Living with one or more roommates is not an easy thing, but it is sometimes necessary when you cannot afford an apartment or house on your own. Sharing an apartment with other people requires that both of you agree on how you will be paying rent, operating in the house, and running your affairs.
Apart from being careful while selecting a roommate, you need to prepare a written agreement that covers the day-to-day details of staying together, including how you will resolve any disagreements that may come up over time.
But the big question is, what do you do when your roommate breaks his/her part of the lease? Can you sue him/her? What are your rights in such a situation, and how can the law help you?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about suing your roommate for breaking a lease.
Can a Roommate Get Out of a Lease Early?
Before we discuss whether you can sue your roommate for breaking a lease or not, let us figure out whether he/she can legally get out of the lease early. Keep in mind that when your roommate decides to get out of the lease early, they leave you with the burden of paying the entire rent amount.
Typically, if your roommate is named on the lease agreement, he/she cannot get out of it early and is legally responsible for her share of the rent for the entire lease period.
However, nasty things might happen between the two of you and he/she decides to walk out. What do you do in such a case? Do you bear the burden of settling the rent and assume nothing happened?
If you believe that your roommate has walked out and chances of him/her honoring their part of the deal are minimal, the only way you can get them to act and pay up their rent portion is by threatening to sue them.
Unfortunately, if a roommate is not named on the lease agreement, you may not have a lot of options. In such a case, the named roommate will be responsible for the full rent owed to the landlord.
What Should I Do If My Roommate Breaks the Lease?
If your roommate fails to honor her part of the lease, the first thing you need to do is make the matter official. Inform your landlord of the development and start working towards getting him/her off the lease.
While leaving him/her on the lease document might seem like a good thing to do since it holds him/her responsible even after they walk away, the outcome may not be so good. Keep in mind that you cannot squeeze water out of a stone, and your landlord knows it.
Therefore, in the event of default, your landlord will definitely come after you and not your roommate. It means that keeping your roommate on the lease even after they decide to walk away won’t help you in any way. In fact, it could only hurt you because as long as your roommate is still named on the lease, they are entitled to live in that house.
Technically, it means that they can walk back into the house any time they feel like even if you no longer want them back. But if you manage to remove their name from the lease, then you can chase them away when they resurface.
Unfortunately, you will need the cooperation of your roommate to remove their name from the lease. In most cases, a landlord won’t withdraw another person’s name from a lease agreement without their permission because you could easily render your roommate homeless after a disagreement or fight.
Suing Your Roommate for Breaking Lease
You can definitely sue your roommate if he/she decides to break the lease and walk out on you before the expiration of the lease period. Be sure to check if there is a provision in the lease agreement about potential penalties for breaking the contract.
If there is, take time to remind him/her about it and see how they react. If he/she does nothing about it, then you should start preparing to file a lawsuit against him/her for the damages. Make sure your roommate is aware of your intention to sue them, and when you plan to do so.
Even if the person is still living with you and they have refused to honor their part of the deal, go ahead and file a lawsuit against them.
In most cases, the best avenue for filing a civil lawsuit against your roommate is the local small claims court. Feel free to sue for the amount you are owed up to your state limit for small claims, which ranges from $5,000 to $10,000.
However, if the amount you are owed is above this limit, be sure to discuss your options with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney. Just keep in mind that filing for a small claims lawsuit is relatively cheap and straightforward. You don’t need an attorney, and your case will be resolved much faster.
Can I Evict My Roommate?
Although you can ask your roommate to move out of a shared apartment, you cannot evict him/her. You need to understand that an eviction is a legal proceeding that terminates the contractual relationship between a tenant and a landlord. A court must approve such actions.
Therefore, if you have a roommate who refuses to move out when asked to do so and you can no longer stay together in harmony, the only way you can legally get them out is by talking to your landlord to initiate an eviction of the said roommate. You cannot file an eviction lawsuit yourself.