Evicting a Roommate: What to Know

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Whether you are rooming with your best friend or a complete stranger, living with roommates is far from a breeze. Some type of conflict is bound to occur when you are living with roommates, from small arguments over whose turn it is to wash the dishes to larger situations where you can’t stand being in the same space as one another. Some conflicts may be resolved quickly with an apology, but some situations may need something more serious, or permanent, like a roommate moving out.

Unfortunately, you may find yourself facing the choice of evicting a roommate due to a conflict that just won’t be solved. Depending on the situation, eviction may be your only option and you may very well not know how to go about handling evicting a roommate. Keep reading to learn more about navigating evicting a roommate.

Photo: Pexels

Explore your options

When you have any negative feelings toward your roommate, your go-to thought may be just to give them the boot. It may seem like the easiest option — making them go away would mean that all the issues tied to them will automatically go away. However, eviction may not be your best option, especially if you haven’t considered the other options you have for dealing with your roommate issues.

First, assess the conflict between you and your roommate. Try to look at the situation with all personal feelings taken out. Is the root of the situation really just a matter of multiple small arguments that have been left unattended, and have escalated into the situation you are facing now? Try to talk matters out. Sometimes a situation can be fixed with clear and effective communication between roommates that leads to a compromise that works for everyone. In these cases, eviction can be avoided.

These compromises may be a new cleaning schedule, a new schedule for who gets access to parking spaces, amended roommate agreements on your guest policy, and so on.

Unfortunately, not all roommate issues can be solved this easily and eviction can likely be your only available solution.

Check your leases

If you are living together, you most likely all have signed the same lease. While some may have the opportunity to sign individual leases, so that each person is liable for paying their own rent each month and adhering to the policies outlined in the lease, most are equally accountable once the lease is signed. So if your roommate conflict is because one roommate isn’t paying their monthly rent on time, it puts everyone in jeopardy for violating the lease.

Laws vary from state to state — LifeHacker recommends searching the name of your state and “tenant handbook” on Google to get more information about your rights as a renter in your state. When in doubt, go to your property manager or leasing office to learn more about what you can do in terms of your lease.

If you and your roommate are both on the lease, for example, search for joint or several liability on your lease. If you are jointly liable, you are responsible for paying the full rent regardless of who is paying or how they are paying. You may be paying your rent on time, but your roommate isn’t…and you are still responsible for that unpaid portion. If you’re severally liable, you are liable for your sole portion of the rent. If you are both, you are still responsible for your roommate’s rent but have the legal grounds to sue your roommate for their delinquent rent payment.

If you are co-tenants, you can’t file to evict your roommate, but your landlord can file for eviction. It is important to note that this eviction would appear in public records under both co-tenants’ names, but you can ask your landlord to sign an agreement that releases you from liability if you have been following your lease’s terms. You can file for eviction if you are the master/primary tenant and your roommate is a subtenant. You should have already had your landlord’s permission to sublet to another tenant. Make sure that you are always checking your individual state’s laws to see what rights you have.

Document the conflict

The age-old saying of “Pics or it didn’t happen” can definitely apply in the case of roommate conflicts. Sometimes, it may be a matter of your word against theirs when in an argument, or, when things escalate into a lawsuit. To protect yourself, document the ongoing conflict between you and your roommate.

This does not mean you should install hidden cameras around your apartment to track everything they do, but make sure you are keeping track of the reasons you are evicting your roommate. Are they destructive to the property? Take pictures of the damage they are doing or have done — broken fixtures, messy areas, damaged personal property. These can help you in the event that you need to provide proof for eviction.

If things are getting particularly nasty, such as exchanged threats, be sure to record/screenshot any threats your roommate may be making via text or social media.

Roommate conflicts are never easy, especially if your only solution is likely eviction. With this information in mind, navigating the process of evicting your roommate may be easier.

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