Long story short: My roommate moved out of our 2-bedroom Boston apartment at the beginning of June. After speaking with my landlord, I decided to sublet her room for the summer and sign a new lease in September. I posted the room for $1,000/month for three months on Craigslist, and quickly found someone to move in. Unfortunately (and trust me, I've learned my lesson!) I did not have her sign anything or pay a deposit. I >gasp< trusted her! Anyways, we agreed over the phone that she would stay for the three months, pay $1,000/month rent plus utilities. At that point, she wrote me a check for $800 for June rent since she moved in a bit after the start of the month. On June 26, she told me that she was moving out and not paying July rent. Her reason was not that she was unhappy with the apartment, but that she couldn’t afford it. After some discussion, we agreed that she would pay the June utilities that she owed, plus half month’s rent for July, which would give me time to find another roommate. She wrote me a check for $600, and I deposited it, only to have it returned a week later with a stop payment. I'd like to sue her or take her to small claims court, but I don't know how best to proceed. Do I try to prove that we had an “oral contract” and she owes me the entire $2,000 for July/Aug (proof of this is loosely in email and the checks – but still seems like it might not hold up in court)? OR do I sue her based on the Massachusetts bad check law? My only problem with this avenue is that after some research, I’m not clear whether this law covers stop payment checks or only insufficient funds (which was likely the case anyway). I started to fill out the “Demand for Payment of Dishonored Check”. But you can only check one of two scenarios – “maker had no account at bank” or “maker had insufficient funds”. At this point, it’s not even about the money, but the principal. She keeps saying that I have no legal recourse because we didn’t have a written agreement. I will take full responsibility for being naïve and not having anything in writing, BUT I would like to try take this as far as I can. Any thoughts on this predicament would be much appreciated!
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The Editor, Mark Bernardin, is an attorney living in MA. Please send your suggestions or comments to: TheEditor@malawforum.com
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