When Roommates Attack: How Can I Get Out Of My "Lease Break" Fee?

Reader Steve’s little sister has a problem. She keeps getting attacked by her roommate. She called the police and now there are charges against the roommate. The psycho roommate’s parents say that they will only pay the “lease break” fee if she finds a way to get the charges against the roommate dropped.

Does anyone know what Steve’s little sister should do?

My little sister is at college and recently came across a strange situation. Her roommate (and once friend) has physically attacked her, unprovoked, twice. The second time, the police were called and said roommate was arrested. According to the judge, conditions of her bail require her to not verbally or physically threaten my sister. However, they’re still roommates and she has access to the apartment.

My sister, wanting none of this mess (her life in college is complicated enough, aren’t they all at that age?) requested to break her lease from the landlord. He could have cared less about the situation and wants his lease break fee. Understandable, but not very compassionate and lame. The roommate’s parents worked out an agreement with my sister to pay her lease break fee if she agreed to drop the charges. She is more than happy to do this, but unfortunately, the charges are the state vs. her roommate, so she doesn’t have a say. I have suggested explaining the compromise to the prosecutors, but want to know what choices she might have if they do not agree to drop it.

The parents will not pay her break fee unless the charges are dropped. Is there some sort of law/civil case that she can force the roommate to pay these fees regardless of the outcome of the case because her roommate has created this hostile environment? I’ve been googling roommate law and the like and have come up empty. It seems a murky area and I was hoping the Consumerist could shed some light on the situation. Otherwise I’m going to have to go to jail for kicking the girl’s butt myself (definitely kidding, although it gives me great hope karma is real).



We’d call the housing department of whatever city your little sister lives in and ask them for advice on this matter. You might also want to talk to a lawyer.

Any other ideas?



Edit Your Comment

  1. ltlbbynthn says:

    Sounds like a case for small claims court

  2. punkrawka says:

    If the prosecutors won’t drop the charges, I’d say pay the fee and file a small-claims suit to get it back. Sure, it’s piling on, but I’d say it’s warranted and it ought to be fairly open-and-shut since the fee directly resulted from the roommate’s criminal behavior.

    If she can’t afford to be without the fee in the time it would take to recoup it, then I am similarly out of ideas.

  3. MDSasquatch says:

    Just pack up your $hit and move; forget the apartment and the roommate. What’s the worse that can happen, you won’t be able to get an apartment there again?

    To many options out there to risk personal injury.

    Forget about dropping the charges; press away! If this roommate gets away with it, she is bound to do it again to someone else. How are you going to feel when you read some tragic story in the paper, recognize the name and come to the realization that you may have been able to prevent it; heck maybe she will get the help she needs.

    Sounds to me like a substance abuse issue or some pent up $exual frustrations.

    How big is her watch?

  4. jsbaker says:

    If it were my sister I would pay the “lease break fee” for her just so the charges did not get dropped and the B**** roomate got the punishment she deserved. Especially since she attacked on her two different occasions.

  5. smitty1123 says:

    Stopped reading at “but not very compassionate and lame”.

  6. EmperorOfCanada says:

    Is your sister hot?

  7. shadow735 says:

    Talk to the landlord, tell them the situation, My sister and I ran into this problem. Our roommates started to deal drugs, hard core stuff too like crank, speed as well as pot. Anyhow we found this out later what instigated it is they decided to move to Mississippi and were going to leave us high and dry we discussed it with the apt management and they let us off the lease especially after they found out that our roommates were dealing drugs.
    Always discuss it with management if they are informed of the situation they will most likely let you off the lease without any penalties. Unless they are jerks.

  8. mgy says:

    @MDSasquatch: In my apartment complex, they have a pretty close relationship with the credit bureaus. A friend of mine who moved away from here and owed money for repairs never paid it, and had to pay a triple deposit on the next complex he tried to move into when they checked his report. As a beneficiary of his parent’s wealth, he was able to get it paid, but for someone just trying to scrape by, this could be the kiss of death in terms of getting into a new place.

  9. qwickone says:

    @MDSasquatch: do NOT just walk out on the apt. You’re name is on the lease, so you’re liable for whatever damage you’re roommate causes. Most leases are joint and several, meaning they can come after you for the entire amount of damages your roommate causes. I would definitely consider small claims court.

  10. qitaana says:

    Look to see if her college has a student legal aid office. I know the one at my uni doesn’t handle major things (anything involving an arrest, for example) but they’re quite expert and landlord/tenant relations, leases, and the like. They may have some ideas.

  11. juri squared says:

    Well, getting the hell out should definitely be her first priority. Money is money, but her safety is priceless.

    Suing might be the only way to get the money, sadly. Otherwise, she might have to suck it up and pay before the landlord ruins her credit.

  12. qwickone says:

    @shadow735: Did you RTA? They DID talk to the landlord already.

  13. hi says:

    Break the lease yourself move somewhere else then take the roomate to court for the money owed to the landlord.

  14. ianmac47 says:

    I could be wrong, but perhaps obtain a restraining order against the other girl. If the other girl is on the lease, she is still obligated to pay rent.

  15. Benny Gesserit says:

    Any lawyers out there? Is what the parent’s asked “drop the charges and we’ll give you $$” illegal?

    I don’t think it’s extortion but it bloody well should be.

  16. Michael says:

    Start with talking to the prosecutor. Sure, it is “State v Doe”, but if the victim refuses/doesn’t wish to cooperate, 90% of the time the prosecutor will drop the charges.

    Why? Well, if the only witnesses are you and the roommate and you refuse to cooperate, what are the chances of winning? Slim to none.

    If that doesn’t work it is time to talk to a lawyer. Some of the larger universities with law schools will have a free/cheap advocacy clinic where students can get advice from upper level law students.

    Also, talk to whomever controls the occupancy laws in town…likely the city. They might be able to get the landlord to cooperate a little more.

    And read the lease! Look for “loopholes” that might let your sister out scott-free. For example, if the lease is a joint lease, and she moves out, the roommate is still on the hook for the remaining rent. Remind her of that, and her parents *might* be more flexible about paying the breakage fee.

    Last, but not least, she can always sue in small-claims court for battery and the resulting losses (she attacked me, I wasn’t safe in apartment because of, had to move out, it cost me X, etc etc).

    Good luck!

  17. UpsetPanda says:

    Is there a way to break the lease first, i.e. saddle the roommate with the cost? One thing, she needs to get out of there ASAP because the roommate has access to the apartment. Two, she needs to figure out the rules on moving out – if she moves out, does she have to pay the rest of the rent, does the roommate have to, etc. The ideal situation is to get out with little to no ramification on your credit, but if all it is is paying the break fee, I’d just pay it and get out.

  18. johnva says:

    @MDSasquatch: The worst that could happen if you just “pack up and move”, I imagine, is that the landlord could sue for unpaid rent and/or send you to collections and kill your credit score. It’s not a particularly good idea to just leave with no notice. Some landlords might decide it’s not worth pursuing, but then again it’s not exactly expensive for them to just sell your account to a collections agency.

  19. chrisroberts says:

    That sounds like extortion on the part of the psycho roommate’s parents. “We’ll pay the fee if you get the charges dropped.” At the very least, the psycho roommate is bound to paying half of the lease’s ETF.

    The psycho roommate is responsible for any fees incurred by her actions. Steve’s sister should win easily in small claims court.

    A restraining order would probably make this whole situation much, much easier.

  20. friendlynerd says:

    2 words: Judge. Judy.

  21. Erasmus Darwin says:

    Would a restraining order against the roommate work? If that’s doable, I would think it would get the roommate out of the apartment but leave her on the hook for paying rent. At that point, paying the lease break fee would be the financially smarter move for her (or her parents).

    If a restraining order isn’t an option, it might help to point out to the roommate’s parents that paying the lease break fee is in their daughter’s own best interest — having the two girls living under the same roof greatly increases the chances that the roommate will do something stupid that violates her bail conditions.

  22. PinkBox says:

    Why would you want to drop the charges for ANY reason??

  23. thirdbase says:

    Chick Fight yeah

  24. clevershark says:

    Seems that the apple didn’t fall too far away from the tree, in the roommate’s case…

    My advice would be to look into student legal aid at her school. If possible have a lawyer draft a letter explaining the situation and asking to break the lease. People take lawyer requests more seriously than personal requests.

