Transferring a name off of a shared lease?
September 1, 2008 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Los Angeles Housing Filter: Three names and signatures on our lease. One person wants out, and to substitute another individual in his place. Any experience with who typically needs to consent here? Leaving Person + Landlord? All Tenants + Landlord? Yes, we may need a lawyer, but we're still being civil enough not to call in the big guns, and any advice/resources provided here may be sufficient.

Consider this a follow-up to this post. We may need a lawyer, but we've agreed to try to settle this among ourselves before taking that step. Online searches haven't given me the answers that I'm looking for.

A roommate ("Mike") has decided that for personal reasons he can no longer live with us, and wants to find someone to take over his responsibility on lease (9 months left), on which all 3 of us are jointly and individually responsible for everything. This would be an official change of the lease, as subletting is not permitted. The rest of us ("Dan" and I) are cool with the idea, provided Mike works with us on the matter and we get to help select the person and retain veto power.

Mike claims that he will give us a short amount of time to be involved in the process, at which point he will pull the trigger and transfer his responsibility to the first interested party who can handle it financially, even if we don't like the person or want to spend the next 9 months sharing a house with him or her (note: we have no intention of deliberately blocking a reasonable candidate just to make things difficult)

I guess the broad question is "Can he even do that?". If he somehow got the landlord on his side (I'm not sure they'd go for it), could someone be subbed in without all of us signing off on it? I'm no expert, but that sounds fishy. Can anyone provide any related resources or anecdotes?
posted by adamk to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Call the Los Angeles Housing Department's Rent Stabilization Ordinance at 866-557-RENT to find out exactly what you are required to do to remove and replace someone on a lease. They're very helpful and the final word. That said, here's my opinion based on. . .well, on living and renting in Los Angeles for almost ten years:

Mike claims that he will give us a short amount of time to be involved in the process, at which point he will pull the trigger and transfer his responsibility to the first interested party who can handle it financially,

You may not have intended to give this impression, but although it's a nice gesture by Mike, you and your remaining roommate aren't the ones who will need to be involved in the process--your landlord will be. He or she will need to vet and approve the new tenant--and this approval may or may not hitch up with Mike's schedule of wanting to get out. As if Mike were a single tenant wanting to break his lease, he is responsible (not you guys, which is a nice benefit of having all three people on the lease) for his stated share of the rent (on the lease) until the landlord finds a new tenant.

You also should have the landlord do a walk-through of Mike's room before the new tenant moves in, so that any Mike-related damages can be deducted from his security deposit (the landlord might do this without your request, anyway). This will not only prevent you from paying for the hole that Mike kicked in the wall, but from arguments with NewTenant when he wants to move out and claims that Mike spilled all that grape juice in the closet, not him. Good luck!
posted by tyrantkitty at 5:00 PM on September 1, 2008

everywhere i've ever been, landlords have to sign off on lease changes—mike can't just do a transfer willy nilly. and i seriously doubt your landlord would sign off on any change if you and dan said you didn't want to live with a particular person. it's a pretty dick move on mike's part to threaten you with a new roommate you can't pick, especially if he has no evidence that you guys are going to be unreasonable about the situation.

the los angeles county bar association runs dispute resolution services: their community mediation services include landlord/tenant roommate disputes but probably also deal with roommate disputes. their site says they charge a nominal fee, which is cheaper than hiring in lawyers for sure, so give them a ring. but first: call your landlord and see how they usually deal with situations like this, so you have more information for cms when you call.
posted by lia at 5:09 PM on September 1, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah, calling that number may be a good idea in the near future. Also, before the jump I ask if it's "Mike + Landlord" or "All of us + Landlord" who get to make the call. Obviously the landlord gets a huge say in matters like these, but what if the landlord and Mike approve a replacement, but for some reason Dan and I do not (and yeah, that's a big "if")?

That is, to change the lease, are 5 signatures required (3 tenants + landlord + new tenant), or 3 (leaving tenant + landlord + new tenant)? Not that a new tenant would necessarily want to live in a house where the other roomies have said they don't want him or her there...
posted by adamk at 5:13 PM on September 1, 2008

Yeah, calling that number may be a good idea in the near future.

no, calling that number IS a good idea and you should call them tomorrow. as awesome as ask metafilter is, most of us are not lawyers (ianal) and none of us are your lawyers—the la housing department and la bar dispute resolution services are going to have more information and more experience with this than all of us put together.
posted by lia at 5:28 PM on September 1, 2008

IANAL, but this seems obvious to me— in order to change the lease, everyone who signed the soon-to-be-superseded lease will need to agree to supersede it. Presumably that's you three plus the landlord, and a new lease will need to be signed by you two, the landlord, and the new guy. (Or an amendment could be signed by all 5 of you, I assume; again IANAL.) You all have veto power, unless there's some language in the lease you signed saying otherwise. Having a binding agreement (contract, lease) doesn't make sense if one party (or a subset) can unilaterally change it! OTOH, if you each have an individual agreement with the landlord, then it'd be different.

I'd call the numbers people have given, and also re-read your lease. Try to keep everything friendly, but also know where you stand.
posted by hattifattener at 5:55 PM on September 1, 2008

Ditto the above re: landlord signoff. I'm in NYC and when I moved in July I and the out-going tenant had to complete a "lease assignment" form and pay a fee of ~$200 (she covered since she was leaving and breaking the lease) to the management company. I liked this because it meant I was on the lease through the October re-signing. The remaining tenant had to submit a note with my form saying she approved of my being added to the lease. It was simple and took only a few days, but we had to do the paperwork.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:16 PM on September 1, 2008

Landlord + All Tenants. Contracts can always be modified or annulled with the consent of all parties.
posted by electroboy at 8:58 PM on September 1, 2008

Whether or not you have "de jure" veto power, I think it is pretty clear that you have some "de facto" veto power. If you determine, mid-interview, that a roomie is unacceptable, it is very easy to create a semi-hostile environment for them. You can be pretty sure that no one will want to pony up big bucks for a spot in a house where the rest of the house is hostile, and the only person that wants them to move in is Mike, the person that will not be living there (who also has ulterior motives).
posted by milqman at 11:01 AM on September 2, 2008

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