Roommate and Co-tenant Lawyers

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What are the Responsibilities of a Roommate or a Co-tenant?

When all the roommates of a rental property are listed in the lease, each is responsible for the entire amount of rent due to the landlord.  If the roommate is not named on the lease and has not signed the lease, the roommate usually pays his portion of the rent to the named tenant, who then pays the landlord.  This tenant is responsible for the full amount of rent.  Roommates become co-tenants when they simultaneously sign a lease.  They share the same legal rights and responsibilities.

How Do I Add a Roommate?

In order to establish tenancy, most states require that the new roommate have the consent of the landlord and that the roommate contribute to or pay rent.

To gain the landlord’s consent, consider the occupancy limits of the apartment as well as any behavioral requirements the landlord may have. Credit history, employment history, rental history and any other background check may be conducted.

Rent law for new tenants is subject to the responsibilities listed above. Expect rent and security deposits to go up as well. 

Disputes between Roommates

Informal arrangements are made between roommates all the time, about rent, bedrooms, or any other issues.  Disputes between roommates are bound to arise.  To protect oneself, it may be best to prepare for any arguments that are likely to develop.  The first step is to choose your roommates carefully.  Before renting, make sure you and your roommates discuss important issues such as how much of the rent you each pay, what spaces in the property each will occupy, chores, food, and moving out.  These arrangements can and should be put in writing.  Courts will enforce rent-sharing agreements among co-tenants.

What Happens if One Roommate Doesn't Pay Rent?

The splitting up of rent among co-tenants does not affect the landlord.  The landlord must still be paid no matter who pays him.  The amount of rent each tenant pays is up to the roommates.  Each is still independently liable to the landlord for the full amount of the rent.  If one roommate does not pay the rent, for whatever reason, the remaining roommates are still responsible for paying the full amount. 

What Happens if One Roommate Decides to Leave?

A co-tenant who decides to leave before the term of the tenancy is over is still liable.  Before leaving, the co-tenant should obtain the consent of the landlord because if he does not the landlord may evict everyone else.  Usually, a landlord will not evict the other roommates unless they cannot show that they will be able to pay the rent without the departing roommate.  If your roommate is departing, try to create an agreement by which you set out the amount of rent that he will pay.  If the co-tenant refuses to pay rent you may bring a lawsuit against him.

Can A Roommate Be Evicted?

Joint tenants cannot be evicted by their fellow tenants because their contract is with the landlord. Subtenant eviction will differ by state. Some states treat the tenant as a landlord in relation to the subtenant. Other states will not permit tenants to evict their subtenants without the landlord.

The landlord has the power to evict any of the roommates, regardless of their status. The landlord has the power to evict all the roommates but may reverse the evictions of certain tenants under certain conditions which vary by state.

Remember that all evictions made must be legal: “self-help” evictions are illegal, prior notice must be given and a court order must be given to have the police remove the tenants.

Can a Landlord Reject a Roommate?

Yes, the landlord reserves the right to reject any tenants. It is important for the landlord, however, not to treat the person as a tenant. This means that if the landlord accepts any type of payment, checks, cash or even services, the person may automatically become a tenant in the eyes of the law.

A landlord who wishes to avoid this should not treat the person as a tenant in anyway and instead order the person to leave or face trespassing charges.

Do I Need a Lawyer for my Roommate/Co-Tenant Problem?

Sometimes serious disputes can arise between roommates or co-tenants.  An experienced property attorney can help you decide whether or not to sue your roommate or co-tenant.  If you need to go to court, a property attorney can represent you and help you get the best results possible.

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Last Modified: 10-24-2012 03:35 PM PDT

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