  25. hellinmyeyes says:

    Many cities have a housing aid department that handles issues like this. That, or like qitaana said, check your university’s legal aid. Good luck, I have a friend who’s going through a very similar situation, but she had an individual lease, and the apartment complex is setting up a new place for her.

  26. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @EmperorOfCanada: Rofl. Way to get to the heart of the matter.

    Brilliant, holmes!

  27. quail says:

    My first thought is to get the promise in writing. I could see the little sis working her butt off to get the charges dropped by the state only to have the parents break their promise.

    But before little sis does that she should locate a nonprofit tenant right’s group in her area. She could start at her school to see if there’s free help there. If not, about all major cities have tenant’s rights group. She’ll need to pull out the local phone book and start searching the internet. They would be the best at finding a way out for little sis; that is if there is one.

    Laws vary from state to state and city to city. Without more details it would be hard for someone to come up with a strategy in the comment section.

  28. tedyc03 says:

    Her contract with the landlord can be enforced by the landlord. She should pay the breakup fee and then seek to recoup the cost from the roommate. Because the roommate forced her to move from the apartment, the roommate is liable for any fees and charges incurred as a result (within reason). She should also mention it to the prosecutors, since if the roommate is found guilty, restitution will likely be ordered, and the cost of moving out can be ordered without having to take the case to small claims court.

  29. samurailynn says:

    If she is speaking with the roommate’s parents about resolving this, is there any way one of them could get a different roommate and stay in the apartment? Landlords are usually willing to put a different person on the lease, or start the lease over if a different person moves in. Sometimes they will even let completely different people take over the lease. (My husband and I took over someone’s lease once because they unexpectedly had to move out of state.)

  30. Hanke says:

    Doesn’t criminal activity break the lease? Check local laws, and the lease agreement. Very likely, the person responsible for the criminal acts is the party breaking the lease, and therefore, the party that must pay the related penalties.

  31. B says:

    She should have the psycho roommate’s parents charged with extortion, then the whole family can reconnect in jail. As a bonus, she’ll have the whole apartment to herself.

  32. Geekybiker says:

    I would just break the lease and then goto small claims to recover the money from the room mate if the parents are still unwilling to pay it.

  33. chrisroberts says:

    @Erasmus Darwin: Spot on — the restraining order would force the psycho roommate out of the apartment while still keeping her bound to the lease (which I’m assuming she’s a party of directly and not as part of a subletting agreement).

    Steve’s sister will have no difficulty at all obtaining the order of restraint — she’s been physically assaulted without provocation or fault and charges have been raised against the roommate. To get a PFA (or whatever it’s called in your state), it only takes one hit to validate your claim.

  34. Agree with small claims advice.

    Another idea would be to get a lawyer to write a nastygram to the other girl and her parents saying that if they DON’T pay the leasebreak fee, which is a direct result of the roommate’s criminal behavior, you will be taking them to small claims court. This may be cheaper than small claims (depending on filing fees & local attorney costs) and a nastygram on letterhead makes lots of people sit up and deal with it. Don’t drop the charges.

    Housing authority is a good idea too. Another option could be local community arbitration/community court if you have something like that. (Potentially even through the school.) Finally, sitting down with the landlord with an attorney or an official from student housing and going through the situation with him may help. (I do note you said the landlord didn’t care when she initially approached him.) If a lot of students rent from this landlord, he probably has a relationship with the university, and having student housing/student services in on the conversation will apply some pressure and help him see it’s in his best interest to help your sister resolve this issue and maintain a good relationship with the university. Similarly, simply sitting down with someone in suit with a yellow legal pad may bring enough pressure (shows your sister is “taking it seriously” ;) ) for the landlord to give in or at least compromise. If she ends up going to court, his chance of collecting the lease break fee gets much smaller and the whole situation gets a lot more complicated for him. I have taken a few of these kinds of cases where the client really just wants you to sit there and be official and lawyerly so the other side will take the client seriously and not blow them off, and to help broker an agreement. They’re easy work and typically can be resolved happily once everyone is taking everyone else seriously and willing to deal.

  35. arch05 says:

    Whatever you do, don’t drop the charges. It’s not worth the price of the fee. If something happens in the future, you’ll be glad you didn’t drop them.

  36. Shadowman615 says:

    If her parents are going to play hardball, throw it right back at them. “Steve’s little sister” is the one holding all of the cards here, not “roomate’s parents.”

    Since she can’t get the charges dropped, SLS needn’t worry about that anymore. Simply pay the lease break fee, and then take the roommate to small claims court to collect the roommate’s portion of it. If the other charges stick, it will probably help your small claims case.

  37. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @NameGoesHere: No crap. I’d go all out on making sure the roomate is charged with the assault, especially considering it has happened twice.

    Get your parents to front the lease-break fee and worry about the rest later. Just don’t give in to the roomate’s parent’s request.

  38. @friendlynerd: LOL, that was my first thought too!

  39. savvy999 says:

    IANAL, but filing for that restraining order FIRST is important. With no questions asked, the crazy chick could do the same to the OP’s sister, then she would be the one kicked to the curb.

    Do it RIGHT NOW.

    That will force her out of the apartment, forcing her (her parents) to pay the lease-break fee. OP’s sister gets to stay in her place, as she rightfully should. BTW, show the landlord the police reports and the RO, and have him/her change the locks as soon as she is out. Tell her to be there (with some beefy friends and/or the sheriff if necessary) when the Single White Female packs up her stuff and leaves. Maybe even videotape the whole thing.

    good luck.

  40. K-Bo says:

    I would talk to the apartment complex and see if they would wave the lease breaking fee if she signs a new lease with them. Basically she moves into a 1 bedroom or finds another roommate for a 2 bed room. I’ve had a few friends get out of lease break fees by doing this. The aparment would rather have you in another apt for a whole extra year than to just have a few hundred in lease break fees. This would still be less than ideal since I’m sure she wants to move across town to get away from this other girl, but it does have a chance of saving her credit.

  41. kantwait says:

    It’s called a RESTRAINING ORDER (also called a protective order) and it’s a must if you’re living with someone (spouse, family member, roommate, housemate, etc) that physically attacks you!!! It’s free, quite easy to do, and can be done 24 hours a day and will kick the roommate out of the apartment for probably a year once a final order is in place. She can go now and get a temporary order which will be served to the roommate immediately who then has to vacate. This is a domestic situation where violence is involved; she needs to get a restraining order.

    Good info on restraining orders: [www.larcc.org]

    If I knew what state this was taking place in I could give more specific instructions, but I would call the victim’s right office (usually apart of the prosecutor’s office) and inquire about how to obtain a restraining order. It’s really the best way to go in this situation.

    Oh, and FUCK the roommate’s parents!!!!!!!! Their child committed a violent act REPEATEDLY against another person and they think it’s ok???? They and their screwed-up offspring need help and they’re not going to get it unless their are consequences.

  42. UpsetPanda says:

    @samurailynn: But it doesn’t change that she is physically in the same location. The worst roommate I ever had was one who didn’t believe in personal hygiene and who was supposedly in a gang..she threatened to bring her gang friends and actually did bring in a guy into the all-girls dorm. That made us really mad because we didn’t know he was going to be there, and neither did the rest of the hall, and you’re supposed to clear those things first.

    She had her friends call and make lewd comments and leave us threatening voicemails, and it took us four months to get her out and we were in a dorm. There were RAs, and other people who witnessed all of this, and it took us four months. And even when they moved her out, they moved her down the hall. That didn’t make us feel a ton better, because we still got the phone calls for a little while afterwards, while she cooled her jets about being booted.

  43. Falconfire says:

    Make sure a lease break fee is even legal. In NJ your legally allowed to break your lease if you give 30 days notice.

  44. Traveshamockery says:

    @MDSasquatch: “Just pack up your $hit and move; forget the apartment and the roommate. What’s the worse that can happen, you won’t be able to get an apartment there again?”

    No, the worst that can happen is that you become liable for whatever unpaid lease fees/damage/etc. the roommate leaves in your wake. Then when it shows up on your credit report, you’re screwed.

    Pay the fee, get out fast. Then tell the Parents they have two choices – pay you back for the lease-break fee, or meet you in small claims court. Your sis shouldn’t be expected to drop criminal charges (even if she could) against someone who physically assaulted her just to recover a lease break fee that she’s only paying because of said assault!

  45. cmdr.sass says:

    It would be much easier to get a restraining order if the roommate was a man. She could just make something up. However with a pending court case, it should still be simple.

