My daughter has recently received notice to appear before small claims court from an ex-roommate.
In Feb 2005, my daughter entered into a month-to-month agreement with a roommate (we’ll call her Jane). They were both on the month-to-month rental agreement separately and jointly. They split the rent 50/50 each month. My daughter was the only one with a checking account, so Jane would pay my daughter cash for the rent and my daughter would pay the landlord. They split the rest of the expenses through a verbal agreement: my daughter paid for food while Jane was responsible for utilities. (All utilities were solely in Jane’s name). The agreement between Jane and my daughter was verbal; no signed roommate agreement (against our advice). The arrangement worked fine and no issues until Jan 2006, when Jane was fired from her waitressing job. My daughter came up with all of February’s rent on her own with an oral promise from Jane to pay her back when she found work. My daughter paid 100% of March’s rent on March 1 on her own. The first week in March, Jane disappeared. Repeated calls to her cell phone went unanswered. Several days after Jane disappearance, my daughter finally reached Jane’s mother, who admitted Jane was in jail but no info on why or for how long.
My daughter could not continue to afford the rent on her own so she went to her landlady and gave notice with her last day being April 30th 2006. My daughter paid April’s rent on her own in exchange for the landlord letting her out separately from the agreement. My daughter decided to move in with her boyfriend at the time, so he moved her belongings out over the next couple of weeks to their apartment. The living room and dining room furniture had all been loaned to my daughter by me and my mother, so we made arrangements to remove our furniture. My daughter’s boyfriend at the time moved my daughter’s personal property to their joint apartment. My daughter’s belongings were out of the apartment by approximately April 15th and she handed her keys back to the landlord and never went back even though she had paid rent for the entire month.
Jane’s personal property was behind her locked bedroom door and since Jane would remain the sole tenant after my daughter moved out, none of us felt any obligation to protect or secure Jane’s property as the lock on the bedroom door seemed sufficient. We did not know what was going to happen with Jane as we had no direct communication from her since she disappeared and Jane’s mother told my daughter she didn’t know what was going on with Jane. My daughter told Jane’s mother her that personal belongings in her locked bedroom, turned in her keys to the landlord and never looked back. We all considered the chapter closed and even though Jane owed my daughter back rent, my daughter looked at it as a life lesson and moved on with her life.
Now, in December 2007, almost two years later, my daughter is being taken to small claims court for “bills due in March and April” and her personal property. Jane is stating my daughter stole her property including a laptop and states she filed a report with the police, but the police have never contacted my daughter. The court papers do not specify what Jane means by “bills”- we are assuming the utilities but won’t know until we get to court.
I have a couple of questions:
1. does my daughter have any legal responsibility for Jane’s belongings that were locked up by Jane in her bedroom?
2. does my daughter have any financial responsibility to pay Jane for back utilities that were solely in Jane’s name?
Sorry it’s so long and thanks in advance for your help!