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Eviction Hearing - help me make my case.

BitstreamBitstream Registered User regular
edited February 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey H/A, I'm in a pickle.

I recently had a bit of a financial meltdown. Right after Christmas, which I may have gone a little over-generous with, my budgeting showed me with about $750 in my bank account and a check at an ATM on the morning of payday three weeks ago confirmed it. Within a few hours of checking my account I sent an online payment to the tune of a hundred bucks to my electric company and went to get a money order for my rent payment (no cash or checks accepted and credit/debit payments incur a rather hefty surcharge). I was told my account was overdrawn and the charge was rejected.

I scoured my records for anything that would have cost me that much money, and found nothing. No big purchases and no big bills left me with the assumption that my money had been stolen. When I called the bank, I was told that they had tried to contact me but my phone was disconnected (I had just switched to a new phone number the previous month and forgotten to notify the bank), and that the state of Michigan had removed about five hundred dollars from my account. Checking with the Treasury Department, I learned that I had an unpaid traffic ticket from a couple of years ago and the state had claimed the fine plus two Driver Responsibility Fees and the charge to lift the warrant for my arrest (!!!), all without notifying me*.

*I lapsed in my student-loan payments while I was a starving artist, and once they caught up with me they started garnishing my wages. I've since received occasional reminders from the Treasury Department, which I've recently ignored as I already know what they say - or so I thought. I kept them, and digging through them the most recent one does pertain to this snafu, but only in terms of "we may do one or more of the following things, and you will be notified." The closest thing to notification was the state levy notice that came with the letter the bank sent me.

Meanwhile, a couple of payments for online gift purchases went through and my electric payment bounced (three times; thanks for trying multiple times, electric company!), hitting me with extra overdraft fees. Once the smoke cleared and I let the bank know what was happening my account held a -$75 balance. I obviously couldn't pay my rent. I was already a week behind thanks to the aforementioned holiday spending, and because I couldn't make payment in full by the deadline they had to file suit against me. The manager apologized for having to do it, and was very understanding about my situation, but (understandably) couldn't make an exception.

This leads us to today. I have since given the apartment office everything I can out of each paycheck, but thanks to crappy hours at work and the escalating late fees on the back rent I won't be paid off for the last two months until two weeks from today (which will lead to another late rent payment, though I can handle it assuming I'm still living there). This morning I received the summons for my hearing on Monday, and I need to know a few things:

1. What all do I need to bring with me to help my case? I have the bank statements showing the state transaction and the resulting cascade failure, the letter the bank sent me notifying me of the withdrawal, the notice of state levy, and as many pay stubs as I need to show my income level. Is there anything else I should get my hands on?

2. Should I choose a jury trial/get a pro-bono lawyer for this? It seems like a lot of trouble to go to, but I don't know how much of a chance I'll get to explain my case to a judge. I've only been sued once before, but settled before it went to court.

3. What's the standard outcome in a case like this if I'm evicted? Obviously I have ot clear out and lose any deposits etc., but a coworker mentioned possibly having to pay the remainder of my lease. This would basically preclude me from renting anyplace else at all and force me to beg a room off of relatives for eight months.

4. Do I even have a chance? I mean, this does all come down to my poor judgment and record-keeping. I had completely forgotten about the ticket as it happened in the middle of moving to a new city and was stressing out horribly (I'm sure I'll find the ticket in the bottom of a box when I finish unpacking my crap), but that's not a good excuse. What I feel gives me some hope, though, is the lack of real notification on the part of the state. The last notice I received from the state is dated November 13, and the withdrawal occurred on January 14. I had to be notified by my bank, and after the fact.


... I am totally fucked, aren't I?

Bitstream on

Posts

  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I'd be shocked it you weren't evicted. This is really all your fault. The landlord also is not responsible for the state of Michigan charging you and I can't see why that would affect this decision. You say you can catch up in two weeks but then will you pay March on time the week after that? Try and get legal aid to see if you can come to an agreement with the management company on negotiating late fees but it sounds like they are well within in their rights to evict you.