  46. Shadowman615 says:

    While your at it, little sister can probably threaten to file a lawsuit for damages incurred in the attack against her, above and beyond the lease fee. If a lawyer were to threaten this, the family might pay up a lot quicker.

  47. kantwait says:

    Oh, and what the parents are doing is essentially witness intimidation which is illegal, and I would report them to the prosecutor’s office as well. This is not something to play around with; if your roommate has done this twice she will do it again and it will escalate. Get the protective order and let the prosecutor’s office know what’s up.

  48. Michael says:

    Sad truth about restraining orders…they may force the SISTER out, NOT the roommate. Be prepared for that possibility.

  49. DrGirlfriend says:

    Just packing up and moving, without squaring it away with the landlord, could make it very difficult for her to be approved for another rental apartment. Back in the day, I used to screen rental apps for a property management company, and I can say that at word one from a landlord stating that someone walked out on a lease, or owes money, or a similarly negative reference, they’d be denied the apartment. Also, if she leaves without properly removing herself from the lease, she can be held liable for any money owed by the roommate, or any damages.

    I agree that she might break the lease fee, then sue the roomate in small claims court to recoup. I think that would be my first choice. Also, maybe she can speak to the prosecutor and alert him to what the parents are doing, perhaps the prosecutor’s office has suggestions.

  50. disavow says:

    Might want to read this before skipping out on the lease as some have suggested:


  51. johnva says:

    @B: I think that it might also qualify as intimidation of a witness, which is a criminal offense.

  52. DrGirlfriend says:

    And she shoudln’t drop the charges in search of a deal, either. If the roommate or parents end up screwing her, then she’s back at square one, with no paper trail of all that’s occured.

  53. smd31 says:

    From what I’ve heard, just say that you are being “deployed”/military leave and they never ask to see any papers….but then again if they ask and you don’t have papers…well the gig is up obviously :p

  54. kantwait says:

    This is also a good resource:

    National Center for Victim’s of Violent Crime

  55. Ramses says:

    @InfiniTrent: Fanstastic advice.

  56. Pylon83 says:

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure there are many options here. I personally don’t know if she’ll be able to recoup the fee in Small-Claims court, because she has plenty of options rather than simply breaking the lease. If she doesn’t first try to sublet, or get the roommate to sublet (read: mitigating the damages), I’m not sure she’ll collect anything. Further, while the suggestions that she utilize the Universities Legal Aid are good, if both girls are students at the school, they will likely be unable to help her due to the conflict of interest. I certainly wouldn’t recommend breaking the lease or walking out on it. I think the restraining order idea is probably the best, followed by a letter from an attorney with the hopes it will scare her into paying the breakage fee.

  57. shadow735 says:

    @qwickone: Its called going up the chain, if the landloard is a jerk go higher up unless the lanlord ownes the apartment complex

  58. kantwait says:

    @Michael: Where are you getting your information from??? That is not true and the sister has as much right to stay in the apartment as that is her permanent address right now. The abusive person would be removed from the situation, the victim would not be arbitrarily kicked out.

  59. katylostherart says:

    if the charges are dropped what is the guarantee the parents will pay the fee? somehow i doubt once the charges are dropped that the fee will be paid. talk to a lawyer. breaking a lease is breaking a lease even if there are circumstances. at best you could probably get the guy to take it out of the security deposit. at worst the charges get dropped and the parents bail on their half of the deal and she’s stuck with the roommate or the fee no choice. i wouldn’t be surprised if the roommate got parental help in bailing on the lease as well.

  60. NightSteel says:

    I agree with the folks that say ‘restraining order’, ‘look for loopholes’, and ‘lawyer up’. First priority is to get the antagonist away and keep her away. Second priority is to try and find a way out of the lease, like the criminal behavior clause mentioned earlier. If a way can’t be found, then lawyer up. Don’t drop ANY charges, and be prepared to try to recoup your costs in court, either through restitution stemming from the criminal charges, or through small claims.

  61. DrGirlfriend says:

    @DrGirlfriend: I meant to say, she might pay the lease-break fee. Durr.

  62. Jim says:

    1. Move immediately and avoid the roommate and her family altogether.

    2. Send documentation of the attacks to the landlord by certified mail. Check your state landlord/tenant laws (try http://www.nolo.com), but they should include a section stating that if a landlord is made aware of a threat to your safety caused by your occupancy of his property, he has X days to fix it (evict your roommate) or let you out without penalty. Usually this would apply to some structural type fault of the building, but I think it would work in your case.

    3. If the landlord fails to do anything within the time specified by your state’s law, take your landlord to small claims to get out of the lease.

    The idea here is go after the party who has something to lose. The roommate and her family don’t really have anything to lose if you just leave, especially if they don’t hold up their end of this arrangement. You need to get some leverage, so if the landlord won’t cooperate you need to force his hand a bit.

  63. MDSasquatch says:

    Or you could become a pest and have the landlord break the lease, call daily with minor maintenance issues, noise complaints, bugs, frivolous questions, etc…

  64. eheynowg says:

    How much money are we talking about? Sometimes it’s worth it just to pay the fee and try to recoup it later, especially when your personal safety is threatened.

    There are times to stand on principle, and then there are times to just bite the bullet and move forward.

  65. Jaysyn was banned for: https://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @savvy999: Depends on the state & who sings off on the restraining order. If the roomate is on the lease as well then she has every legal right to be there as well. I actually know a girl who had almost the exact same thing happen to her (got a restraining order against a roomate) & ended up having to move out because the way the judge saw it, *she* was violating the restaining order by remaining “somewhere where she was supposedly endangered”.


  66. chrisroberts says:

    To the people saying Steve’s sister should look for loopholes: Let’s say someone is driving recklessly and hits your car. The police charge the driver with a slew of charges, and the driver/driver’s parents say they’ll only pay the repair bill if you get the charges dropped. Do you struggle to find loopholes then? Of course not. The driver is by law responsible to pay, pay, pay.

    In the same vein: the roommate committed a crime causing an unsafe living condition for Steve’s sister. She is legally privileged now to obtain a restraining order and seek any monetary damages from roommate’s illegal activity. Even if the landlord is less than sympathetic, Steve’s sister now has right to recourse. Should she have to terminate the lease, she can easily prove it was due to roommate’s actions. No loopholes needed.

  67. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    @Jim: The problem is that if he evicts the roommate (or you get a protective order against her) she may have to assume the entire rent. Its not the landlords responsibility to handle roommate disputes (neighbors would be a different story).

    Im going to agree with the other posters, pay the fee if at all possible, even if you have to ask the landlord for a payment plan. Her safety is the most important thing. Following that you should easily be able to recoup the lease break fee (and any cost for moving/hooking up services at the new place) in small claims court.

    Make sure that you get documentation of everything when you leave. You dont want the utilities or the landlord to come after you in six months for damages/unpaid bills.

  68. johnva says:

    @shadow735: It doesn’t make the landlord a “jerk” just because they enforce the terms of their lease agreement. The landlord did not cause this situation, and should get his lease-breaking fee if the lease is broken. The dispute should be with the roommate over who pays that fee, not with the landlord over whether the fee should be paid. Since the roommate is the cause of the situation, they should pay the fee, regardless of whether the charges get dropped. The poster’s sister is under no obligation to try to get the charges dropped in exchange for the roommate paying the fee. She shouldn’t agree to anything, and even if does/did agree to this she shouldn’t trust the parents’ word that they will pay. If the charges get dropped, will they then decide that the sister has no leverage over them and refuse?

  69. Pylon83 says:

    The type of law you mention in #2 would not apply here. Such a situation has to be something that is within the landlords control. He can’t evict the roommate because she has a criminal case pending. That’s too much of a stretch to apply here.

  70. MoCo says:

    There’s not a prosecuter in the entire USA that is lacking customers, so for a relatively minor case like this, they’ll happily drop the charges (Nolle Prosequi is the legal term) upon request.

  71. savvy999 says:

    @Jaysyn: Good point, although I have seen it go way the other way in a couple of messy separations/divorces my friends have had. Neither spouse was exactly saintly in the overall mess, but the one who got the restraining order first is the one who got to stay (even if it was joint property).

    Like you said, it probably varies greatly by area/judge/jurisdiction. Nevertheless, being on record as the primary ‘abused one’ makes for a stronger case later. If there is a ‘later’, in civil court.

  72. B says:

    @chrisroberts: That’s why I said the roommate’s parents should be charged with extortion.

