(Closed) Help! Advice on lawsuit against roomies who won’t pay bills

posted 8 years ago in Legal
Post # 3
1245 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

Well, I take it things didn’t end well with everyone? Did a meeting ever happen or did I miss that post?

Post # 5
180 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: February 2010

I am a lawyer but this is not legal advice and nothing I type here should it be considered a lawyer-client relationship between us.

Small claims court is exactly the place for this kind of “small” (monetary) dispute.  You probably have a decent chance of winning in small claims, however, winning dosen’t mean you’ll get your money. This will be a long process (suing them, having a court date, winning, then with the ‘judgment’ going after their assets) with people who know they owe you money but just won’t pay.  Proof that they lived there shouldn’t be a big problem (you can always bring a friend to testify that knew they lived there). It’ll all be based on credibility in front of the judge and it sounds like you have a good case.  Plus, in most of these things people just don’t show up.

Now the real problem comes when you want to collect the money from them (after you’ve won a court jugdment against them). The court paper lets you know they owe you money, but it doesn’t force your roommates to give you their money. For that you’ll need to have another court process (sometimes called summary process) to find their assets (cars etc) and either put a lien on them or try to garnish their wages, or put it on their credit report (whether or not you’re able to do any of this would depend on state laws)

Anyway it’s a lot of work for you.  You have to consider whether it’s worth it.  But you might mention to them that you are considering taking them to small claims court.  Keep in mind though that it would be helpful for you to be able to physically locate them after they leave this apartment if you ever consider suing them in the future (your state will likely a statute of limitations after which you cannot sue, you’ll have to check those laws)

Post # 6
2289 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2010

I’m wondering if just the threat of small claims court would be enough to get them moving? It can backfire though.

Post # 7
2681 posts
Sugar bee

Im not a lawyer either but I would think small claims court is the way to go.  The fee is minimal to get a trial and if you win, the roommates would have to pay for the cost of it, plus what the judge determines they owe you.  However, even if you win and the court says they have to pay you, theres no real system in place to make sure that they do.  Youd have to do something else if they dont pay you (alot of people will take a lein out on something they own like a house or car).  HOpefully if you tell them you will be taking them to court they will pay up.

I had a similar situtation where a girl was supposed to move in with me and didnt and I had no one to pay the rent for 2 months.  I didnt take her to court, but I did call her repeatedly and show up at her work demanding the keys back and payment until she finally paid me.

Post # 8
179 posts
Blushing bee

So… your landlord is not writing you the check for the entire deposit anymore? I thought in the last thread he said he’d write you the check for the deposit, leaving it up to you to give your roomies their money. Then you were going to deduct the bills from the deposit.


Post # 9
711 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2010

small claims court may be a long process but it would be the principle behind everything that would steer me in that direction!

Post # 10
7771 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: July 2010

It costs money to file against someone- I do not think it is worth the hassle, I am sorry! 

Post # 11
5823 posts
Bee Keeper

I would DEFINITELY take them to small claims court over it.  And when you win (I say when because I am confident that you will) you can then place a lien on their assets (which prevents them from ever doing anything with those assets!)  So say you place a lien on their car, now they can’t sell the car without you releasing the lien.  It’s a BIG pain in the butt for them!

I would write all of your roommates a formal letter explaining that they owe you [x] amount by [x] date.  In that same letter explain that failure to pay “will” result in a small claims case being filed against them which “could” result in a lien being placed on their property until they pay you.  If I were a DB roomie, I’d be intimidated into paying up!

Post # 12
114 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

I have gone to small claims court (pro se) a few times to try and get money from people, and trust me, it is a huge pain. First of all, you have to think about whether you have a case. Did you have anything in writing where they agreed to pay you every month? I think it’s sort of assumed with roommates that you wouldn’t be paying everyone’s utility bills, but it would just be your word against theirs unless you have cancelled checks, emails, etc. Also, you will have to pay the fees to file, which you only get back if you win.

As bluebook mentioned- the real challenge is not winning a judgment but trying to actually get the money you are owed. If they don’t pay and you have to go back to file for wage garnishment, you’ll have to have them served (another cost)- and you’ll have to know where they are in order to do that. If you can’t track them down, then you are pretty much out of luck.

It is a very long and drawn out process and not worth $500. Just chalk this up to a lesson learned. I know that I learned to get everything in writing when you live with roommates, especially people that won’t think twice about screwing you over.

Post # 13
5977 posts
Bee Keeper

My roomie and I went to small claims court against our landlord. He was awful and wouldn’t give our security deposit back. He did all the wrong things, so we took him to court. My roomie’s uncle is a lawyer, so we fortunately only had to pay the filing fees. Even though we won, we haven’t seen a dime from him. We sued him over 3 years ago…so I’m thinking that it might be more trouble than it’s worth. I would just chalk it up as a lesson learned to put some bills in your roommates’ names next time. Sorry you’re going through this!

Post # 14
3125 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: December 2009

I would just walk away, honestly. 500 is probably less than the fees you’d pay to take them to court. Lesson learned.

Post # 16
2821 posts
Sugar bee

I doubt that a landlord would take tenants to court if it doesn’t directly affect him financially. 

Most places don’t do pro-rated rent for moving out, though if it’s in your lease that’s a different story.  Do you rent the unit together or is each room considered individually?

I think your best bet would just be to go in and clean it yourself to make sure you get your security deposit back, don’t worry about their rooms, that should only come directly out of their deposit. 

Have they given you anything for the last 2 months of utilities?  When are the bills due?


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