Living with a roommate could be great – you could be friends, relatives, colleagues, a couple, or even strangers. Anyway, we live in a dynamic world and people often decide to move out. It could be because of a new job, may be the rent has increased or for some other reason, but either way taking the decision to move out from a roommate is binding and has legal consequences. Sometimes a roommate moving out early before lease is up could be problematic if he/ she refuses to pay the rent, utilities and damages caused to the house or apartment. What are your rights and what can you do?
Co-tenant Moving Out
If your co-tenant is moving out of the rental unit and wishes to go by the rules, then you are lucky because this is the best situation possible. Your roommate should send a notice to your landlord about moving out – usually your rental agreement will require a 30 days notice before leaving. Read your rental contract together to work out the details. Usually the roommate leaving the house or condo will have to cover the rent and utilities until the actual date of the move unless someone else takes his/ her place in which case the rent and utilities are to be shared with the new tenant from the date of the moving in. The best thing would be to work out the details of the move together with your roommate and to ask him/ her to sign an agreement. Whether your roommate has already left without notice or hasn’t yet, it would be best to get his/ her signature. Your roommate should agree in writing to pay for any damages caused (if any), for rent and utilities, and all of these should be paid by a certain date. If you don’t do this, the remaining rent and utilities will have to be paid by the remaining tenants, including yourself.
If you decide to move out as well, give notice to your landlord, according to your rental agreement.
Roommate Moving out Before Lease is Up
From a legal point of view, when one or more roommates decide to move out, this breaches the rental agreement which has been signed for a particular length of stay. In this case your landlord has the right to evict the rest of the tenants as well, including you. If you or any of the other tenants has been causing problems like damages to the rental unit, this could be just the right excuse of your landlord to get rid of this person. But usually if you are paying your rent regularly and in time, and you are bringing in roommates that don’t cause damages, the landlord will let you stay. You can now begin to search for someone to take the place of the roommate who has left so you could hare the rent and utilities.
My Roommate Moved out and Refuses to Pay Rent & Utilities – What Now?
Before giving the keys of your rental unit to your landlord, remember to book your movers!
This is a very unpleasant situation that you should be ready to handle. You are not responsible for your roommates damages to the rental unit, utilities and rent. If your roommate refuses to pay because of money problems, you can sign an agreement between all tenants for a longer period of notice giving more time to your roommate to move out. In any case, don’t move in anyone, even if he or she is a very reliable person, just because you want to share the costs of living in this place. This is against your rental agreement and again, because you are breaching it, your landlord could evict you. Don’t give him/ her such a chance. If you cannot find anywhere your ex roommate and/ or cannot reach an agreement regarding the costs that this person must cover, you can take him/ her to small claims court. It will take your time and energy but at least you can get back what you are due, plus costs for finding a new roommate (like advertising costs).
Roommate Moving out Early & Moving Yourself
If you cannot afford to pay the rent or you don’t want to deal with the issues of a roommate suddenly moving out, you can move out as well. Send a notice to your landlord and mention that you cannot afford to pay the whole rent yourself. You can also ask to use your ex roommate’s security deposit to cover the rent until you move out or find new tenants. Get ready to put your rental unit in the state that you found it and be ready to show it to potential tenants – this is not just a good effort on your behalf for your landlord to appreciate, but it is also going to give you benefits as well. The sooner you find new tenants, the sooner you are no longer obliged to pay rent and you can also get back your security deposit.