This question is part law, part human relations. I need to know how to handle a situation when only one person wants to break out of a lease. Are they allowed to break out without the consent of the other lessees? And if not, should we let her? Details inside.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Throwaway email: VaApartmentWoes@gmail.com
Here's the situation, I'm sorry it's long but it's causing me a lot of guilt and I need advice as to whether I should just swallow it or not. If you're here just to answer the question about lease breaking, then skip to the end, and it'll save you a bunch of drama.
Me, and my partner ("Ann") went into a lease with my sister ("Angela") and Angela's partner, "Liz". Angela and Liz had been rooming unofficially for a while, Liz staying over at Angela's place several nights a week, etc. So when my and Ann's lease ended, we decided it would a be a great idea to try and find a place together. So we did! The first few months were great. Then problems arose between Angela and Liz, and eventually lots of lies that Liz has told came to the surface, including lying to her parents about who Angela was. Not only that she was her partner, but how old she was, whether she smoked, how they met, if she had any tattoos, had ever dyed her hair. Lots of tiny little things were lied about, all without Angela's permission. Liz also lied about Ann and I. All without telling us until we're 5 seconds from meeting them [her parents], so we would have no real choice but to play along. Needless to say, none of us were very happy about this.
As time goes on, things get more and more strained between Liz and Angela, until my sister is miserable, and completely not acting affectionate or loving towards Liz. I could tell she just wasn't in love any more. Liz, in return, starts flinging wild accusations [seriously wild, with no basis. Like, along the lines of: She would snoop through things, find a piece of jewelry that she had never seen before, and accuse Angela of having a secret lover. (this exact situation never happened, but something very close to it did).]
This past week, there's been nothing but fighting, with Liz getting more and more petty, to where even Ann and I are just fed up with her. She's getting angry at everything, for no reason. She even starts attacking Ann and I behind our backs, over things that don't make any sense. It was her turn to buy some communal goods for the apartment, and after several weeks of her putting it off, Angela approached her about it. She flew off the handle, saying: "It's not fair for me to do it, it's not like I have loads of money. I don't have a stash of credit cards, like I'm sure they do." Well, no, Ann and I don't have any credit cards. We just budget well.
So, finally Angela and Liz break up. Thank god. Liz tried to hold it over Angela's head that she makes more money, so how is she going to afford it by herself? Etc, and through this ridiculous argument, it comes to light that Liz believes that she's not responsible for her share of the rent anymore. Angela informs her that no, she's still legally responsible. I think, oh no, there's going to be a battle over this.
So, this morning Liz comes to me, saying how she's got to move out, and she can't move back in with her parents. [They've discovered about the lies, and kind of disowned her for her sexuality. This is the part I feel the most guilt over.] She's looking for a new place, maybe out of state. She says she can't afford to pay rent here at this apartment, and there, wherever she's moving to. She says she'll forfeit her security deposit [which is good, because her two cats have already caused some minor damage to doors and things]. She then says that if she was moving out voluntarily, it would be different, but since she's being forced to move out, she doesn't feel she should have to pay her share of the rent any more. Now, to clarify: We never said she had to leave. We even offered to convert the library/den to another bedroom. She doesn't want that. She wants to go. She then states that she's going to go down to the office and get her name taken off the lease.
So, here's my guilt problem: I don't want to be the bad guy and tell her, no, you still have to pay rent even though you're leaving. I especially feel sorry for her, because of her crazy religious parents disowning her. That's happened to a couple of people really close to me. But, at the same time, I feel like she's a grown ass woman, and it's not really fair to make any of us absorb that rent, especially because right now, none of us can afford it. We also can't get another roommate. It would put us in financial instability to try and cover Liz's portion of the rent.
Here's the law part: Can one person, legally, in Virginia, break out of the lease without the consent of the other lessees? Wouldn't they technically have to void the entire lease, and then re-write another one with just us three up there? Or am I thinking about this the wrong way?
If it's legal for her to back out on her own, then I don't even have to worry about what to say to her. But if she can't, then how do I go about doing this?