How To Get Out Of a Lease With a Roommate

Summary:

To get out of a lease with a roommate, first try to negotiate a temporary solution. If that doesn’t work, see if your landlord will let you look for a new person to take your place as a roommate or subletter. Whatever your situation, make sure to stay in contact with your landlord and inform them of your current roommate issues.

In an ideal world, having a roommate can be an enjoyable way to save money on rent and utility bills. In reality, having a roommate sometimes leads to an unpleasant living situation. So what can be done if you want to move out? Do you need to break the lease to change residence? And if your roommate breaks a joint lease, are they still legally required to pay their share of each month’s rent?

If you’re considering breaking the lease completely, there are alternative options that may be easier to try first. Let’s take a look at some of these options and how they can be implemented.

Alternative options to breaking the lease

To avoid legal trouble or hurting the success of obtaining future housing, there are some other options that you can try before completely breaking the lease.

1. Negotiate with your roommate(s)

If you haven’t already, the first option you might try is to salvage the situation with your current roommate or roommates. It may be possible to come to an agreement (this may need to be in writing) that will make the shared living situation more bearable until the lease ends. This will save you a lot of hassle instead of trying to end a lease prematurely.

Negotiating could also take on the form of who moves and who pays what. Can you pay for the rent without a roommate? Is your roommate willing to pay all the rent without your contribution if you were to move out? These negotiations may also work if there is just a short time left to the lease, so you don’t have to end it prematurely.

2. Find another roommate

If you and your roommate can’t stand the situation any longer, you may want to look for a new roommate to help pay for rent. This may be the best solution available to you. If you do decide to go with another roommate, be sure to let your landlord know that there will be a new tenant moving in to take over the lease.

3. Pay off the lease

It may be possible to pay off the remainder of your lease. This is especially preferable when there are only a few months left before the lease expires.

In the long run, it may cost you less than paying the fees associated with breaking a lease and risking the loss of your security deposit. This would essentially be paying the amount of rent for the remaining months of the lease.

4. Sublet

Although some lease agreements do not allow for this provision, if your lease does allow you to sublet would be a better solution than breaking the lease. A subletter is another person or roommate that would take over the rent for you or your roommate(s) instead of being added to the lease agreement.

When subletting, remember that you are still the one ultimately responsible for paying the rent if subletters do not. You’re also the one responsible for any damages incurred by the individual you are subletting to. If possible, it’s best to have a new roommate added to your lease instead of a subletter.

Pro Tip

Make sure to have all sublet agreements put down in writing in accordance with local laws and regulations. It’s also a good idea to let the landlord know in advance that you will be subletting so that they are aware that someone else will be living on the property.

5. Talk to your landlord

When in doubt, talk to your landlord about your situation. Maybe you’re thinking about breaking the lease early because of financial hardship, which is causing issues between you and your roommate. Rather than suffer the consequences of breaking a lease — which would put a black mark on your credit score and rental history — try explaining the situation to the property owner.

If you’re really strapped for cash and can’t break your lease without serious consequences, you may want to consider applying for a personal loan in the meantime.

How do you get out of a lease with an abusive roommate?

The answer to that question can vary when getting into the details of the abuse, but there may be legal recourse that allows you to terminate the lease early. Depending on state and local laws, if you’re the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, you may be able to terminate the lease early without any negative recourse.

One example of a local law is from the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 33-1318:

If there are multiple tenants who are parties to a rental agreement that has been terminated under this section, the tenancy for those tenants also terminates. The tenants who are not the victims of domestic violence or sexual assault… may be released from any financial obligations due under the previously existing rental agreement and the remaining tenants may be allowed to enter into a new lease with the landlord if the tenants meet all current application requirements.”

Reviewing your lease agreement

If you’ve tried the alternative solutions mentioned above and breaking the lease is still necessary, first review your lease agreement. This will give you a better idea of what will be involved and if there are any penalties for terminating the lease early. You’ll need to determine the type of lease, the length of the lease, and how liabilities are defined.

Types of lease agreements

When it comes to the real estate world, there are four common types of residential leases. Each class of lease has its own unique characteristics and requirements. Understanding which type of lease you have will help you know what your options are to terminate the lease.

The four types of residential leases are:

  1. Tenancy for years. This is a type of lease with a specific start date and end date. The term of the lease is specifically defined and there is no notice required to vacate when the lease or rental agreement ends. This commonly is in the form of a year-to-year lease that must be renewed for the tenant to continue occupying the space.
  2. Periodic tenancy. This is a lease type where the tenant indefinitely occupies the property and where periodic rent is stipulated to be given to the landlord. The agreement is binding until the tenant or the landlord notifies the other party of termination (usually 30 days, but varies by state).
  3. Tenancy at will. This is when the relationship only endures if both parties agree that it will. Usually, this is common with a non-written agreement where a friend or family member is renting a space. Depending on state regulations, the lease can be broken at any time.
  4. Tenancy at sufferance. This is basically used to describe a situation when a tenant continues to live at a property past the term of the lease. This could happen in a year-to-year lease and the tenant stays past the lease terms without explicit consent of the landlord.

Length of the lease

Check if the lease term is month-to-month, year-to-year, or some other length of time. A month-to-month lease will be the easiest one to break. If it’s year-to-year, check if there’s a fee to break the lease.

