A roommate is a tenant responsible to either a tenant listed on a lease or landlord. The tenant may be a joint tenant or subtenant. When the roommate is considered a joint tenant, the person signs a rental agreement or lease alongside their roommates. The people co-habitating together share the same rental space, legal rights, and responsibilities.

What Is Joint and Several Liability?

For tenants, joint and several liability means that the landlord can demand the whole amount of rent from one co-tenant regardless of how the rent is deducted among roommates. However, any one roommate who is held liable by the landlord for the whole rent can seek repayment from their roommates.

Can I Get in Trouble with the Landlord If My Roommate Screws Up?

Yes. If a roommate does something to get evicted such as non-payment of rent, the roommates may be liable for the roommate’s actions. Also, the roommate’s behavior may also violate the rental agreement. This means the violation would justify evicting all of the roommates because of joint and several liability.

Can I Force My Roommate Out?

No. Being joint and severally liable does not mean that roommates can evict a co-tenant, as only a landlord can do this. Roommates encountering problems must work it out between them.

Should My Roommates and I Have a Separate Contract from the Rental Agreement?

Yes. A roommate agreement is helpful in avoiding problems between co-tenants in the future. A roommate agreement is a contract between co-tenants. Typically, it can be written or oral, but it must be written if the rental least is for a year or more. The contract typically lists terms such as:

  • How rent is divided
  • Guests
  • Who sleeps where
  • Cleaning
  • Utilities
  • Parties
  • Food sharing
  • Violations
  • Security deposits
  • How to handle roommates leaving prior to the end of the lease

Do I Need Help from a Lawyer regarding Joint and Several Liability?

It is in your best interest to speak to a real estate lawyer regarding becoming a co-tenant, creating a roommate agreement, and your rights as a roommate. The lawyer can draft the agreement for you as well.