What Happens If One Roommate Breaks The Lease?

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It’s only natural that a group of roommates find themselves in a situation where a roommate breaks the lease. This could cause confusion regarding the rental agreement and readjusting the house budget. Their reason could be a new job, end of their studies, or a job that demands relocation or a significant other they could be moving in with.

Whatever their reason – what should you do if your 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.

Informing your landlord when a roommate breaks the lease.

Ideally, the roommate that breaks the lease 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 it’s important to remember that 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 roommate that breaks the lease usually foots the bill for the fee.)

Find a replacement and a solid rental agreement.

The toughest part about ending up in a situation where a roommate breaks the lease is that the responsibility falls on all of you. Since both of your names are on the rent agreement, any backlash is on anyone that lives on 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 for potential new roommates that have already been screened professionally.

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

How can you protect yourself when a roommate breaks the lease?

We recommend protecting yourself from a departing roommate, especially the kind of roommate that breaks the lease. This is 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

One of the best ways to avoid a situation like such where a roommate breaks the lease is to write up a roommate agreement before you start living with them. Here are some of the clauses you MUST include in your roommate agreement. (Note: This is not the same as a rental agreement)

What happens if your roommate breaks the lease and darts 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. What can you do if/when this happens?

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 fulfill 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!

D’you know what else Roomi does outside of helping its readers figure out what to do when a roommate breaks the lease and your rental agreement? With our ever-increasing lists of rooms and roommates across the world, we help you find your perfect match! Download the app here and hop on the easiest ride home, ever!