My landlord has filed eviction proceedings for me, but there are many factors that make this case unique, and the advice I've read on line don't necessarily account for all the special circumstances.
I have a very irresponsible (but otherwise kind) landlord, who has done almost nothing by the book. The living arrangement here violates legal landlord arrangements in several ways. The type of rental this is zoned for is one where the landlord lives on premises, and rents the whole house out. However, in reality, the landlord rents the rooms individually, and lives in Florida. He shows up on average about twice a year, asks for rent, and then disappears within a day or two. He does not want checks mailed and does not give us his real address, possibly to cover his ass for not really living there, or because he just wants to be "off the grid."
Because he shows up so infrequently, I or one of the other roommates will frequently fill vacancies in the house, but not because of any formal agreement to do so. The landlord was showing up so rarely that people would sometimes move in and out without ever meeting him. Because of this I started collecting rent from new tennants, again, not because I was asked to, but simply to help the landlord, whom I like. I was never expected to be accountable for any of these people, and nothing in any of my conversations with him ever led me to believe otherwise.
So, recently my house was robbed, and some of the rent money that I had not yet made money orders of (and money orders I had not filled out the name on) were stolen. The landlord emerged shortly thereafter, and was generally understanding, but a week later changed his mind and suddenly filed eviction proceedings without warning. He filed these proceedings against me specifically, for the amount owed by the entire house, as if I was a lease holder on the entire house and the others were subletting from me. I moved in several years after some of my roommates and never had any such arrangement with him. Although I will have the amount I personally owe him before the court date, there is no way I can have the full amount.
Possibly relevant factors:
1) The house is owned by two brothers. The one the city recognizes as the landlord I have never met, and is currently in prison in Florida for an extended term.
2) This incarcerated brother is the one whose name appears on the eviction proceedings.
3) This person may have lost their landlord privileges due to unpaid city fines (but the brother could have paid to have them restored. It's unclear)
4) The house is not zoned for an off-site landlord or rental agreements for individual rooms. Our arrangement has always been under the table and totally illegal.
5) No one in this house moved in at the same time and no one has ever signed a lease.
6) The house is poorly maintained and seems unlikely pass any kind of inspection. The plumbing works and all, but nothing about it could ever pass inspection, with holes in the wall, no smoke detectors, etc. What repairs are done are handled almost exclusively by me or other tenants.
7) There have been times where I didn't see the landlord for about a year.
So my question is how best to handle this and what to expect. My goal here, if possible, is to simply stall long enough for my housemates to make up the stolen money and give us a chance to work things out. Despite this sudden and unexpectedly harsh action against us, I actually like the guy and I think he's just a irresponsible, so I don't really want to get him fined or get the house shut down. If I can force him to re-file and buy another month, that would probably be a big help.
Sorry for ghetto problems. Yay poverty.