What to do if an old roomate owes me money but he won’t pay?

UPDATED: Apr 9, 2012

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What to do if an old roomate owes me money but he won’t pay?

I had a friend of mine move into the house I live in with 3 others. The owner of the property had no knowledge of this. So he did not pay rent but instead he was supposed to pay the internet bill. Which was under the name of my brother who was a previous tenant. After awhile the new roommate ran into some financial trouble and stopped paying the bill. So we asked him to leave, which he did. But now the collection agency is coming for my brother since no one has paid the bill since he left. Is there anyway that he is liable to pay this fee without having any form of written agreement? Or am I out of luck?

Asked on April 9, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

An oral agreement to pay (sometimes incorrectly called a verbal agreement) is legally enforceable. Therefore, if the roommate had agreed to pay the internet and failed to do so, you  could sue him for  the money. In the meantime, the internet provider or its collections agency must be paid in order to avoid damage to your credit rating and/or a lawsuit.

Note, however, that while an oral agreement is legally enforceable, as a practical matter, it can be difficult to prove its existence or terms  if the other party denies your version of the agreement. Also, the only way to enforce  the agreement is to sue--therefore, if it's only a few hundred dollars at stake, it may be best to pay it  yourself and not worry about collecting from the roommate.

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