Can You Remove a Roommate from a Lease?

In some cases, the living situation becomes so bad that you want to remove your roommate from the lease.

Legally, what are your options?

Ok. So, here’s the bad news. Legally, you cannot force a roommate off a lease unless they were convicted of a crime. That being said, landlords may agree to change the terms of the lease including an amendment to exclude a problem tenant.

Lease agreements signed by co-tenants are almost always written with the stipulation of roommates being “jointly and severally liable.” So, if the landlord does agree to remove your roommate from the lease, you'll be fully responsible for paying the entire rent amount regardless of where the funds come from.

If your landlord does not agree to remove your roommate from the lease, however, there’s nothing you can do to stop them from residing in the apartment. Even if it feels like they’re trespassing, legally they have a right to live there.

But, there are other options you can consider.

1. Find someone to take over the lease from your problem roommate

Landlords that are hesitant to remove a cosigner from a lease may be more likely to agree to a simple change of names on the agreement. If you’re able to find someone who would like to move in and pay their portion of rent, ask your landlord if you can amend the agreement to include a new roommate.

Like we mentioned above though, your landlord is under no obligation to agree to this regardless of who the potential new roommate is.

2. Break the lease and move somewhere else

This is clearly not going to be your first option, but if you’ve reached this point, it may be your only one. Talk to your landlord about ending your lease early. Most will charge you a fee, but you might get lucky.

3. Make the trouble roommate pay up

You’re probably thinking, “Of course I want my roommate to pay, but he’s not and that’s why I’m here.”

But there are legal options you have for getting your roommate to pay up. If you can cover the rent for the time being, you may be able to get reimbursed for your losses.

One option you have is to send an official demand letter to the roommate for unpaid rent. The letter should state exactly how much you wish to be paid and why. Though this letter may not produce any results, it’s a great addition to your case should you end up in court fighting for unpaid rent.

In the end, removing a roommate from a lease should be the last resort

Clearly, you cannot predict what will happen in the future. But, hopefully, this article has helped you recognize the impact of signing a lease agreement with someone. There’s potential to make yourself contractually liable for the money you won’t be able to pay.

As with any major agreement, you should think carefully about it prior to signing. Only sign agreements with people you believe to be trustworthy and responsible.

This article fits under the following categories:

Timothy HarrisTimothy Harris is a freelance writer based in Albuquerque. He brings a professional background in event marketing, residential real estate and journalism to the table to provide useful and relevant content for the modern renter. Timothy has previously written content for Karsten & Associates in New Mexico and Up 'til Dawn, a philanthropic fundraiser that benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Recent Articles

Put on your parka and explore these crazy cool facts.

Using eviction resources can help renters stay in their homes