Sometimes, roommate relationships do not work out. Your friend, family member, or significant other may not pay their portion of the rent, cause property damage, or engage in behaviors that violate the terms of the lease. Under these circumstances, an eviction may be necessary.

Your ability to evict your roommate may depend on whether there is a signed lease or subtenant agreement. Additionally, you must also follow your state and city’s eviction laws. (Eviction laws vary from state-to-state and city-to-city. Make sure you understand your community’s legal requirements before starting an eviction.)

Before you start formal eviction proceedings, you should talk with your roommate. Sometimes, he or she may agree to move out—saving you time and money. It is best to document your agreement in writing. If your roommate does not follow through, you will have evidence of your informal agreement.

What If the Roommate is a Subtenant?

A roommate is a subtenant if he or she did not sign the landlord’s lease agreement. There are two kinds of subtenants:

  • Authorized subtenants who have signed a written subtenant agreement, and
  • Unauthorized subtenants who do not have a written agreement.

If your landlord did not authorize your subtenant, you may have violated the terms of your lease. Typically, it is in your best interest to seek your landlord’s approval for any sub-tenancy.

If your roommate signed a subtenant agreement, you may proceed with the eviction process as if you were a landlord. You will have to:

  • Provide a formal eviction notice,
  • File an eviction complaint with the court,
  • Attend a court hearing or jury trial, and
  • If granted, enforce the eviction order.

If your property is rent-controlled, you may have to prove just cause for the eviction. If you need help with the eviction process, a real estate lawyer may be able to help you.

If there is not a written subtenant agreement, your roommate may be considered a month-to-month tenant. (In other words, you must give the tenant 30 or 60 days notice before terminating his or her subtenancy.) Again, if your property is rent-controlled, you may have to prove just cause for the termination.

What If the Roommate is Another Tenant?

If your roommate also signed the lease agreement with your landlord, it can be very difficult to force him or her out. You may just have to wait until the lease expires. However, if there is evidence of non-payment, property damage, or illegal behaviors, eviction may be an option in some states.

If you are the subtenant, you typically cannot evict the person who signed the lease.

If your roommate is abusive, you also may have the option of filing criminal charges or seeking a personal protective order. While this will not remove your roommate from the lease, it will guarantee your safety.

Does the Roommate Have Any Defenses?

Do not attempt a “self-help” eviction. It is illegal to evict someone without a court order. Do not change your locks, remove your roommates possessions, or harass him or her. These activities can hurt your chances of legally evicting your roommate—and may result in a lawsuit or criminal charges.

Depending on the facts, your roommate may be able to argue that eviction is improper because of retaliation, discrimination, or that just cause does not exist. 

Can a Real Estate Lawyer Help Evict a Roommate?

If you cannot amicably resolve a dispute with your roommate, you may want to hire an eviction lawyer. You must strictly follow your community’s eviction rules—which can take a lot of time and effort. A lawyer can help you with the eviction process and ensure that you follow the law.