Roommates and Subleases

Roommates and Subleases

A group of friends

Young people often rent an apartment together and split the rent. You might be able to afford a more expensive but nicer apartment if you share with one or more roommates. This has some legal effects you should understand.

If you rent an apartment with roommates, everyone who signs the lease is financially responsible for the full amount of the rent.  If the rent isn’t paid, then the landlord can (and usually does) sue everyone who signed the lease to collect the unpaid rent and evict them.  If your roommates don’t pay their share of the rent, the landlord won’t just evict them and charge you less; you will all be evicted.  And what if you move out and one or more roommates stay in the apartment but don’t pay the rent?  If your name is still on the lease, the landlord could sue you for eviction and the unpaid rent.  Even if you don’t live in the apartment any more, you might have to pay the rent, and might be evicted by court order.  You might find it harder to rent an apartment in the future if you have ever been evicted.  On the other hand, if you stay in the apartment and one (or more) of your roommates moves out, you are still responsible for the full amount of the rent.  You cannot pay just your part of the rent and tell your landlord to get the rest from your former roommate.  You are all on the lease, and each of you can be responsible for the full amount of rent.

If you or one or more roommates move out, you can ask the landlord to create a new lease just for the remaining tenant. The landlord doesn’t have to do this, but may be willing if the remaining tenant has enough income to pay the monthly rent.

If you want to move out and find someone else to take your place temporarily by renting your apartment, this is a sublease.  Your lease should say if it is OK for you to sublease your apartment.  You must have the landlord’s agreement, in writing.  Often, the landlord will want to approve any new tenant and can require the same information that any new tenant must furnish.

Subleasing may be a good idea if you are going to be away for a few months and want to come back to the same apartment.  But if you are not planning on returning to your apartment, you probably want to see if you can have someone take over your lease, and free you of any further responsibility.  This is called assigning your lease.  If you sublease, you are still responsible to the landlord for paying rent.  If your landlord allows you to assign the lease to someone else, then that person is responsible for the rent from that time on.