Legal Question in Civil Litigation in North Carolina

My friend has been living with my boyfriend and I since August 27th 2012. He moved out exactly a week ago and tried to claim he didn't owe anything on the bills that have come in, or his portion of the rent. He at first tried to claim he had only been here with us for a month and a week, until I pulled out my assignment notebook for college where I had written the date down that he moved in. The toilet is broken and you have to lift the back of the toilet to push the rubber stopper down to keep it from running. He knows this. We have asked the landlord to fix it before, and his repairman said he would do it when he was fixing our window. The repairman did a horrible job on our window, and never returned for the toilet. So it still runs. Our "friend" used to fix it the first month he was here, but when next door became vacant and we got the landlord to let our "friend" have the place, he decided he didn't owe us the courtesy of fixing it anymore after he was done. I would wake up in the morning and it would be running, I get home from school and it's running, he uses it and goes in the other room or leaves, and its running..... He ran up our water bill (which is normally $40-50) to $160 and refuses to pay the difference. We offered to split it half and half with him, even though that is STILL high for our normal expenses, and he then said he would only fork out a max of $40... We don't have the money to cover that! I tried to be fair on the night he moved out and wrote up a contract since a verbal agreement apparently doesn't work with him, he kept telling me he would pay then he would retract his statement and say he wouldn't since he didn't feel he owes it.... His argument is "it's not my fault the toilet runs. It's not that hard to fix it".... It's also not that hard to lift up the back and touch the stopper so it falls... So he refused to sign it, and threw us $60 out of the $158 rent he owes (on top of the water bill) and then went into his house and left it at that... He hasn't spoken to us since, he avoids us, and he's Right Next Door.... How do I get him to pay his portion? My boyfriend and I were struggling before he moved in, paying for just us. We definitely don't have the money to cover his expenses on top of our own, especially when he TRIPLED our water bill! We called the water company, and they said there's nothing to do except pay it.... That's not fair to us... We took him in because his girlfriend kicked him out and he had nowhere to go.... Please help me.

Asked on 11/08/12, 1:20 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Amanda Houser The Houser Law Firm, P.C.

It sounds like all you had was an oral agreement for the roommate to pay a portion of rent and bills. If this is the case, your odds of collecting anything out of him from a legal standpoint are not good. As to the toliet, you don't say if he was responsible for it being broken. If he didn't break it - he has no obligation to repair it. A toliet truly is an easy fix - most have a knob behind the toliet on the water line where you can simply tun the water to the toliet on and off. He could argue you are mostly responsible for your water bill for failing to simply turn the knob and shutting off the water. Your best bet is to just chalk this up as a life lesson to put things in writing before not after. You could of course explore the option of a small claims action but the couple of hundred-ish you say he owes is not really worth the filing fee to sue.

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Answered on 11/08/12, 2:14 pm

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