  73. camille_javal says:

    @friendlynerd: I was going to post those exact words. damn.

    that said, I’m with the pay fee/recoup in small claims group.* You’ll get at least one-half of the fee, and possibly all – Judge Judy would give you all. Hell, maybe the parents will pay the fee just to keep you from trying to drag them onto Judge Judy.

    I would also advise looking into whether the school has a legal aid group, because they often do. If they don’t, contact the nearest law school – I know my law school* has a group devoted to housing issues (it’s New York, though, so it’s necessary).

    [* IANAL]

  74. Trai_Dep says:

    File a restraining order. If the psycho roommate violates it (i.e., enters the apartment), call the police and have her arrested.

    Repeat as necessary.

    Have her parents call the psycho’s parents after the 5th time she’s arrested (and accordingly, legal bills have mounted to the high heavens), then ask, “Security deposit looks pretty cheap now, doesn’t it?”

    If you’re somewhat sympathetic to crazies, warn parents beforehand of your plans, letting them know they can avoid the enevitable cluster-f*ck that will be their daughter’s life by simply moving the crazy b*tch out.

    Or, if this might not pass legal muster: bluff the ‘rents anyway. If they’re even remotely rational, they won’t play the odds.

  75. ucdcsteve says:

    Thanks everyone for the help. To answer some comments…

    1. The break fee isn’t much, but she’s putting herself through school, so every dollar helps. You remember ramen, don’t ya?
    2. She is avoiding the girl like the plague, but when it’s your home, that bites.
    3. Yeah, I said the landlord lacked compassion. She could have rented a single room in another property of his (he doesn’t lose money in the deal), and while it’s within his right (that I know of), I still think it’s lame. Sorry.
    4. Yeah, she’s cute, but she’s my sister, come on… ew.

    Big thanks. It’s a crappy situation for everyone with no winners (‘cept the landlord…sorry couldn’t resist :). At least she doesn’t have Sprint.

  76. Jim says:

    @Tracy Ham and Eggs: It isn’t necessarily a roommate dispute. They both have individual lease agreements, so the attacker is a separate tenant, one who can be evicted because she’s a threat to other tenants. Sis will have to assume full rent, here or at a new apartment, that’s inevitable and hopefully less of a concern at this point.

    @Pylon83: I think you could argue that he can control the roommates’ tenancy. He can evict her based on her being a threat to other tenants. It would be worth asking a lawyer I think.

    Just presenting an alternate route. I’ve had many an uncooperative landlord, luckily never anything as serious as this. My suggestion seems more agreeable to me because you avoid the attacker and her family and therefore any future attacks or possible extortion-esque deals. By getting out through the landlord she would avoid future liability and be in control of leaving, unlike the restraining order scenarios where Sis may be the one forced to leave.

  77. LVP says:

    Get a lawyer. Pay the fee (be sure to document this), get a restraining order, and get out of there.

    Do not try to get the charges dropped. Take the roommate to small claims. She caused you to break the lease, she should pay the fee.

  78. rolla says:

    screw that …just pay the fee yourself. The parents are obviously trying to buy you off with a few hundred dollars. Pay the fee and let the roommate have a record that will follow her forever.

  79. UTC says:

    …… chargeback?

  80. Snowblind says:

    Not to hard, see here:

    You can legally end the lease for several reasons, one of which may apply in your case. Review the ones that apply to you:

    1. Uninhabitable conditions, which only need to affect habitability, not necessarily unlivable, and which may include:
    a. Infestations of cockroaches, rats, or other vermin
    b. Noxious odors, such as from sewage leaks, mold and mildew, dead rats in the walls, pigeons nesting in the attic
    c. Noisy neighbors in your building, or
    d. Criminal activity in the building or neighborhood, such as drugs and gangs

    I think d. applies here, Criminal Activity in the building.


    Granted, it is California, but I bet any state has a similar rental code in this regard.

  81. jimv2000 says:

    Pay the fee and be done with it. You’re in college, what’s another few hundred dollars anyway?

  82. Jim says:

    @Jim: And not have to drop the charges.

  83. Trai_Dep says:

    @kantwait: Whoa. Good call on the Witness Intimidation charge. Add that to the application of a TRO, along with a call to the prosecutor. They typically frown – grimace, actually – to such shenanigans.

  84. Difdi says:

    I’ve had issues with criminal roomies before. When I get into a lease with a roomie these days, I make a point of working a note of how the division of rent works into the lease itself. That way, the landlord will know who to go after if part of the rent goes unpaid. Not every landlord is willing to do this, but it merely adds an extra point of negotiation to the lease agreement and finding a landlord who allows such a thing is just another house hunting criteria; Just like any other important feature of an apartment or house.

  85. chrisroberts says:

    @Snowblind: CA is very renter friendly. Take PA, though, in which cards are very much stacked in favor of the landlord.

    Also, your example “d” doesn’t work when the criminal activity is in *your* unit. The landlord wouldn’t take kindly to that course of action at all.

  86. samurailynn says:

    @UpsetPanda: I was suggesting this method because it sounds like Steve’s little sister is trying to get around this without a lot of legal action (since she would even consider dropping charges). If the other girl is willing to take on a new roommate then that would be the best situation that didn’t involve extra legal action. Of course, it could just be that the roommate’s parents are trying to get their daughter off the hook and won’t allow any kind of negotiation for the other girl’s safety without her dropping the charges.

    Roommate issues suck. Hopefully this can get resolved without Steve’s little sister going through too much extra stress.

  87. K-Bo says:

    @Jim: Do we know for a fact that they have individual leases? They tend to vary by the owners of the apartment. Every apartment I ever lived in, the 2 people signed a joint lease. I had never heard of an apartment having separate leases for the 2 people in the same apartment until my brother signed a lease like that less than a year ago.

    The human thing for the apartment complex would be to let her off for her safety, but I’m not holding my breath.

  88. IrisMR says:

    I think it’s a bad idea to follow their “get the charges dropped” tactic. There is nothing that will keep them to their word after that’s done. AND she deserves to be in court.

    I’d say talk to a lawyer.

  89. GizmoBub says:

    How about this one for a sneaky resolution:

    Have a legal document drafted, even if by a law student, that states that in return for paying the lease break fee she will not personally press charges. Time it such that the fee is paid at the same time as the pledge not to personally press the charges. In light of the fact that the contract doesn’t touch on the state’s ability to press charges it might be a win win situation…

  90. ChuckECheese says:

    Lotsa comments, but I don’t think anybody has remarked yet how scummy all the people involved are–the assaulter, her parents, and the landlord. Hopefully Steve’s sister (SS) can associate with more sane people in the future. That comment in no way places blame on SS for the mistreatment she has received.

    Obviously SS is need of good legal advice. She should file a restraining order. She should have nothing to do with her ex-friend’s parents. She should investigate the laws of her area, which may give her an out if her rental home is unsafe. She should be prepared for a season of legal dramas. If she has no money, she should consult with victim-advocacy and domestic-violence agencies. If she doesn’t know where to start, she can probably call her local United Way and ask if they can provide referrals to local agencies.

  91. The Porkchop Express says:

    @tedyc03: Good idea on the restitution.

    There is no way she should get the charges dropped, not only will that allow sombody else to end up in the same situation but being put in jail or some other form of punishment may be just the thing the roommate needs. This could very well lead to the roommate getting the treatment she may need.

    The parents are complete dicks BTW. They should pay it regardless, they raised the monster/crazy person or they should help her get out of the lease. She shouldn’t have to move because their little nut job finally let it out.

  92. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    @GizmoBub: Now she is the one extorting the parents. That could be big trouble if the prosecutor found out.

  93. cindel says:

    Pay the fee but go to small claims court to get your money back.

    Do not drop the charges.

  94. coan_net says:

    Here is what I would do:

    1. Pay the whole fee – get out of there now.

    2. Make sure your name is taken off all utilities. For example, if power is in your name, have then turn it off in 1 week. Then tell your roommate that it will be turned off at that point and they need to get it in their name alone. (make sure to call after the turn-off point to make sure it is out of your name)

    3. Figure out how much is owed by your roommate, and send them a letter with the amount owed. Details details details.

    4. Make sure to get copies of ALL bills and disconnections stuff (you may need it)

    5. If your roommate will not pay for their part, then decide if it is enough to warrant small claims. (and if you kept all the stuff well documented, then it should be pretty easy to prove what is owed to you.)

