Alice, Can I Call the Cops? My Cousin Won't Pay Rent

Alice, Can I Call the Cops? My Cousin Won't Pay Rent

Ask Alice
Apr 17, 2017
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Allard Laban)

Okay, so I have my cousin living with me, and he won't leave. At first it was just him and his dog. He started by living on my blow-up mattress in my living room, and he paid a hundred dollars rent. I figured he'd be here a month, maybe a month and a half. He was making pretty good money ... like $15 an hour for 35 hours a week, which is great for our area. But a couple weeks later, his new girlfriend also moved in. And a month after that, he quit his job and said he'd find a better one.

It's five months later now, and he still hasn't found a new job. In the meantime, I even hooked him up with a phone on my contract — and told him he needs to pay $60 a month for it, which he hasn't done. Now I'm tired of it, and he owes me over $1,000 between rent and phone bills and movies that he's bought online on my account. I've told him that he has to leave, but he refuses and says that my other roommate says he can stay, and that I can't do anything about it. Is that true? Can I call the cops to remove him, his girlfriend and his dog? Or should I just wait until my lease is up and get the hell out?

This sounds like a nightmare.

And who is your other roommate!?

The double-whammy of an undermining roommate plus two other, unwanted roommates (and a dog) makes my knee-jerk recommendation be to just get out of there, but I realize that having a lease makes that unfeasible. If your lease is up within the next few months, and you can hang tight until then without snapping, I'd suggest doing that and then moving (but not signing any new leases with your current roommate! And really — what's going on with this person??). But if your lease won't be up for longer than that, well ... maybe you can reason with your cousin in the meantime and find some middle ground (are there other family members you could talk to?). I'd also suggest taking him off your phone plan (if not now, then as soon as you no longer live together).

It's well within your rights to call the police if a trespasser won't leave your space, although whether the supposed trespasser is an unwanted guest or a tenant makes things more legally problematic (and it sounds like your cousin is your tenant here, even if he's behind on rent). I found the guidelines in this post to be informative, especially this part about talking to a lawyer before you take any further steps: "A landlord-tenant attorney can help answer any questions you might have, and might prove invaluable to have on hand when you call the cops and ask for their help (better, ask your lawyer to go with you to the station house, beforehand, to talk it all over)."

I also found HG's "How Do I Throw Someone Out of My House?" to be helpful. Good luck.

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