How to Get Out of a Lease With a Roommate


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No matter how you plan, sometimes you just need to escape from a roommate relationship. Here are a few things to keep in mind for how to get out of a lease with a roommate.

Reasons to break a lease with roommates

While in an ideal world, living with roommates creates a fun life situation where you can all save on rent and utility bills, the reality is sometimes not that great. Common reasons for roommate breakdowns include:

  • Conflicts over who should pay what and when payments should be made
  • Disputes over cleanliness, including who does what chores, how often everyone does their chores, and how tidy everyone should be
  • Night guests and romantic partners becoming de facto additional residents
  • Behavioral conflicts, such as loud music and partying
  • Legal issues, including drugs or alcohol use.

Setting up a roommate agreement when you first meet together can help you set the tone for a respectful living situation. Sometimes, however, even the best planning can’t keep your roommate relationship from going south.

How to get out of a lease with a roommate

If you are considering breaking a lease due to roommate issues, keep a few general guidelines in mind:

Determine who needs to move

Often there is no clear rule on who can stay and who should leave the apartment. Even if you aren’t the faulty roommate in a situation, you won’t necessarily stay. You will need to negotiate this with your roommates.

Some exceptions exist, such as controlled rent leases which designate a “primary tenant”. If you are designated in this way, you may have the right to get rid of other tenants in your unit and recruit new ones.

Are you on a monthly lease?

A month-to-month rental agreement can get you out faster or easier, but don’t leave without paying rent. You risk taking action in small claims court, and your credit score can suffer as well. So be sure to give the required notice. Then pay the rent and your share of utilities for the time remaining on your lease, whether or not you still live in your home.

Are you leaving a longer rental contract?

Signing a lease that goes beyond a monthly agreement legally requires you to pay rent for a longer period. Just breaking a lease can hurt your credit score, making it more difficult to approve apartments in the future. You could very well be required to pay the rent until the end of your rental agreement or until a new tenant takes over.

Does everyone want to leave?

If you and your roommates all want to leave the lease early, what you need to do depends on your type of lease. Monthly tenants usually just need to provide the landlord with the required notice, so if you can stick to the end of that shorter period, you can all go your own way with no more ramifications.

A standard lease makes things more complicated. Again, your lease creates a contract requiring you to pay rent for the duration of the lease. Usually your only way out without breaking the lease is to find replacement tenants that your landlord approves.

Remember that your future owners will likely contact your current landlord before they allow you to rent. In other words, it’s in your best interest to communicate with your landlord and try to find a solution that everyone can live with.

Options to resolve the situation

You have a few options to resolve your situation without encountering legal issues or harming your future apartments. Here are a few things to try:

Negotiate with your roommate

If you have a chance to save the day, it’s usually in your best interest to settle your dispute rather than figuring out how to break a lease with a roommate. Breaking a lease or finding a new roommate or replacement tenant has serious consequences and stress. Creating some sort of agreement that keeps the peace for the duration of your lease will save you a lot of hassle.

However, if either of you really has to go out, you can try to negotiate the logistics. Consider asking your roommate to move out if you can cover both parts of the apartment’s rent. On the other hand, if you are ready to move out, you can see if your roommate is ready to cover the full cost of the apartment. These negotiations can work if you run out of time on your lease.

Pay off the rest of your lease

Instead of breaking a joint lease, ask your landlord if you can buy out the rest of your lease. It might look like paying the remaining rent amount on a lease with a few months remaining so you can get out of your deal. Just make sure you communicate clearly with your landlord to make sure they agree to this proposal so they don’t end up accusing you of breaking the lease.

Sublease your device

If your rental agreement allows you to sublet, subletting your room may offer you a way to get away from your roommate without breaking the lease. When you sublet, someone moves in with you, but you keep your name on the lease. You are still responsible for paying the rent, so look for a sub letter you can trust. And keep in mind that some leases may not allow subletting – refer to your rental agreement and contact your landlord before someone else moves in.

Remember to check local and national regulations

In addition to checking the terms of your rental agreement, you’ll want to look into specific laws governing evictions, tenant rights, and more. You should always check local and state laws before proceeding with any of the above scenarios.

Understanding how to leave a lease with roommates can be stressful. Knowing how breaking a lease might affect you later can help you make an informed decision on how to proceed.

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