Owning and Renting Property

Evicting a Roommate: Know Your Options

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You find the perfect apartment. And you find the perfect roommate — or so you thought.

Your once-considerate roommate has started playing his music a little louder, leaving the kitchen a little messier and handing over the rent check a little later. Things get a lot worse from there. And eventually you realize he HAS to go.

You sit the roommate down, explain why it’s not working and politely ask him to leave. When he flatly refuses, you realize you have an even bigger problem than you thought.

We’ve all heard roommate horror stories. But how do you go about actually kicking out a bad roommate?

Start by finding your lease.

Is your roommate on the lease with you as a co-tenant?

If that’s the case, only your landlord can evict your roommate. However, depending on the terms of your lease agreement, if the landlord evicts one co-tenant, she may have to evict both.

Let’s say your lease clearly spells out that each of you are responsible for half of the monthly rent and your roommate is consistently late or doesn’t pay. Then the landlord has a right to evict only the roommate for not paying.

On the other hand, if you’re both listed as co-tenants and there is no delineation between co-tenant responsibilities in the agreement, you’re both on the hook for what one of you does. So, if your roommate damages property and breaks terms of the lease agreement you both agreed to, you both could be evicted.

What if you’re subletting to your roommate?

In this situation, you are, in effect, your roommate’s landlord. If you had your roommate sign a subletting agreement and they are breaking the terms of that agreement, you generally can evict him/her. That doesn’t mean you can throw them out immediately. In most states, you’ll need to serve your roommate an eviction notice that gives them a time period to leave and includes the reasons for being evicted.

What if your roommate’s name is not on the lease?

You might think that having an “off-the-record” roommate would make eviction easier. But don’t assume that you can just wait until your roommate’s away, remove his belongings from the property and change the locks.

Without a lease, laws related to landlords and tenants don’t apply. And a lot of states have laws that protect people from being abruptly thrown out of their homes. For instance, you may need to first give your roommate an eviction notice — and then wait a specific period of time — before you can force him to leave the property.

Before you do anything: Talk to an attorney

Every state has different laws regarding landlord, tenant and eviction rules. A good starting point to determine rights and responsibilities is checking the website of your state’s attorney general’s office.

You should also consider talking to an attorney who regularly handles landlord/tenant/eviction matters. The attorney can talk to you about the laws but also your specific situation and can help protect you to make sure you don’t make a bad roommate situation worse by landing in legal trouble.

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