If I had a live in roommate who now refuses to pay back rent, is there any way to collect?

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If I had a live in roommate who now refuses to pay back rent, is there any way to collect?

I allowed my renter to defer payment as she established a new career. I required only a verbal assurance of repayment; I trusted this person so never made her sign a lease. Rent of $500 a month had been paid for 5 years previously. However when she moved out after 5 additional years where I paid her $500 rent on the assurance of repayment, she refused to repay me.

Asked on April 17, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

An oral agreement to pay rent--or to repay money loaned or advanced--is enforceable, so you could take action for the money your roommate owes you. The way to try to collect this money is sue your former roommate for the amount owed you under the agreement. There are some limitations though, to be aware of:

1) The statute of limitations, or time limit to sue, for an oral agreement is only three years in Maryland; therefore, you will not be able to collect anything further back than three years.

2) The statute of frauds in Maryland further requires some agreements to be in writing to be enforceable, including agreements which will take more than one month to perform. This should not be a bar if the agreement with her in regards to the rent was a month to month agreement, renewed each month, but if you had at the outset agreed to give her more than one year of free rent before she had to pay, she may be able to raise the statute of frauds as a defense.

So you should be able to sue her, but will not, based on what you write, be able to sue her for five years of rent.


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