Sharing an apartment with a friend or an acquaintance can be fun and help you to save on expenses. However, sharing an apartment can cause some challenges. For example:
- One tenant moves out, leaving the remaining tenant to pay the full rent to the end of the lease.
- One tenant refuses to pay his/her share of the rent.
- Two friends rent an apartment. One has guests stay over which crowds the living situation.
- One tenant is disruptive and the other tenant is not. The innocent tenant and the landlord want to take the disruptive tenant’s name off the lease and to have him/her leave.
- Two tenants agree to split up, and one tenant is willing to pay the rest of the lease, but the landlord won’t agree.
In a lease situation, all parties (meaning the landlord and all tenants) must agree to a change in the terms of the lease. This means that one tenant alone and the landlord cannot agree to remove the other tenant’s name from the lease. Similarly, even if all the tenants agree that one tenant can leave and want that tenant’s name be taken off the lease, the landlord must agree.
Both tenants are responsible for the entire term of the lease. If one tenant refuses to pay rent--whether or not that tenant continues to live there--and the other tenant cannot or will not pay full rent, both tenants may be evicted as a result. The landlord can then sue one tenant or both tenants for lost rent.
If the innocent tenant pays the full rent until the end of the lease, or is evicted, the innocent tenant can hold the other tenant responsible for damages. This means that the innocent tenant can sue the other tenant for the extra rent that he/she had to pay or still owes to the landlord. If the landlord sues only the innocent tenant, that tenant can sue the other tenant for his/her share of the damages. This would bring the at-fault tenant into the suit so that both tenants have to appear before the judge..
How to prevent some of these "roommate problems":
- Choose your potential roommate carefully by considering who is compatible with you. Have a clear understanding of each other’s lifestyle, how the apartment is to be managed and what is expected of each other, especially as to guests, parties, noise and cleanliness.
- Include your potential roommate on your rental agreement and make sure the leasing agent screens the roommate thoroughly. Having the roommate sign the agreement will prevent him or her from just leaving whenever he/she wants. The roommate will be bound to the same rules as you. So, when it comes to payment, both parties will be bound to the responsibility of paying the rent in a timely manner. This also holds both parties legally responsible for not being able to pay rent in a timely manner.
- If possible, each tenant should share with the other a current credit report, references and evidence of job history and income that would warrant a partnership. (Most apartment complex companies will require that both tenants be qualified as to good credit, sufficient income, etc. so that obtaining a credit report wouldn’t be necessary.)
- If one tenant has enough income to rent the apartment alone and the landlord is agreeable, then he/she might want to be the only signer of the lease and rent to the other tenant on a month-to-month basis. If the relationship does not work out, it can be easily terminated and the lease signer would be free to seek another apartment mate.