  95. gamin says:

    How much is the lease break fee? F*$% I rather get people to help me paying that fee than dropping the charges. pretty sneaky from the dude’s parents

  96. CSUSam says:

    In the case of my school, at least, the University offers free legal consultation on matters like this. I would do that if at all possible.

  97. PixiePerson says:

    Make sure sister takes pictures of the way the apartment looks now with a current publication (newspaper or something) with a visible date. That should give her some amount of protection against the roommate wrecking the place.

  98. K-Bo says:

    @Tracy Ham and Eggs: I don’t think what gizmo said would work anyway, since as someone else said, the state would not press on with her as a witness, and my guess is that not going on the witness stand is actually what the parents were offering to pay for. Only way I could see that they would be stupid enough to pay the person who is not pressing charges to not press charges is if they have been too stupid to even consult a lawyer and have no clue whats going on (which is a possibility.) My guess is that the parents offering to pay to drop charges is just bad wording for paying her not to testify.

  99. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @InfiniTrent: ITA. She should also add her moving expenses and other incidentals to the lawsuit she files in small claims.

  100. ARPRINCE says:

    Steve…save your sister. Pay the lease break fee!

  101. K-Bo says:

    @CSUSam: As one person said, this might not work since both parties are students, the school might have to stay out of it for legal reasons, or the student who lost could sue the school and all kinds of mess like that. I know it sounds stupid, but I have no doubt that there are plenty of people out there who even if they had no case whatsoever would sue the school for providing better counsel for the other student or something like that.

  102. godawgs7 says:

    *** as mentioned above partially, she could use the threat of small claims court to get the parents to pay for it. Sounds like she has a case for both assault and battery and w/ the criminal case records it will be easily won.

    She should just threaten to sue unless the parents agree to pay for the break fee.

  103. CrapoCrap says:

    I agree that she needs to get a restraining order. ANy domestic abuse victim (even if the relationship is not romantic, this is still domestic abuse) should be able to get one.
    Secondly, the parents are engaging in witness intimidation. That is a crime. She needs to file a police report for the intimidation, and then make sure the DA in the assault case gets a copy of the report.

  104. navmatt says:

    Depending on her State/Locality this may qualify as domestic violence. Some places have laws specifying how a landlord handles a lease break in the event of a domestic violence situation. Certainly a question for a lawyer familiar with local Landlord/Tenant law.

  105. Pylon83 says:

    The thing is, they simply won’t provide the service. University Legal Services are supported by campus fees that all students pay. So, since they are being paid by ALL of the students, they can’t represent (or give advice to) one student regarding another student. Clear conflict of interest.

  106. gingertwisted says:

    There should be some sort of legal aid on campus. They should be able to give her advice on how to approach the landlord and imply he is now responsible if something happens to her because he had knowledge of the danger. Or,get advice on how to approach the parents. This can not be the first time this stuff has happened and they should do the right thing, period.
    She should also let them know that she will not under any circumstances drop the charges, and they should be grateful because that may be the only way their psycho daughter gets help.
    The state will not go forward with the charges if they don’t have an accuser/witness.

  107. macinjosh says:

    @UTC: Yes, get a chargeback from your credit union.

  108. macinjosh says:

    Can someone explain to me why the criminal is not the one moving out? k thcbai

  109. K-Bo says:

    @macinjosh: Because in our society we are sooooo worried about not infringing on criminals rights, that we tiptoe around things like this, and in the process, stomp all over victims. Sad but true.

  110. noquarter says:

    @smitty1123: Wow, thanks for letting us all know.

    I think I speak for everyone here when I say that my first thought upon reading this post was “Yes, that’s all very nice, but exactly how far into this explanation would a retard read?”

  111. Landru says:

    I’ll bet the parents got the “drop the charges” idea from their own lawyer.

  112. noquarter says:

    @Pylon83: My university legal service advised me in a case involving other students. I think most of their business is students whose conflicts involve other students.

  113. madrigal says:

    @shadow735: Your landlord was a lot nicer. One of my roommates subleased her apartment over the summer. The new girl smoked pot on and on again. She’d invite a bunch of people over, and they’d be in her room smoking. I mentioned this to the landlord because our apartment reeked, and he wrote her a note saying “your roommates came to me because your smoking bothers them. Please stop smoking for your roommates’ sakes.” This just made her smoke even more.

  114. K-Bo says:

    @Landru: If they did, they misquoted the lawyer, or have the worst lawyer ever. The sister isn’t the one pressing the charges, therefor she can’t drop them. She can decide to not testify, which would making it highly likely they would be dropped, but she wouldn’t be dropping them. Either they have no clue what’s going on, or somewhere down the line, the wording of what they wanted got misquoted.

  115. chstwnd says:

    Isn’t it a valid term of a lease agreement that you can get out of the lease sans fees if they cannot provide adequate maintenance, groundskeeping and security? I know of several people who’ve gotten out of leases for maintenance issues, and a few who’ve claimed security (though for other residents, and not those living within their own apartment). The best way to find out is to read your lease and see where all the loopholes lie. Since this is a legal issue, maybe you can find better answers (esp. in light of the “chick fight yeah” comments) at http://www.freeadvice.com . A quick search there turned up at least 10 pages on breaking leases.

  116. TexasScout says:

    Lil Sis is holding ALL the cards here. USE THEM! They want the charges dropped, they PAY FIRST! Then you drop. FCUK EM’

  117. K-Bo says:

    @noquarter: This may have worked since they don’t provide representation, just advice. A non-school provided lawyer would never do it though.

  118. TexasScout says:

    Lil’ Sis is holding ALL THE CARDS here. USE THEM!

    THEY PAY, then you drop! FCUK EM’!

  119. The Porkchop Express says:

    @noquarter: DING DING DING!!!
    I would think so too, that way they can make sure that both students get as fair a shake as possible instead of one student going to a scumbag (sorry lawyers) attorney and putting the screws to another student.

  120. Pylon83 says:

    Perhaps your University Legal Services is structured differently, but most times the structure and compulsory nature of the service they provide (they usually have to provide the advice) prevents them from being in a position where they have to advise both sides.

  121. donovanr says:

    Your sister didn’t do anything wrong so she shouldn’t have to pay in any way including moving. The parents know that their daughter is screwed if she is found guilty and at a minimum will end up paying at least a few grand in legal fees win or lose. Thus their monetary upside to your getting the charges dropped are at least a few thousand dollars. Thus it is worth their while to move their daughter out and pay out her half of the rent for the year.
    But none of this can be put in a contract so don’t sign squat. Do a verbal agreement to the above and get them to fork over the entire amount in cash as the roommate leaves and then honor the agreement by not cooperating with the prosecutor. The prosecutor won’t give a damn as they have enough on their plate to care about some squabbling roommates (their view).
    But make sure that you get the money up front. If you don’t and the prosecutor drops your case they won’t pick it up ever again as you basically hosed them once. Thus if the parents agree to pay the rent in installments or something then I guarantee that the second the charges are gone so will be any more money. If they argue that they can’t come up with all that money then tell them that the defense lawyer is going to ask for most of the money up front anyway so it is either they lawyer or you. Also have this conversation once and set a deadline of under a week. After that week say that you will have moved out and will proceed with the charges. Otherwise they will drag this out.

    The two key things to keep in mind are:
    Your sister did nothing wrong and thus should not pay in time or money and has a worst case scenario of a lease break fee and a move.

    The roommate is exposed to a criminal trial and middling to huge legal fees and maybe a fine.

    In this negotiation any offer that costs less than the worst case scenario for the roommate is a good offer.

  122. K-Bo says:

    @Lo-Pan: The fear is that anytime the same entity represents/ advises 2 different people, there is the chance that they will pick sides, effectively screwing the person they are conscious or subconsciously against. Think about it, if you think one person is right and the other is wrong, you are going to do a better job for the one you believe to be in the right.

  123. Superawesomerad says:

    Best option: Get a restraining order, which would most likely force the Psycho’s hand in paying the break fee. Get a new roommate and live happily ever after. (Also, testify against Psycho in court.)

    Okay option: Pay the fee yourself and sue to get your money back once you’ve gotten the hell out of there. Find a new apartment and a new roommate. (Also, testify against Psycho in court.)

    Bitch option: Refuse to cooperate with the prosecutor, which will (probably) get the charges dropped. Psycho’s parents pay the fee, Psycho gets a new roommate to abuse.

