Is there anything that I can do if my roommate owe’s me approximately $1500?

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Is there anything that I can do if my roommate owe’s me approximately $1500?

A friend and I are leasing a 3-bedroom apartment together. We each use 1 of the bedrooms and have sublet the third bedroom to a student. Then 3 months ago this person stopped paying her rent. She’s been stringing us along but finally wrote us a check for the back rent she owes. The check bounced. This morning we confronted her with this information and she told us she was planning to leave tomorrow (a sudden necessity she claims has nothing to do with owing us money). We are glad to see her go, which will allow us to rent the room to someone else but we are still hoping to collect that back rent. What, if any, recourse do we have? My mother wanted me to call the police and file some sort of report before the girl leaves town. My roommate’s mother tells us that the cost of any legal fees will quickly equal the $1500 that she owe’s us. We have no idea where to go to begin legal proceedings against her.

Asked on June 4, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Contacting the police may not help--while the authorities may take action in regards to the bounced check, they role of the police and the prosecutors is to enforce the criminal laws (such as against deliberately passing bad checks), not to enforce contracts and leases, whether written or oral. Therefore, there  is no reason to think that contacting the police will necessarily result in you getting your money back.

The way to enforce leases and other contracts, or to obtain compensation for their breach, is with a lawsuit. You legally may act as your own attorneys, which may be a cost effective way to pursue this matter--all you would risk is the court filing fee. If you contact your local county court, whether in person or online, you should be able to find forms and information about filing a suit.


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