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As I moved to Graz a couple of months ago I took a room in a shared flat with three other people. About a month after that one of them decided to leave, because she wanted to move to a friend of hers about 500m away from us. She looked for new people and we interviewed a few and found a really awesome person, who is living with us for about a month now.

Everything is fine except that the ex-flatmate still got a couch and several other pieces of furniture still in our flat. The plan was that she would take the stuff out about a week later. By now this should have been two weeks ago.

On top of that she had the flat account(bank) onto which we all put money and she gave it to the landlord. She also paid our heating and electricity provider.

Now the problem is that we simply cant reach out to her. She is like dead. We all write her, or call her and she sees it, according to WhatsApp, but she simply does not reply. She also said two weeks ago that she tries but can't reach our landlord to tell them everything new. However, one of us called the landlord last week and reached him on the first attempt, just for us to hear that the rent for this month hasn't been paid, even though we all already gave the money to our ex-flatmate! They also told that they do not even know that she moved out or that we already have had a new flatmate for a MONTH now.

We are really angry now and yesterday for the first time I wrote directly and honestly a huge message to her explaining all her faults and that something like that CANNOT happen and is unacceptable. And she read it but still does not reply.

My question now: What other approaches can we as flatmates do to resolve this? To reach her and get her to come to us, as she also needs to sign stuff. And what should we do if the person simply does not react at all? What CAN we do?

This is pretty tricky as it is really important to get her furniture out and more importantly that we get her to pay the rent and to transfer who pays our heating and electricity provider.

My main goal is to interact with the person to be more cooperative. I thought that being direct and maybe a bit aggressive will rattle her out of it but that didn't seem to work. How should we approach her?

Clarifications

We of course already made another bank account from which all further payments will go. The only problem is the money we ALREADY gave her for this month, and that electricity heating and internet runs on her name.

Actually yes money is a very important topic in the story, but as we know her and actually don't expect her to steal our money (she lived for 1,5 years with some of them and was actually always a nice person). We are just confused why she would play dead and get her to get in contact with us. We also have no obligations to take legal actions against her. Only if its really necessary but we really don't think that this will be the case, because as mentioned earlier, she was always a nice person.

Solution

I have not yet taken any action because I wanted to wait to see some answers before taking further action. But as of now she contacted me back after my rather direct last message yesterday. She apologized and stated that she had in fact personal problems and that she is willing to meet up this week and that she paid our landlord today. Problem seems solved for now and I must give problems to all those that thought of the person may be having personal problems. Might have been wiser for me to approach this differently as I know how it is when being knee deep in problems. I will read all answers again and mark this one as solution that was closest to the matter at hand, and which gave me the most insight on how to solve something like this in general. Thank all of you for your helpful and insightful answers and comments!

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Nov 21 '17 at 2:27
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Furniture

Forget about the furniture. It is the least of your problems. It is hers; she doesn't seem to be interested in getting them, so either keep them yourself or throw them away. You tried to contact her for them, she didn't respond. Done. It is their responsibility to care for their items. You are not a storage facility for them.

The bank account

This is a big(ger) issue. Until you manage to contact her, consider the money gone. And consider the bank account gone. Stop putting money on there, and stop expecting bills to be paid from there. Contact your electricity and telecom providers and your landlord that you will be paying from another account. This way at least you're not relying on being able to contact her and get her to pay for future bills, and these won't be affected anymore.

If her name is the only name connected to the bank account, it is unlikely that the bank will be any help. If your name is connected to the bank account, call them to see if they can help recover the money.

Contacting her

So far, this post has been about what you should do in case you cannot contact her. I think it is important to be prepared for this. It seems to me like she isn't afraid of burning bridges, given that she has been ignoring you so far and left on a whim. She has little to gain by contacting you. From your question it is clear that the tone has been pretty confrontational. This doesn't help at all either.

The route to take depends a bit on what you deem important here. If you just care about tying up the loose ends, getting the money and the bank account back and be done with it, you can be a lot more confrontational in your approach than if you want to remain on good terms.

So far, contacting her through direct messages have been largely ineffective; they are easy to ignore. Since they still live closeby, it might be worthwhile to just seek her out. Take care not to harass her, you still want to get something from her after all.

If this doesn't work, you're mostly out of luck. You could, as a last resort, try to contact the police for theft, but I am not sure if they can be of any help. As @TomBowen pointed out:

Regarding reporting her for theft, while the police might not be able to help, a small claims court probably would be. She took money to pay for the rent and bills, and failed to do so. That is theft and a small claims court would be the way to proceed. Contact a lawyer.

