had proof that this is the way it had always been. (see this post about precedents on always late tenants). As you can imagine, the landlord said he never agreed to this. Since the tenant had been doing it for almost a year, I would have to agree with the tenant on this one.
- The property needed work done, but the tenant was a contractor. The landlord often allowed the tenant to perform work on the home and then take the amount for the materials off the rent. Now the tenant was claiming that all these items needed to be fixed and he was not going to do it because they were on the roof or he had a bad back and could not do it. This tenant went on to make the case that he was unable to rent out the basement because of a water problem that he supposedly called the landlord about. Unfortunately, this was the first the landlord heard about it.
- Something this month finally snapped with the landlord and he had enough. He had me file the eviction on the entire deficiency in the rent since the first roommate moved out including the 10% that was missing from the original lease amount recently agreed to.
I know this landlord well and he is a decent guy that treats his properties and tenants well, so I don’t believe he was trying to screw this tenant. The tenant on the other hand, came to court with pictures, dates and times of the conversations, and very compelling arguments for why things were the way they were. These verbal agreements were almost the same as when I am evicting a tenant with no lease.
In the end I was pretty stuck. I believed both the tenant and the landlord. My eviction advice to the landlord was, forget about the previous roommate and the amount he owed you, take the money that you have in your hand (the tenant had sent in the rent after the eviction was file), accept the money coming at the end of the week and move on.
We wrote a mediated agreement that said just that, went in front of the judge and still argued about whether the rent was late or not. The judge simple declared the case a draw, entered the agreement into the record and sent us on our way. All of this because we were dealing completely wit verbal rental agreements.