Roommates sign a common lease when they move in together to show that they are all equally responsible for paying the rent and keeping the property in good repair. But over time you may want to move. You may have been living with a partner or friends, but the relationship has deteriorated. Or you might have a great career opportunity in another city or state. It might even be time for you to spread your wings and try to live on your own.
If you are ready to move but your roommates want to keep the apartment, you will need to remove your name from the lease. This is a critical step, because once you move out, you don’t want to be responsible for any rent owed or for damages caused while you were away.
Talk to your roommates
When you opt out of the lease, your landlord will need to get written permission from your roommates to write a new lease without your name. That’s a lot to ask your roommates, so be sure to approach the conversation with an understanding tone. They’ll likely be frustrated for wanting to break up the plans you’ve made together, and that’s why it’s important that you apologize for putting them in a difficult position.
Talking to your roommates after you decide to move will give them a chance to prepare mentally and financially for the changes ahead. They need it because when you move out, your roommates will have to pay more rent to cover your share. So the more notice you give your roommates, the better. Be clear about your reasons for leaving to make sure you separate on good terms.
Find someone to take your place
Your roommates may be more receptive to your move if you find someone to take your place in the rental. If they’re reluctant to pay more of the rent, offer to find a new roommate for them. Finding a new roommate can also make the landlord more confident with your departure, as they will know that your roommates will not be under financial stress.
Look for a roommate who you think would get along with the people you live with. Mutual friends are ideal. If you can’t find someone your roommates already know and like, try to find someone they have common interests with. People of about the same age who operate in similar social circles are likely to be a better fit for your roommates. Make sure the potential roommate has a stable income and is responsible enough to do their job and pay their rent on time.
Talk to your landlord
Once your roommates are on board, take the time to speak with your landlord. They don’t legally need to agree to take someone out of a lease because tenants have agreed to their rental terms for the duration of the lease. As the owners have no legal obligation to grant your claim, you will have to plead your case. Explain your reasons for leaving and note that your roommates accept the change. Apologize for the inconvenience caused and be polite at all times.
If you’ve found someone to replace you on the lease, be sure to mention them in your discussion. If your landlord doesn’t agree to the new person moving in, accept their decision and explain the situation to all parties. If your landlord doesn’t put them on the lease for you, you’ll be responsible for whatever they do or don’t do after you move out.
You can also offer to pay a small penalty if your rental agreement is breached. If your landlord agrees, make sure you get the written agreement and a receipt for your payment.
Get legal advice
If your roommates or landlord seem reluctant to opt out of the lease, get legal advice. While landlords generally have no legal obligation to make changes to leases before the end of the lease term, there are a few exceptions to the rule. For example, if your roommates have acted in a dangerous or illegal manner, you may be able to have your name removed from the lease to protect yourself. If your landlord has been negligent in any way, you may also have an exit.
Most major cities and states have organizations that provide tenants with free legal advice. Local legal aid offices are also a great source of free legal advice. If your budget is stretching, you may prefer to contact a real estate lawyer. No matter who you talk to, be sure to answer their questions honestly to learn more about your options. If there are legal reasons why you can have your name removed from the lease, they should help you talk to your landlord and get the changes made.
Confirm lease changes
Once your landlord decides what to do next, confirm the changes they’re making. The best scenario would be to see them terminate your existing lease and write a new lease. This new lease would list all the people occupying the property in your absence: the people you lived with and any new people you brought.
Another option is for the landlord to modify the existing lease by removing your name and adding the new tenant. It’s not as good as the first option because the original lease you agreed to still exists. Theoretically, this means that your former roommates might try to claim the rent you originally agreed to pay from you.
Alternatively, the owner can do nothing, which is within his rights. If this happens, you will have to consider whether you really want to move or take the risk and hope that your former roommates will act responsibly in your absence.
If the landlord terminates or changes the original lease, get their actions in writing. Put them away so that you have proof of the measures taken if any disputes arise after your departure.