    VisionOfClarity on
  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    bah... at this point, you'll also have legal fees in addition to the other stuff...

    is there anyway for you to cut your losses and just move out?

    Sentry on
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  • DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Is there any way you can get a loan (family/friend/bank?) to pay your rent+late fees? You said the manager is sympathetic towards you....if you get him his money is there any chance he can make this go away?

    As it stands it doesn't look good for you....I would expect to be evicted.

    Pull out your lease agreement and read the fine print.

    Dman on
  • BitstreamBitstream Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I'd be shocked it you weren't evicted. This is really all your fault. The landlord also is not responsible for the state of Michigan charging you and I can't see why that would affect this decision. You say you can catch up in two weeks but then will you pay March on time the week after that? Try and get legal aid to see if you can come to an agreement with the management company on negotiating late fees but it sounds like they are well within in their rights to evict you.

    Yeah, I don't deny that it's all my fault; I just wish the timing had been a bit better or that I'd, y'know, known it was coming. And you're right that I' be late with the March payment as well - April would be my first chance to get ahead of the payments. Good call on the legal aid. I imagine there are plenty of eviction cases going on around here, and people need help.
    Dman wrote: »
    Is there any way you can get a loan (family/friend/bank?) to pay your rent+late fees? You said the manager is sympathetic towards you....if you get him his money is there any chance he can make this go away?

    As it stands it doesn't look good for you....I would expect to be evicted.

    Pull out your lease agreement and read the fine print.

    I need to talk to her again tomorrow now that I know all the details. I doubt it's going away at this point since the date's set and everything, but I can try. And yes, I need to make some calls to family members and see if anyone can spare a dime (all of us being in Michigan, nobody's really stable right now). Unfortunately before this happened I was about to start paying my sister back for the $500 or so she lent me to move into this apartment, so I don't see her being happy about lending me more.
    Sentry wrote: »
    bah... at this point, you'll also have legal fees in addition to the other stuff...

    is there anyway for you to cut your losses and just move out?

    If only it was that easy :P

    So yeah, looks like I'm pretty well boned. I'll go down to the complex office tomorrow morning and see if there's any chance of settling this, and then make the dreaded calls.

    At this point my big question is still #3 - does anyone have experience with this? If (well, ok, when) I'm evicted, do I have to pay the remainder of my lease? If so, that's four hundred bucks a month that keeps me from living pretty much anywhere not on wheels.

    Bitstream on
  • supabeastsupabeast Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Call the Michigan bar and ask them to recommend a free legal service for people getting evicted. If any state has one, Michigan will.

    supabeast on
  • mtsmts Dr. Robot King Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    you can try going for the sudden financial hardship route but it probably wont get you anywhere

    mts on
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  • urahonkyurahonky Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Don't forget to dress nice and be very polite. Seriously good luck Bit!

    urahonky on
  • Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Major East CoastRegistered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Also, make sure you bring some documentation about your plan to pay everything off.

    Showing that you've put some thought into the issue can go a long way. Bring excel spreadsheets, graphs of your pay, anything you can think of to use.

    Iceman.USAF on
  • BitstreamBitstream Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Update!

    Talked to the office, but couldn't come to an agreement because I would be unable to pay by today. Crap.

    Had the hearing this morning (holy shit, this courthouse is intimidating). Judge, not surprisingly, ruled against me, but was fairly sympathetic to my situation; I now have ten days to pay the balance in full before I'm officially evicted. $779, all told, which is not impossible. Given what I have and that I get two more paychecks between now and the 19th, I'll be OK, and I just talked to my dad, who said he'd float me the remainder of next month's rent.

    Barring another financial disaster in the next few weeks, I'll be OK. Plus I've been informed that my requested transfer will be going through at work within the next couple of weeks, which means about $3 more per hour, so I can start really getting out of debt.

    Thanks for helping me get this straight, guys, and let this be a warning to you - PAY YOUR GODDAMNED TICKETS.

    Bitstream on
  • cooljammer00cooljammer00 Hey Small Christmas-Man!Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Just don't fuck up again, OP. We're rooting for you.