  124. Jim says:

    @K-Bo: @Jim: Do we know for a fact that they have individual leases? They tend to vary by the owners of the apartment. Every apartment I ever lived in, the 2 people signed a joint lease. I had never heard of an apartment having separate leases for the 2 people in the same apartment until my brother signed a lease like that less than a year ago.

    I think the OP implies it by referring to “her lease”: “The roommate’s parents worked out an agreement with my sister to pay her lease break fee…”, but that’s a fair question. I did make an assumption there.

    So without blaming the victim, let this be instructional: joint leases are bad!

    Good catch K-Bo.

  125. noquarter says:

    @Pylon83: Now that I think way back to college, I remember that I went to them for a very similar situation to this one. I wanted out of my lease because my roommates, who were also students, were making it difficult to live there.

    As long as she asks their advice on the “What should I do about my lease given my situation” question, rather than the “What should I do about my roommate” question, I don’t see any conflict. And neither did my university.

  126. Techguy1138 says:


    Your sister needs to stop being the victim. She was attacked TWICE in her own home.

    Now she letting the roommates parents have control of the situation. Their going to punish HER for not submitting to their demands.

    In a situation like this saying every dollar counts is a cavalier and degrading statement. Is the roommate dangerous or not? Then you say the fee isn’t expensive.
    Have her scrape up the money. Hit up family, stop eating out for a year or two if that is what it takes.

    Get her safe. Especially in this situation. She needs to take charge of her safety and life. You didn’t describe her as someone so down on her luck and without resources that she should let others run her life and hurt her as they see fit.

  127. keith4298 says:

    Threaten to sue for big bucks….then say you are willing to drop your soon to be filed law suit in exchange for the lease break fee. This is America….sue first, take no prisoners.

  128. noquarter says:

    @Superawesomerad: Bitch option: Refuse to cooperate with the prosecutor, which will (probably) get the charges dropped. Psycho’s parents pay the fee, Psycho gets a new roommate to abuse.

    I would put her odds of actually getting money from the parents at close to zero – no matter what happens with the court case. I suspect they’re not the most upstanding of citizens.

  129. Tonguetied says:

    I agree with the comment about going to the student legal aid office at the college. While the landlord is refusing to listen to her he might be more responsive to a letter from the office. It’s a stretch but it might help.

    I also don’t think she should drop the charges.

  130. K-Bo says:

    @Jim: but I read that as they offer to pay “her lease break fee”, not “her lease” break fee (or “her fee for breaking their lease”, not “the fee for breaking her lease”, if that clarifies it.) Looks like we need some clarification, I could read this one either way.

  131. Skeptic says:

    As people say, she should immediately get a restraining order. She has a perfect case for one.

    Next, demanding she drop criminal charges in exchange for a financial consideration is sometimes called Extortion, and can be illegal. She should report this apparent extortion attempt to the DA for prosecution.

    Finally, she should investigate whether the lease break fee is legal. In many states, non-mitigated damage fees in contracts are illegal and the landlord has a duty to rent out the apartment and can only charge for actual expenses incurred in doing so.

    IANAL, and she should seek competent legal advice.

  132. arniec says:

    I have to agree with the restraining order idea. Make HER move and then SHE incurs the lease break fee. Or if she doesn’t want to move then offer to move if she pays the fee.

    Either way still press charges.

  133. ancientsociety says:

    Whatever she does, DO NOT DROP THE CHARGES.

  134. K-Bo says:

    @Techguy1138: Exactly, this reminds me of a situation that happened in my city about 2 years ago. A girl knew that her window lock was broken, and refused to fix it because “it’s the apartment complex’s job” Now she’s dead because someone broke into her apartment, and her dad is trying to sue the apartment. This is just me, but I would have paid to fix it and sued them for the money later, what good is knowing you stood by your guns and made the proper person pay if you are injured or dead. She should pay it, get out and worry about trying to get it back later. This is not work risking her health, and (depending how dangerous the other girl is) life over. If she stays in the apartment while she tries to work this all out, I would expect the other girl to get more and more violent.

  135. southie says:

    I have some experience in this arena, so can shed some light. In an effort to avoid writing ‘your sister’ over and over again, I just addressed it to her.

    1. Do NOT attempt to the talk to the prosecutors to get the charges dismissed. I would, in fact, call them and discuss the “fee payment for dropped case” aspect that the parents are attempting to pull, and the failure of the landlord to offer a ‘get out of lease free’ bit. Do NOT, under any circumstances, become a hostile witness for the prosecution in order to get out of the fee. The last thing you want is to possibly held in contempt. Instead, ask them to get a restraining order against the roommate on your behalf. This will help your case against your landlord. Keep a record of all police reports, legal documents, and whatnot. I also advice keeping a time line in which you’ve had contact with the roommate and/or their parents regarding the case, as well as conversations with the landlord.

    2. Ask the prosecutor’s office about Crime Victim’s Compensation. Most states have this – and it is used to force perpetrators of crime to pay bills (hospital, damage fees on leases, etc.) that the victim would unfairly be forced to otherwise pay. I’m quite certain that this fee, should your landlord not honor it being dropped, will be thrust upon your roommate under this law. Think of it this way: if your roommate weren’t such a nutcase, you wouldn’t have to move early. Their behavior has forced you to protect your life, sanity, and safety by moving. It is only fair that they should have to pay any and all extra expenses due to that fact.

    3. Your campus (or the city in which it is located) should have some sort of Tenant’s Rights Office. Contact your university to find out its location and phone number. They should be a wonderful resource and advocate for you – this is where your keeping of paperwork is key. If all else fails, you should be able to present your case before an arbitrator. The Tenant’s Rights Center should pretty much know right off the bat your options in getting out of your lease.

    4. Do not move without breaking your lease! As a previous poster said, you’re on the hook for any damage that Crazy Roommate caused. On top of that, you’re on the hook for half the rent (or, dependent upon your lease, the entire rent, should your roommate fail to pay their share)!

    5. This seems fairly easily resolved, even if your landlord is a punk. As a last resort, I would serve them papers to appear in small claims court. Unless the judge is a terrible misanthrope, the sheer logic that you have on your side should win out.

    Good luck! Keep all paperwork!

  136. ucdcsteve says:

    @Techguy1138: To be a little more clear (sorry), she is getting out. She is moving this weekend. Safety is first, and she’ll get the money to break the lease, I just want her to get it back if possible since you’re absolutely right, she’s a victim. She has a new lease for the rest of the year at another property.

  137. K-Bo says:

    @southie: I agree with most of this except 4. If you really fear for your safety, get out, no matter what, no amount of financial damages is worth your life. That said, I would go ahead and pay the lease break fee and take it to small claims court later, to avoid the situation you are talking about.

  138. southie says:

    @K-Bo: I completely agree. Safety first! I misspoke – don’t just leave and then forget about it!

  139. theora55 says:

    1st, find new, safe housing.
    2nd, inform the landlord that the lease is being terminated because the apartment is not safe, and therefore not habitable. Don’t ignore the landlord; corporate landlords will come after tenants. If it goes to court, she has a good chance of winning.
    3rd, tell the roommie’s parents that their daughter is responsible for the mess, and that they should deal with it; no negotiating. If the roommie is, as seems likely, mentally ill, the court is likely to insist on treatment, so they would be best off to get the daughter into treatment anyway, and negotiate w/ DA for dropped charges.

  140. digitalgimpus says:

    MoCo at 12:05 PM

    There’s not a prosecuter in the entire USA that is lacking customers, so for a relatively minor case like this, they’ll happily drop the charges (Nolle Prosequi is the legal term) upon request.

    Not always. It’s entirely likely since it’s an election year they may be out to prove something “tough on violence in our schools”, bla bla bla… even if they aren’t running, they have close friends who are.

    I’d suggest making certain to have the parents “offer” documented and indisputable. Then break the lease and go to court. They sound like the type of people who would change their words into “we would have helped if we knew” if given the chance. They obviously see guilt, and want to cover it.

    I’d also look into if this crazy roommate has a history. Background check might not be a bad idea. See if they had a prior. Depending on your state that might help. College owned/affiliated housing may requires students to sign that regarding criminal past. If this person did… that might be an additional avenue to persue.

  141. Pylon83 says:

    I think everyone is confusing the “Safety” issue here. The landlord has no control over what occurs IN the apartment. No court will terminate a lease because a roommate is a criminal.

  142. KIRZEN2007 says:

    You have -got- to be kidding me.

