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My roommate agreed that I don't need to pay rent for the days I am not in apartment. I have to go to Texas for a 6 month period. I informed my roommate before adding him as roommate. We had this communication in WhatsApp chat. Can I use this chat in court in case if he harasses me to pay half rent?

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    Does this answer your question? How do you prove a fact at issue in litigation?
    – user35069
    May 9, 2023 at 13:30
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    Is your roommate named on the lease? May 9, 2023 at 14:35
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    Really off-topic to your question; but if you two are rooming together to share on the rent, this would mean your roommate have to pay the full rent alone for 6 months - not really fair if the idea was to share. It's one thing if you're away a handful of days each month and don't pay rent for those days, but 6 whole months! Did you make it clear how much time you'd actually be away? Couldn't you perhaps let your room(s) be rented out for the 6 months duration? May 9, 2023 at 23:31
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    so when your roommate goes let's say in holidays for a couple of weeks then you pay the full rent for that time right? Or does he have to still pay rent when not home?
    – Elerium115
    May 10, 2023 at 10:20
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    Remember, no agreement between roommates will override the lease contract. If your roommate can't pay all the rent for that long of a period, you'll still end up evicted. You might be able to sue your roommate for damages, but they likely don't have much to give you (or they would have paid the rent). Also, what would happen if both of you were gone? Nobody pays rent?
    – bta
    May 10, 2023 at 16:10

2 Answers 2

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Online conversations are generally allowed evidence.

However, EVERYTHING in the chat should be considered, as well as any later actions.

Were there later conversations that said something different?
Did the lease you signed have different terms?

One line in a WhatsApp does not make your case a "slam dunk". It may only be one piece of evidence in a much larger context.

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Generally speaking, yes.

This issue arose in the trial of Michael Avenatti. There, Avenatti tried to exclude screenshots of his Whatsapp messages with Donald Trump, claiming that the government needed to use the original, electronic version of the messages that had been stored on his phone, and that the government had never produced that version to him. But the Court denied his motion and permitted the government to use the screenshots:

Avenatti's first and third requests — to suppress the WhatsApp messages evidence and to compel immediate production of certain witnesses' prior statements — require comparatively little discussion. With respect to the first, the law is clear that the Government has an obligation to produce only what is in its possession, custody, or control — and the Government complied with that obligation here. Additionally, so long as the WhatsApp messages are properly authenticated at trial, they can be admitted even if they are not in their "original, electronically stored" format.

United States v. Avenatti, 559 F. Supp. 3d 274, 277 (S.D.N.Y. 2021)

So the main question for you would be whether you can authenticate those messages. The rules for authentication vary some from one jurisdiction to the next, but Federal Rule of Evidence 901 is similar to what you'll see in most places:

To satisfy the requirement of authenticating or identifying an item of evidence, the proponent must produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is.

So this just means that you have to have some evidence that the messages you're introducing in court are actually messages between you and the roommate. In most cases, you can just say under oath, "These are screenshots of messages between me and my roommate."

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    One problem is that WhatsApp only stores messages locally and those local copies can be tampered with. There might be problems with autentification if your opponent provides their own log where instead of rent agreement there are messages from you asking him to buy TP, as there is none in the house, and receipts proving that he did buy it that day. May 9, 2023 at 22:03
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    Although it may seem counterintuitive, that's not particularly likely to be a barrier to a finding of authenticity. Each side could present its own version of those messages, and both could be authenticated, and then the jury would have to decide which one it believed was real.
    – bdb484
    May 10, 2023 at 0:24
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    @bdb484 though in that case, it's more likely the Judge in Small Claims Court, due to value in question.
    – Trish
    May 10, 2023 at 10:39
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    @Revolver_Ocelot - Whilst true... It's not exactly a trivial thing to do. Unless one of the two is a software engineer, I doubt that's an issue May 11, 2023 at 13:05

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