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Co-Living Advice

What Happens If One Roommate Breaks The Lease?

Sometimes things don’t go to plan. And we’re not talking about missing your weekly video call with the grandparents because you were watching reruns of your favorite TV show – again. We’re talking about your roommate not holding up their side of the bargain. It happens. You could be fighting with your roommate, they could have fallen in love with their S.O. and want to live with them, or maybe they’re moving interstate for a new job.

Whatever their reason – what happens if one roommate breaks the lease? Is it down to you to pick up the slack? In this guide from Roomi, we’ll explain the ins and outs of what to expect when one person in the house doesn’t want to complete their rental agreement.

Let the landlord know about the change in circumstance

Ideally, the roomi that wants to move out should tell your landlord as soon as possible. Re-read the lease to look for any early termination clauses and make sure you all understand the terms. Be upfront with your landlord about the situation and find out what the next steps should be.

Some landlords understand that things change and they’ll work with you to come up with a solution. However, since all of your names are on the lease, you’re all responsible to withhold your end of the legal contract, and not all landlords are willing to allow you to break it. Whether or not you end up as one of the lucky ones here – you can probably expect to pay a fee. (Although, in our experience, the person breaking the lease usually foots the bill for the fee.)

Find a replacement

The toughest part about living with a roomi who wants to break the lease is that the responsibility falls on both of you. Since both of your names are on the agreement, any backlash is on anyone that lives in the property.

Talk to your landlord about finding a replacement to help you cover the rent. Depending on their policy, they might be able to help, or it could be a job for the current tenants. If it’s on you, consider reaching out to your social networks or use a roommate finding service like Roomi to search potential new roomis that have already been screened by us. 

Remember that your landlord will probably want to approve this person before their move-in can be confirmed. Make them aware of the fact they’ll have to go through the usual process before a new lease can be written up – so they’ll need to prepare things like proof of income, rental history and references.

Get your departing roommate to sign an agreement

We recommend protecting yourself from a departing roommate, so you don’t get landed with paying their portion of the rent. You could consider putting together an agreement that contains points that say your roommate will:

  • Pay their remaining chunk of the rent and bills
  • Help you find a replacement roommate
  • Pay for any damage they caused
  • Give up any claim to be a tenant

What if they dart in the middle of the night?

People don’t always honor their responsibilities and if you have a roommate that disappears without giving you any notice or paying what they owe, that leaves you in a very sticky situation. So, what can you do?

You could consider taking them to a small claims court to recover what they owe. You won’t need a lawyer and the process is relatively quick and simple; you’ll just need to take the lease and explain what happened. If the roommate doesn’t show up, the result will automatically be in your favor. 

Whatever you do, don’t think about following in their fleeing footsteps and running away from your responsibilities, too! The thought of having to cover more rent and bills can be overwhelming, but remember that you have rights and it’s in your best interests to fulfil your rental agreement.
If you do want to move out, follow the proper procedure. Give your landlord plenty of notice and be prepared to pay any remaining rent or bills that you owe. Some landlords might not allow you to break out of the entire lease early – but others are more accommodating, and simple honesty could go a long way. Just refusing to pay rent could land you in a claims court, and late rental payments could affect your credit score – so consider the consequences before making any impulsive decisions!