My moving nightmare — a quiz for my readers in law school

If only this guy would rent to me...
My plans were to be blogging from my new place in Rockville by now, but as you will see below that was not in the cards. The following is a 100% true story of what happened to me yesterday. Names have been changed.


1) On Monday, October 17, I meet with a Mr. Paco Rodriguez to talk about renting a room at a house he owns in Rockville, MD. Paco is a very friendly guy, offering me a beer when I show up in what I interpret as a refreshing show of hospitality. After touring the place and talking about the living situation, I tell him I’d consider it and go home.

2) I send Paco an e-mail the same night saying I’d like to move in. He replies saying that would be fine.

3) On Friday, October 21, I stop by to drop off a $500 deposit. There I meet the other roommate, Karen, to whom I say hello but don’t start a conversation since she is busy watching a movie. Paco and I shoot the breeze and confirm details of the living situation and move-in. At this time, Paco lets me know that he’d like me to pay rent using cash or money order, citing vague reasons related to “the IRS”. Paco prints me out a receipt, which we both keep copies signed by both of us, confirming the amount of the deposit and my move-in date (Oct. 29).

4) Not realizing that the last weekend of the month is a peak time for moving van rentals, I have a consiberable amount of trouble renting a van. In the end I am forced to rent a smelly van from an unmarked Budget rental office on 14th and U NW (a bad neighborhood if you’re not familiar with DC). The only way I am able to rent the van is if I can return it by mid-afternoon the next day, so I call Paco to ask if I can start moving in early. He says OK, but calls me and changes his mind when I am almost there. It is at this time that he mentions that Karen is having some second thoughts about letting a male stranger move into the house. He assures me, however, that everything will be OK once she meets me and sees how great a guy I am. I tell him just to make sure that there is a key left under the mat so I can start moving in in the morning.

5) My father and good friend Frank (real name) arrive at 11pm that night. We catch up, my father turns in early, and Frank and I are watching Anchorman on my computer (funny movie btw) when Paco calls at 3am. He’s rambling, possibly drunk, and tells me that Karen won’t be around in the morning to let me in (I didn’t know she was supposed to be in the first place). He mentions again that she is having an issue with a male housemate that she doesn’t know. Again he dismisses it, telling me “you know how girls are” and so on. He mentions that they were friends before she started renting from him. He reassures me, though, saying everything will be all right once I meet her and “sweet talk” her. He wants me to wait until 4pm to start moving in, but I insist that he leave me a key under the mat in the morning. He says ok and we hang up.

6) Morning of Saturday, October 29: Frank, Dad, and I finish packing the first load and make our way to my new place, only to find that THERE IS NO KEY UNDER THE MAT! I call Paco but get his voice mail. The three of us decide to rent storage and move my stuff there just in case something weird happens and I can’t move in to my new place right away (I can’t bring my stuff back to my old apartment because I gave notice to vacate and don’t want to pay the high rent again even if I could stay).

7) 3:30pm, Saturday, October 29: I get a voicemail from Paco saying that he is very sorry but I can’t move in to the house because Karen won’t have it. “I have to keep peace in my house,” he insists. He promises to refund my deposit as soon as possible.

8) 4:30pm: I call Paco back and let him have a piece of my mind. He screwed me me and he should know it.

OK, those are the facts. For my legal scholars, what is illegal about Paco’s actions?

Also, big thanks to my dad, Frank, Saru and everyone else for helping me out yesterday.

8 thoughts on “My moving nightmare — a quiz for my readers in law school”

  1. A lot. Sue Paco’s ass for expenses and damages, based on deception, false reliance. Make sure you keep all those emails (sent and recieved) to show proof of contract and all the rest. I don’t know MD landlord-tenant law, but talk to a lawyer who does and go kick some ass.

  2. I am in full agreement with Curzon. All of your moving expenses count as reliance damages and Paco owes you for them, in addition to the deposit. Of course, it might be more expensive for you to sue him than to just take the losses and move on.

    Also, if Paco was visibly drunk all the time, though, it might put you in a situation where you contract with him at your own risk. He would have to raise that as a defense, though, which would sound really lame and probably not get much sympathy from the judge, unless the judge is under the impression that you were trying to pull a fast one on Paco while he was “out of it.”

    The receipt he gave you should suffice as proof that you had a contract to move in on that date, but collect all the evidence you can find.

  3. Even under the Japanese law, Paco’s action is default of an obligation and can be considered as “actus reus (tort)”. The doctrine of estoppel can apply to this case. When you said you wanted to rent a room and Paco accept your offer, the contract itself is perfectly effective. Plus, you gives a deposite of $500. This can be considered as an earnest money for the effective contract. So, this also strengthens your position as the creditor.
    Because the contract is effective, you can claim for damages based on Paco’s default of the obligation to open the room for you.

    You can also claim for a tort. Paco knew you would get damages. If Paco had predictability of your damages such as “storage fee” or “car rental fee” and “other fees that you spent for your accomodation”, Paco has a duty to aviod from damaging you. You can also claim for psychologic(al) damage. So, you can claim for a tort, too.

    However, this is all about under the Japanese law though….

  4. That’s solicitation, right? You gave him money, and he screwed you.

    Nah, but seriously though – sorry to hear about this and I hope things work out, man.

  5. That’s pretty terrible moving experience there. If that happens to me I think I could kill someone. I’m glad that it ended up with comfort with the help of your dad and friends.

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