Sharing an apartment with a friend or an acquaintance can be fun and help you to save on expenses. Sharing an apartment, however, can also create some interesting problems such as:
- One tenant moves out, leaving the remaining tenant to pay the full rent to the end of the lease.
- One tenant stays, but refuses to pay his/her share of the rent.
- Two friends rent an apartment. One has guests stay over on a continuous off-and-on basis, 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 with one tenant being willing to assume the responsibilities of the lease, but the landlord won’t agree.
In a lease situation, all parties have to agree to a change in the terms of the lease. One tenant alone and the landlord cannot agree to remove the other tenant’s name from the lease. Similarly, even if the tenants agree that one tenant can leave and ask that the tenant’s name be taken off the lease, the landlord doesn’t have to 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. Specifically, the innocent tenant can go after the other tenant for the excess rent paid by the innocent tenant or the rent owed to the landlord. If the landlord sues only one tenant, that tenant can sue the other tenant for his/her share of the damages. This would join the non-involved tenant in the suit and have both tenants appear before the judge.
How to lessen some of the problems:
- Choose your potential roommate well 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 when he or she wants to leave. 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 two tenants renting a two-bedroom apartment can’t get along, the landlord may allow each to transfer to a one bedroom apartment. However, this is not an option you should count on when deciding to live with another person.
- If one tenant has sufficient 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.