Also, ask whether some roommates will stay or not. If the remaining roommates (or roommate) agree to stay and pay rent on a long-term lease, in some instances the landlord may agree to waive fees and rewrite the lease.

Liabilities of paying rent

In most cases, every tenant on the lease is obligated to pay rent. “Jointly and severally liable” is the legal term used to describe this obligation.

When you see this phrase on a lease agreement, it means each tenant is independently liable to pay rent for the term of the lease. If you have a departing tenant, the remaining tenant (or tenants) is obligated to pay the rent. However, the departing tenant is still required to continue paying rent until the lease ends.

Pro Tip

If you’re looking to get out of a lease with a roommate because they aren’t paying their fair share of rent or your roommate moved out and left you in financial difficulty, you have the option to bring them to small claims court. Although it’s much better to work the matter out without going to court, you can sue for the amount they owe up to the local state limit for small claims court.

However, to make a strong case, make sure you have a written agreement that outlines how much each tenant is obligated to pay. If you’re looking to move out and the lease is still in force, work out how the rent will be paid before you leave.

Determine who moves

Determining who must stay and who must leave can get complicated. Even if you’re not the cause of the situation, you may not be able to stay. You’ll have to negotiate an amicable arrangement with your roommate(s).

IMPORTANT! Some exceptions exist, such as where a “master tenant” is designated in rent-controlled leases. If you have this title, it’s possible to exercise the freedom to decide who stays and who goes.

Does everyone want to move or only some?

What if everyone wants to split up and move? If it means breaking the lease early, what you need to do depends on the type of lease you have. For a month-to-month six-month lease or year-to-year lease, you’ll need to give a formal notice to end the lease. This is especially true if your lease is considered “tenancy for years” or “periodic tenancy.”

You must provide this notice to your landlord in advance, but how far in advance will depend on local state regulations and the length of the lease. This could be anywhere from 7 days (for a weekly rental) to 60 days (more often with a yearly rental).

Pro Tip

If you’re moving out before a lease terminates and your name remains on the lease agreement, the landlord can come after you if your ex-roommates don’t pay the rent. Not only could this be a financial hardship, but this could also damage your credit score and make it harder to get future housing if they require references from previous landlords.

Notifying the property owner

If you decide that ending the lease completely is the best option, it’s essential to notify the property owner in writing. Be sure to include the following in your written correspondence:

  • Your name and the names of all tenants on the lease.
  • The address and unit number of the apartment.
  • An address for future correspondence to be sent.
  • The landlord’s name (or business name) and address.
  • The date you’re writing the letter and your move-out date.
  • An unambiguous statement expressing your intent to terminate the lease early.
  • The reason you’re terminating the lease.

IMPORTANT! Make sure to check local and state laws before breaking a lease. Each state has unique nuances when it comes to lease agreements. There are varying requirements that could be critical components to successfully breaking the lease.

FAQs

What should I do if a roommate wants to leave early?

If there’s a lease, your roommate would either need to get permission from the landlord to leave early or (if allowed) find a new roommate that the landlord will allow to take over the lease. Technically, just one of the tenants leaving would be a breach of contract and could give grounds for the landlord to completely terminate the lease.

What’s a good excuse to break a lease?

While you should obviously not lie about the reason to break your lease, there are a few instances when a renter can legally break a lease.

  • The property is illegal or uninhabitable.
  • The landlord harasses the tenant.
  • The tenant is on active military duty.
  • The tenant is a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse.

Does breaking a lease hurt your credit?

Rental payments are handled differently by the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Depending on how and what the landlord reports, it could appear on your credit report. Terminating a lease early, finding a subletter, or making other arrangements could affect your credit history.

Most landlords include a fee to break a lease early. The amount of the fee is specified on the lease, but it could be the equivalent of a few months’ rent. If you don’t pay the fees, the landlord can turn the debt over to a collection agency. The debt collection agency could then report your debt to one of the three credit bureaus and result in a negative mark on your credit score.

Key Takeaways

  • Try to negotiate an agreeable temporary arrangement with your roommate before breaking the lease.
  • If allowed, you may be able to find a replacement roommate who can take over the lease agreement or contribute to your portion of the rent.
  • Talk to your landlord about your situation and if there are any possible solutions.
  • If you do break the lease, make sure you know the terms involved and the fees that would apply.
  • Give as much notice as you can to the landlord. Do research to find out how much advance notice you are required to give by law to break the lease.
View Article Sources
  1. Termination of tenancy without specific term. — Florida State Legislature
  2. 33-1318. Early termination by tenant; domestic violence — Arizona State Legislature
  3. How to Get Out of Your Apartment Lease in 5 Steps — SuperMoney
  4. Moving Out of Your Parents House – The Definitive Guide — SuperMoney
  5. How To Rent a Home With Bad Credit Score — SuperMoney
  6. How To Live on Your Own: 13 Practical Tips — SuperMoney
  7. What Is a Proprietary Lease? Definition & Example — SuperMoney
  8. What Is a Ground Lease? Pros & Cons Explained — SuperMoney
  9. Is Renting a Waste Of Money? (You’ll Be Surprised) — SuperMoney
  10. Lessor vs. Lessee: Here are the Differences — SuperMoney
  11. Does Breaking a Lease Affect Your Credit Score? — SuperMoney
  12. Is There a New Alternative To Renting Or Owning House? — SuperMoney
  13. Housing Affordability Study — SuperMoney