    Those charges should never be dropped, you should approach the parents and go “Look, either you settle with me here and now, and pay the fee for me, or I’ll take you to small claims for the fee, emotional distress, and pain and suffering”.

    You don’t negotiate these sorts of things, especially on someone else’s terms.

  143. Sam Glover says:

    Sounds like a restraining order may be in, er, order, but most cities will have a tenant remedies procedure, as well. You can ask the court for a variety of things, up to and including letting you out of your lease. The local court website should have more information and forms.

  144. Optimistic Prime says:

    Already plenty of good advice here, but after watching People’s Court for years: Constructive eviction. Let the landlord know the other occupant is unsafe and needs to be removed. If not, you will most likely be able to move without paying any lease break fees.

    I’d say at the least give it a shot.

  145. bohemian says:

    Pack up and leave, don’t drop the charges. If she can’t pay the break fee or doesn’t want to she IS losing any deposit so the landlord will have that. The worst he could do is take you to small claims court over it. You have a 50-50 chance that the judge would take your side. You do have a pretty reasonable problem requiring you to vacate.

    Isn’t what the crazy girl’s parents doing illegal in a witness tampering or intimidation sort of way?

  146. GizmoBub says:

    On the matter of the restraining order why not get creative then? Everyone is saying that a restraining order should be relatively easy to obtain. If that’s the case, she should push for one that involves a requirement that the abuser remain 300 ft away from her at all times. Then if she’s hanging around in the apartment she can keep calling the police for violations of the restraining order when the abuser comes home and so on.

  147. jimconsumer says:

    Look, this is really, really easy:

    1. Leave the apartment. Immediately.

    2. Pay the lease break fee. Come on, seriously, it’s a little bit of money vs. your life? How do you know this girl isn’t going to cut your throat while you sleep?

    3. Sue her in small claims court. You will win, easy. Not only will you get your lease break fee back, you can also ask for moving expenses and other misc. expenses. The girl has been arrested for assaulting you, this is a clear cut case. You might even just ask the prosecutor if he can extract the money from her for you – they can do this in some cases, it’s called “restitution.”

    4. DO NOT IN ANY WAY ASK THE PROSECUTOR TO DROP THESE CHARGES. Nail this girl to the wall. Seriously, she has a major anger problem and mommy and daddy are being idiots trying to get her off the hook. If my daughter attacked you, I would beg prosecutors to throw her ass in jail and I would help you through the process to sue her (unless she was a minor in which case I’d pay all of your damages and beg the juvenile court system to incarcerate her for a bit).

    Small claims court is very easy. Do not be intimidated by it. You will have an easy win, you don’t need a lawyer, just go down to the court house and the nice people will help you file and everything.

  148. Snowblind says:


    Why should it matter if you are the target of the criminal activity?
    The landlord should evict the roommate, and failure to do so is making the room uninhabitable.

  149. dcndn says:


  150. jbgordon76 says:

    I would pressume that the parents requesting you to drop the charges or otherwise face a financial penalty constitutes intimidation of a witness which in TX is a 3rd degree felony. I would take this issue up directly with the prosecutor. Most States have a victims assitiance fund specifically designed to either move someone out of a hostile situation or environment, or provide some sort of counseling, provided your testimony will be available should the case go to trial. Good Luck!

  151. consumerd says:

    I agree with small claims court. She created the situation and you have her state vs. her case as evidence. Either way you don’t owe her parents a dime or time of day.

    I would put it like that.

  152. The Porkchop Express says:

    @ucdcsteve: I’m glad to see she is out of there. Don’t let her not cooperate with the prosecution. This roommate needs to be locked up or medicated and the only way that will happen is if she gets convicted. It may not help her, but not getting busted really won’t help.

    Plus her being locked up could save somebody else’s life.

  153. LawyerontheDL says:

    It sounds like she already has a restraining order, in so far as the Court has ordered the roomate not to continue the abuse. Alot of times, Courts are loathe to restrain someone from their own home. Even if the roommate were barred from the apartment, she would probably stop paying rent and the sister would be evicted anyway.

    I would advise getting out, notifying the landlord that you moved out and paying the fee. But make sure that the landlord releases the lease as to the sister in writing. You want this release because the fee is probably alot less than several months rent, which the roommate could accrue before finally getting evicted and the sister would be responsible for it. Then pursue a small claims action, etc. Also, let the district attoreny know about the parents’ offer. It could be considered obstruction of justice.

  154. Scuba Steve says:

    I love these “Just pay the fee” posts.. especially since my contract require that I pay for 4 months of rent if I end my contract early. Thats about 4000 dollar “Lease Break”.

    Enjoy your cavier and break your leases.

  155. ampersand says:

    It would help help tremendously to know the state where this is happening.

    Try these things:
    – Find out if your sister’s school has student legal assistance.
    – If it doesn’t have legal assistance, check for free or reduced cost legal assistance for low income people. College students almost always qualify for these services.
    – The tenant rights in your state should be easy to find online somewhere. Review them, there might be a really easy way for you sister to get out of the lease.
    – Get a restraining order and, if possible, an order of protection against the roommate. Restraining orders are usually only court enforced. Orders of protection (legal language may vary in different states) are police enforced. If the roommate shows up, your sister can call the cops on her.
    – Contact the nearest domestic violence prevention organization or shelter for assistance. The laws regarding this matter should be very similar to those governing domestic violence between couples. I’m sure they could help you out a lot since they deal with this stuff everyday.

  156. chrisroberts says:

    @Snowblind: You’re missing the point. You’re referencing CA law that allows you to break lease with no liability if their is dangerous or criminal activity in the development/complex. That’s great, but the criminal activity is IN Steve’s sister’s apartment. How can she claim the apartment complex is dangerous when the danger originates from her unit?

    Outside of her apartment, the onus is on the landlord; inside the apartment the onus is on her.

    Also, keep in mind that until a restraining order is obtained, the governing document here is the lease. The landlord has just as much responsibility to the roommate as he does to Steve’s sister. If she is still within the bounds of the lease — being charged with a crime usually never voids a lease — the landlord has no grounds to evict.

  157. brettt says:


    Or go to the university and demand they speak with the housing place.

  158. K-Bo says:

    @Scuba Steve: I’m not saying pay it and say good bye to your money, I’m saying pay it so you aren’t at risk of having your throat slit at night, then sue for it. Not to mention, my life is worth $4000, I’d take out a loan or something, I would sell my car and ride the bus if I have to. If this girl attacks unprovoked, there is no telling what she will do, and I would do everything in my power to get out of that apartment. Somethings are more important than money.

    That $4000 you save by not breaking the lease won’t help much if you are dead.

  159. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Scuba Steve: Uh…the dude said it’s a “little bit of money”. Her fee isn’t as big as yours was…perhaps your complex was full of the people with caviar.

  160. silenteveningstar says:

    @smd31: I don’t know about his sister, but when I filled out my rental paperwork, they requested information about where I worked. I’m pretty sure this ruse would be quickly found out. Lying is never a good option…and in her case the truth is on her side anyway.

  161. psyop63b says:

    Sue the roommate in small claims for the fee. I’m sure the judge will see that charges are pending with the state against the roommate and that said judge would have no hesitation of awarding your sister damages.

  162. tokenblackgirl says:

    Whoa people….here is what she needs to do.

    Send the Landlord a notice (30 Days to the exact) that you are moving out of your apartment due to your violent roommate as such. Attach a copy of the restraining order ( if one is filed) and the police report. Make sure to send this by CERTIFICATE OF MAILING NOT CERTIFIED ( the landlord may not want to sign a for a certified mail if its comming from you but a certificate of mailing is a little slip you get from the post office proving that on _ date you mailed a document to the landlord, the best part is that its in a regular envelope that he does not need to sign off to accept).

    After you have sent that, FILE THE DOCUMENTS IN COURT.

    Then move out.

  163. Pylon83 says:

    And when she moves out and stops paying rent, the landlord can sue her and will win. Having a violent roommate, restraining order or not, does not render a private contract voidable. In essence, she brought this upon her self by living with this person. This isn’t a neighbor the landlord let in, or neighborhood thugs that the landlord is too cheap to keep out (hiring security, etc). I’m not sure why people have such a twisted conception of the law, but unfortunately, with regard to breaking the lease, it’s not on her side.

  164. kbarrett says:

    Get the restraining order. You will need it if she attacks you again … even if you intend to leave get one. Think of it as a license for self-defense.