However, I am not a lawyer, so if you wish to take this route, please contact one.

Furthermore, to make up for the damage, you could try to sell the furniture and hope that covers it.

If you want to remain on good terms, it is important to stop being confrontational in your messages. A big essay in a PM doesn't look inviting; it only creates animosity. If they continue to ignore you, you might be able to establish contact through one of their friends or current roommates.


It is difficult. You can't force someone to communicate to you, even more so that you can't force someone to do something. And you want to do both.

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    Regarding reporting her for theft, while the police might not be able to help, a small claims court probably would be. She took money to pay for the rent and bills, and failed to do so. That is theft and a small claims court would be the way to proceed. Contact a lawyer. – Tom.Bowen89 Nov 20 '17 at 10:14
  • Re: small claims court; just to verify, is this something that exists in Austria? – JollyJoker Nov 20 '17 at 11:26
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    @JollyJoker What I could find: e-justice.europa.eu/content_small_claims-42-at-en.do?member=1 But repeating IANAL. – JAD Nov 20 '17 at 11:39
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This is not the kind of approach you asked for, but it's one that hasn't been mentioned yet:

Go the legal route

Send a claim, then a notice of default, then a debt collector.

In the Netherlands, if someone owes you a debt you can send them a registered letter with a claim. If they don't pay within some reasonable (or legally defined, usually 2-4 week) period you specify in the letter, you can send them a second letter with a notice of default and a shorter deadline (e.g. 3 to 7 days).

If they don't pay then, you can contact a debt collection agency. They will collect the money for you and if the sum is large enough they will arrange for some party to legally take the money and/or physical possessions (e.g. your furniture, and perhaps random things to sell off) by means of a permit, they then take a fixed sum or a percentage off the debt for themselves, but also charge the debtor for the services IIRC.

You should research your local laws, perhaps with the help of a local attorney, or call a debt collector and ask for help.

I would assume even the first letter would jolt your ex-roommate into action, even if just to protest your claim; at least you'll be in touch then.

If he doesn't repay you then, you have a way to proceed.

I wish you good luck.

  • Wouldn't the landlord have to do this? Since she doesn't owe them any debt as far as I can tell – Azor Ahai Nov 20 '17 at 23:51
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    @Azor-Ahai The asker gave money to the ex-flatmate with the understanding that the money would be passed on to the landlord as rent. The ex-flatmate failed to do this, so now the asker is responsible for paying rent to the landlord directly, and the ex-flatmate is responsible for refunding the original payment back to the asker. – Tanner Swett Nov 21 '17 at 1:19
  • @Azor-Ahai I'm pretty sure they can dispose of her furniture and place that on her bill at least. – sgf Nov 21 '17 at 9:23
  • In England and Wales the process is: write letter with reasonable notice period; sue in court; contact debt collection agency. I am amazed the Netherlands doesn't require a court order. – Martin Bonner Nov 21 '17 at 15:08
  • @TannerSwett IANAL so I will take your word for it. – Azor Ahai Nov 21 '17 at 16:58
4

I also live with multiple people in a shared space so I can somewhat relate to your situation. One of my ex-roommates was also very lax when it came to communications and money so I know what a pain in can be.

The furniture

I would recommend checking the rental agreement. When I signed for my room I also agreed to remove everything from it when I move. You might have a similar clause in the contract and your landlord can hold her accountable. I even have to remove things like carpet. When my previous roommate did not do this when he moved, my landlord took out the carpet and send him the check with the costs of removing it.

Another option is giving her an ultimatum. If she hasn't picked up her stuff in x weeks/days, you will donate it to the thrift store for example. In my honest opinion she forfeited the ownership of these items since it has been weeks and she made no attempt to collect them.

The money

First, make a new bank account for your flat so she is out of the loop. I also would recommend checking out the legality of her taking your money and not paying the bills. I can't say if it's the same for Austria but where I live (Netherlands) some lawyers have certain hours where you can get legal advise for free. He/She might tell you if it's possible to get your money back.

Contact your telecom and other providers as soon as possible, explain the situation and try to remove her name and have everything put on your name or that of another roommate. In my experience, if a address has been a loyal customer for some time the companies tend to be more lenient in things like transferring the account from one name to another.


I would try and give you advise on how to contact this girl but I think Jarko Dubbeldam has already done that.

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