The Legal Risks of Renting with a Roommate

Having a roommate is not only common, but it is also a necessity for many in today’s world. When money gets tight, it can be hard to afford living expenses on your own.

And when people find themselves in sticky financial situations, they usually seek out a roommate to help them carry the financial burden of adulthood.

Roommates help you pay utility bills, food, and of course, your rent or mortgage. Cutting costs for insurance is also an option if you purchase car insurance for two drivers with one car.

Though having a roommate can alleviate the headache of financially handling everything on your own, it can turn into a nightmare pretty quickly if you are not mindful of who you choose as a roommate. 

While getting a person into your home as a roommate is simple, putting them out can be legally tricky if they turn out to be a bad roommate. There are several things you need to consider before picking a roommate.

The Process of Eviction Becomes More Difficult

Preparing yourself to live with another person should be taken seriously. Many people find themselves in sticky situations because they did not take the time to learn how to rent with a roommate and not get taken advantage of prior to signing a lease.

When individuals find themselves having to evict their roommate or leave their home because of a problematic roommate, they quickly learn that getting out of a roommate-agreement is a lot harder than getting into it. 

Dealing with evicting a roommate takes time, money, approval of a judge, and potentially help from your local police if the roommate makes the eviction difficult.

Always remember this — before you get to the eviction process, you have to ensure there is a legal reason for you to evict your roommate. A judge may dismiss your eviction proposal if your reason for terminating your agreement is simply because you two do not get along.

Alternatively, if you are not the one who distributed the lease ( meaning you have a landlord or separate lease), getting out of your lease may require you to pay fees and/or owe your part of the rent for the remainder of the lease term. How to get out of this situation depends on who issued the lease, the role you play in your roommate agreement, and the steps for early move-out notated in your lease. 

You may decide to move out if your roommate refuses to leave, and that may impact your car insurance, too.

Keep in mind that if you don’t register your auto insurance with your home address, you could be dealing with that hassle on top of the bad roommate situation. 

Your Lease Terms Don’t Exempt You from Your Roommate’s Mistakes

There are different types of lease agreements you can get into with your roommate. Some roommates are co-tenants that share equal responsibilities. There is also the situation where there is a tenant and subtenant where the tenant holds the majority of the legal obligation.

Under a co-tenant agreement, both parties are equally responsible for the care and maintenance of the apartment. What the roommate does or does not pay or manage properly is not your responsibility, unlike within a tenant and subtenant agreement.

However, you should keep in mind that with both agreements, you can be held accountable for any damage to the property or any neighbor complaints that your roommate caused. 

Your Credit Score and Money are at Risk

If you come home one day and realize that your roommate skipped out, you can end up in hot water

Depending on the lease agreement you entered into with your roommate, you could be obligated to cover your part of the rent as well as your roommate’s share. This can make things financially challenging, resulting in your credit plummeting if things get too out of hand financially.

The same applies to any damage caused by the roommate if they refuse to repair or pay to have it repaired.

With money being tight after they leave or cause damage, you may have to find out the steps for how to sue someone in court without a lawyer so you can receive any money owed to you. 

Your Personal Items are at Risk

Like the scenarios mentioned above, your personal items are just as much at risk as your credit score and finances when renting with a roommate. If you’ve had any issues with theft or burglary, you may be more cautious about your belongings. 

After taking the steps to follow after your home is broken into, you may find out that your roommate had some role to play in the break-in. If this is the case, there are of course, legal actions you can take, but that is a tedious process in itself. 

In addition, you will also have to worry about removing your roommate from home. And beyond a break-in, a roommate can take your personal items without setting up a “break-in” if they lack common decency and avidly disrespects boundaries.  

Breaking a Lease Is Harder with a Roommate

Just as it is harder to evict a roommate, it is just as hard to break a lease when you are in a roommate agreement. Unless your situation with your roommate is honestly dangerous, breaking a lease may not be an option because simply having problems with your roommate will not automatically get you out of your lease. 

As mentioned earlier, your lease will outline the steps for terminating your lease if it is an option. Though, keep in mind that money more than likely will be owed to your landlord if you do break the lease. 

Things You Should Ask Before Signing a Roommate Agreement 

There are plenty of benefits to having a roommate, like sharing the costs of rent and utilities. 

However, as you can see, there are a fair amount of cons, too. So how do you avoid experiencing the consequences of renting with a roommate? Well, you should ask your potential roommate questions before signing a lease with that person. 

Here is a few of the questions that Consumer Ed recommends you ask your potential roommate before moving in with them: 

  • How long have you been at your current job?
  • Do you get up early or stay up late at night?
  • What are your cleanliness and neatness standards? (What may be “clean” to you may not be to your roommate!)
  • Do you smoke or drink alcohol?
  • Do you have any pets? Do you mind if I have pets?
  • Are you a quiet, stay-at-home type, or do you like to party?
  • What kind of music do you like? (And how loud do you like it?)
  • Will you have visitors regularly?

Though all roommate agreements do not turn out to be bad, it is still good practice to move cautiously when looking for a roommate.

Preparing for the worst while remaining hopeful for the best is a great perspective to have in an effort to protect yourself when you find yourself dealing with a roommate from hell. 

Cohabitation is not easy and should not be treated as if it is, but with the right guidance, you can have a blissful experience with your roommate.