    Have the cops haul her off the property if she remains there.

    If you can’t get one, then pay the fee, get out, and sue in small claims afterwards.

  165. rooatbar says:

    I’m a criminal defense attorney, so take this for what it’s worth, but what is described sounds like extortion and/or witness intimidation. She should tell the D.A. about the “offer.” Also, if she pays to break the lease now, she may be able to ask for restitution ordered by the criminal court if the crazy roommate is ever convicted. Most states will order restitution be paid to the victim of a crime and where I practice payment would be a condition of probation and not paying could mean jail time.

    Small claims sounds like a good option too. Don’t not pay and just move out though. No court order will restore a person’s credit.

  166. Typhoid says:

    I had a bit of a similar situation. Good story, but too long to go into here.

    What we did is that we had an awesome landlord, who helped us go through our and their contracts and found a loophole where we got her lease invalidated. SHE had to leave, not us. The only problem was that the clause we also invalidated OUR lease… but the landlord signed us to another on the spot.

  167. trujunglist says:

    A restraining order ends all of this. The roomate will have to leave, forcing HER to break the lease or keep the lease.

  168. AimeeGee says:

    @friendlynerd: I agree!

    TV judges aside, your best offense is small claims court. Also, most definitely get that restraining order. All a small claims judge needs to hear is “criminal charges against defendant” and “restraining order” and that lease break charge is as good as yours.

    –daughter of a small claims court addict

  169. pigeonpenelope says:

    his sister should also request restitution. it is only fair that her roommate pay the break lease fee as well as pay her penalty for the assault.

  170. cde says:

    @B: Extortion? You are a fool if you think that’s extortion.

    Extortion is the unlawful demand or receipt of property or money through the use of force or threat.

    The parents arn’t threating her with physical harm. They simply don’t want to give her money unless she does something. That’s called a contract, payment for services rendered.

  171. synergy says:

    WTF? Isn’t that blackmail?? Fuck them! Covering for their crazy-ass offspring/spawn!

  172. K-Bo says:

    @cde: not extortion, but not playing fair either. There has to be something legally wrong with it, I don’t know what you would call it, but there is no way to a fair trial when it’s legal to pay off witnesses.

  173. tokenblackgirl says:

    @Pylon83: I actually practice landlord and tenant law. thats why she needs to take the steps i told her. Most leases ( especially if her lease is a standard blumberg form) allow the landlord to evict the roommate if the tenants become a violet. In this case since one roommate committed the violent act against the other roommate she has her get out of jail free card.

    The landlord could well within his right evict the violent roomate but chooses not to deal with it.

    Which is why she needs to give him a 30 DAY NOTICE, it is very important to give notice t0 landlord. If he tries to take her to court, she has proof of giving his sufficient notice to find a replacement tenant.

    60 DAY notice would be better but considering the situation, a 30 day is her best option.

    The law is preety strict in NYC about the landlord giving you a 30 day notice before you can be evicted and most leases require the tenant to give a notice before they leave.

    Just my two cents.

  174. sleepydumbdude says:

    Man I hope we get an update in a couple weeks on what happens.
    I live in Indiana and I had a dick landlord once. I had a neighbor who had like 7 adults living in a one bedroom apartment. One day I was sleeping in late and I heard knocks at my door. I was tired and trying to go back to sleep then I heard some loud kicks because one of the assholes was trying to kick in my door. I called 911 and opened the door but while I was coming to the door I heard the neighbors door shut. I couldn’t prove it was them because I didn’t see them.

    Landlord tried to make me pay for the busted door frame. He was going to let me out of lease because I called and bugged him a lot about the noisy neighbors if I would pay for the door and he would keep the 500 dollar deposit. I told him I wasn’t going to pay for the door and I got court papers like two days later for eviction for destroying property.
    So I took out my video camera and recorded the rowdy neighbors hanging sitting outside my building and sitting on my car.
    Went to court, told my story and told them I recorded it. They didn’t even make me show the tape and found in my favor.

  175. gfinakoma says:


  176. Curiosity says:


    I think that this is a valid point and would equate to a similar scenario to how plea bargains work if done properly, however it is somewhat a valid concern that this is payment not to testify (a possible concern for the prosecutors and very dependent on the office and the effort the prosecutor puts into the case). However what exactly will happen if the defendant does not testify through intimidation – usually previous statements come in as the truth of the matter asserted.


    What charges would be dropped? Perhaps I missed this, but the roommate has already been through a court of law and been sentenced? So what exactly are they asking to be dropped – the conditions of her bail that require her to not verbally or physically threaten your sister?

    It seems like you need to talk to a lawyer to crystallize the issues. Most will give a free consultation.

    Why not bring civil charges for the tort of assault and battery, these she could use as leverage and something that she could drop – since she cannot really force the prosecutor or judge to drop anything (criminal vs. civil distinction) except by undermining their case, which may subject her to perjury.

    At least for IL there are remedies and there may be similar remedies in your state. For instance in IL – The Safe Homes Act allows anyone in a household, including children, who are the victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or sexual violence (domestic or sexual violence) to end their lease early and leave their home. It does not matter if they have a written or an oral lease.

    Similar laws can be found in part at [www.landlordassociation.org] or [www.ncdsv.org] and obviously you may want to tell ppl what state/city this is in, or even better post a copy of the lease and black out all identifying info. You can find resources for help through a little browsing from this page (such as [www.dca.ca.gov] ) which has a listing of legal aid clinics in Ca.

  177. Curiosity says:

    Also as a general comment, I am not sure how anyone can render GOOD advice without either knowing the disposition of the case, the state and city that the case is in, or by looking at the lease.

    The best way to negotiate is to know exactly what the facts are and certainly the best way to break a lease is to do so within the implied or explicit terms of the lease, or modify that lease.

  178. Curiosity says:

    Er, not really true, though it depends. Not sure where you read up on such things, but there are cases of just that – the landlord being liable. Read (the easily accessible vs. lexis or westlaw articles)-

    “A landlord has the duty to a tenant and a guest of the tenant to warn of known dangers that the tenant or guest is not likely to discover. Known dangers may include a potential violent attack by a third party. Landlord liability is determined by whether the attack was reasonably foreseeable. Reasonable foreseeability depends on several factors, including: the occurrence of similar offenses either on or within proximity to the premises; or security problems associated with the premises. In the residential setting, liability can be based on a landlord’s failure to make reasonable provisions for locks and keys, and for the safe condition of the common areas pursuant to Section 83.51. Czerwinski v. Sunrise Point Condominium, 540 So.2d 199 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989).” [www.strosslaw.com]

    Also, try the implications by such clauses as [www.mountprospect.org]

    Hmm…she could sue the landlord and a win win situation where both parties would want her to get out of the lease would occur. Though again this depends on state law.

  179. Curiosity says:

    @Curiosity: Er rereading we are talking about the second charge which is pretrial?

  180. ucdcsteve says:

    @Curiosity: From my understanding, she was just released on bail and not sentenced. The conditions of her bail contain the non-violence clauses. The charges are still outstanding.

    For all interested, this is in TN. To everyone who offered advice and/or links, it is much appreciated. It will give her some food for thought on how to proceed. I’ll offer an outcome when I know it, but I do know that the lease is broken and she is moving, so the 30-, 60-day notice to the landlord is unfortunately not a possibility. As a lot of people mentioned, safety is first and foremost, and if the money can be recouped, it will be. I can’t comment much on the roommate and her parents because I haven’t been involved in those conversations, just getting it second hand, so apologies for being vague about that.

    Thanks again.

  181. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Forget it. Just tell your sister to sell off the roommate’s stuff. She’s not going to be needing any of it in jail.

  182. hexychick says:

    Don’t drop the charges by any means. Contact a lawyer for some advice at least to find out where you stand. Also consider small claims court. There’s a lot of good advice in these comments.

    @smitty1123: then why bother to comment?

  183. Curiosity says:

    Since it is in TN you may want to contact various Law Schools about Pro Bono (for free) clinics – sometimes they can still help depending on what they offer. [www.law.utk.edu]

    Also you may want to call Pro Bono Clinics some in TN are here: [www.abanet.org]

    These may help at the very least mitigate the damage.

  184. thalia says:

    I would NOT drop the charges over something as stupid as a lease break fee. There is no way the fee is more important than your sister’s safety. She should pay it and move out and make sure her name isn’t associated with any of the bills in the house, like internet, electricity, gas, cable, etc.