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  • rfaliasrfalias Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    File your tax return, quick money.

    rfalias on
  • NargorothRiPNargorothRiP Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    or don't buy christmas gifts if you are a poor person?

    NargorothRiP on
  • wasted pixelswasted pixels Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    or don't buy christmas gifts if you are a poor person?

    Don't be a condescending smartass. The government withdrawing $500 from a checking account without advance, written notice could fuck up almost anybody's budget, especially if it causes overdrafts. The OP had no way of seeing this coming (it sounds like he wasn't even aware of the ticket until after this happened), so unless your point here is "don't spend money in case someone takes your money", you need to dial it down a notch.

    wasted pixels on
  • HypatiaHypatia Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    Just out of curiosity, what bank are you with? It might be worthwhile to shop around for a different bank since depending on which one you're at they could have helped you out a bit in your time of crisis.

    For example, the bank I'm at has an overdraw feature you can sign up to use for free, it basically covers you for up to -$1000 in case something like you have happens and you write checks for money you don't have. Therefore, instead of getting hit by bounced check fees you just owe the bank that money and it becomes between you and them.

    Oftentimes if you talk to the bank and explain the situation (depending on the bank) they'll also waive bounced check or other fees and/or if you have a credit/debit card with them they can help you do chargebacks to cancel your online orders.

    Y'know, just for future reference and all. I'm glad that you're going to get it straightened out though, just don't make the same mistake again!

    Tl:dr - you might try getting a more sympathetic/flexible bank

    Hypatia on
  • JihadJesusJihadJesus Registered User regular
    edited February 2009
    I work in emergency services for a non-profit and handle eviction prevention cases pretty regularly, although not on the legal side. The bottom line is once you get into a situation where you're behind on rent and they've posted the notice there's only one thing is going to make it go away no matter what circumstances got you there: pay them. Paying them in part can sometimes buy you some time to come up with the rest, but even that is contingent on them not actually moving forward with legal proceedings despite you remaining in arrears on the rent, which they have the right to do at any time as long as they've posted the notice and observed the legal niceties.

    Now, depending on the landlord and how much flexibility they have you can sometimes set up payment plans and that kind of thing, but ultimately if the landlord doesn't get paid they'll go ahead with the legal proceedings and eventually you'll get kicked out. And FYI, if you know it's coming and have possible no way to avoid it (even after getting help from the places I'm about to suggest) - just save yourself the headache and go, because you'll have to eventually anyway and otherwise you'll find yourself paying way over market rent for a shithole because NO ONE will rent to you once you've got a history of eviction unless they have no alternative, and you DO NOT want to live in one of those places. The situation may be a little less harsh depending on the rental market in your area, but around here a past eviction pretty much dooms you to living in substandard housing while paying above going market rates.

    I know you've been able to find/borrow/earn enough money to cover it, but for anyone else who's finding themselves in a similar situation and CAN'T do that, there is help available in many places - even many rural areas. In Washington state the first thing I'd do in that situation is call 211, which is basically a 411 directory assistance for social service agencies. They'll be able to give you a laundry list of numbers for non-profits and other resources that offer everything from direct assistance for eviction prevention to rental assistance to legal advice to housing search help, depending on your area, and probably refer you to the services that best match your needs. 211 is supposed to be a national system, but I'm not familiar enough with how it's implemented in other states to give much advice there.

    Failing anything else, you'd be surprised how many places there are that can help with this kind of situation if you're at the end of your rope. The Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul almost always have social service wings attached to their locations, and almost anywhere you can think of that provides help for the homeless will also have some kind of assistance available for people facing eviction, even if it's just to refer you to the right places in your community.

    For the most part, you probably won't be able to get help like this if it's just you and you have consistent income. Some places will help anyone and everyone who finds themselves facing an evicition, but most assume that if you have a certain level of income you have access to other resources that can be leveraged (as you did) and will only help those below certain income levels. I know most people reading this fall into that category, but you never know who will come across info so I might as well offer what I know.

    JihadJesus on
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