Broken relationship, rental lease, one leaves, the other doesn't.
November 26, 2008 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Situation: A boyfriend girlfriend sign a lease for an apartment in Mississauga, Ontario. They break up. The girlfriend leaves. The landlord did a credit check on the girlfriend. So this _might_ hold her liable. Boyfriend is still shacked up in this house and landlord keeps harassing the girlfriend for rent. What can she do?

This is for a friend of mine, the girlfriend in the situation. The landlord doesn't listen to her when she says she's not there anymore and that he should kick out the boyfriend cuz he's not contributing to the rent. Instead, he calls her for the rent and says "you have to deal with your boyfriend" when BOTH their names are on the lease.

She wants out of the lease, but boyfriend doesn't sign it and move out. She also has 99% of the things in the house that SHE bought that she wants to take back.

Any help would be gladly appreciated. Thanks.
posted by Devileyezz to Law & Government (19 answers total)
This is from a US perspective, and IANAL, so take it FWIW: all people on the lease are joint and severally liable, so the girlfriend is legally liable for the entire rent. The landlord is probably going after her, not the boyfriend, because he thinks she's more likely to pay up. Also, the way to get her stuff back is to go there with a police officer and pick it up.
posted by desjardins at 9:11 AM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

IANAL, but she signs, she is responsible for the rent until the end of the lease.

So is the boyfriend if he signs.

Probably, they are jointly and severally liable, meaning they are liable for the default of the other also.

But, she should check with a lawyer if she doesn't know the answer.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 9:11 AM on November 26, 2008

The credit check doesn't hold anyone liable. The signing of the lease, does, however.

I am not a Canadian lawyer but basic landlord-tenant law would seem to indicate that your friend is liable. The landlord is perfectly right to request the money from her since she signed a lease. If hte boyfriend didn't sign the lease, even if his name is on it, I believe she would have a case for eviction - but I don't know Canadian housing laws.

I don't udnerstand the "but boyfriend doesn't sign it and move out".

If the things in the house are hers, she should get you and a bunch of her friends together, rent a truck, and drive over to get them. But that situation has nothing whatsoever to do with the lease and her liability to the landlord.

The landlord isn't going to listen to her that's she's not there any more. She signed a lease. She's responsible for the rent. If the boyfriend is a jerk then she should kick him out, and ask the landlord for a new lease without his name on it, which the LL would probably gladly do.

But that's also not going to negate her responsibility for the lease.

The landlord does, however, have a responsibility to pursue satisfaction from both parties. He should be harassing the boyfriend.
posted by micawber at 9:12 AM on November 26, 2008

She signed the lease. She's responsible for the rent, whether she's using the property or not. There's no _might_ about it... if her name is on that paper, she agreed to pay the rent for the duration of the lease.

She needs to deal with her ex-boyfriend. This is her problem, not her landlord's.
posted by toxic at 9:14 AM on November 26, 2008

She should probably contact one of these agencies to help her negotiate with the landlord and get out of the lease:

Mississauga Community Legal Services, 130 Dundas Street East, Suite # 501A, (905) 896-2052
Brampton Criminal Law Office, 201 County Court Blvd, Suite 401, Brampton (905) 874-0147
Legal Aid Office, 205 County Court Blvd., Suite 200, Brampton, (905) 453-1723
Landlord and Tenant Board, (formerly the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal,) Central Ontario Regional Office, 3 Robert Speck Parkway, Suite 520, Mississauga 416-645-8080

The above list is from this page.
posted by desjardins at 9:14 AM on November 26, 2008

patience, it's only been 10 minutes.

Seriously though, she needs to talk to the landlord in a professional manner not in the "omg like why should I have to pay rent" way, and get her name off the lease. It should have said something about this on the lease itself.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:27 AM on November 26, 2008

In the US, you can indicate that you want to abandon the lease by telling the landlord you don't want the lease anymore and by returning the keys to the apartment. Has she done those things?

She should probably:
1. Move her shit out.
2. Tell the landlord she's moved out and give the landlord her keys.
3. Try to negotiate with the landlord for her to break the lease -- like, hey, if I get ex-bf to pay this month then you'll create a new lease with only his name on it, OR hey if I pay this month then make a new lease.

The only way she can get out of this obligation is by persuading the landlord to release her from it, so how about she makes nice with the landlord?
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:33 AM on November 26, 2008

Oh, I overlooked this. Why doesn't she kick the boyfriend out and keep living in the house?
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:34 AM on November 26, 2008

- She needs to get her stuff out of the apartment. No matter what. Either that or it will eventually wind up on the sidewalk.

- She and the boyfriend need to act like adults and work out breaking the lease together and paying whatever back rent is owed. This maybe difficult due to emotional stress, but then so is repairing your credit after a ruling.

- The land lord wants the rent paid. The land lord wants the rent paid. The land lord wants the rent paid. I guaren-damn-tee you that he doesn't care who pays it. So, find someone to sublet the apartment.

- Can she help the boyfriend get caught up on the rent, make some promise to stay caught up, and then get her name off the lease - so that when the ex gets behind again it'll be his ass in the sling and not her's.
posted by wfrgms at 9:54 AM on November 26, 2008

Unless things are very different in Ontario from the U.S. (upstate NY here), moving out of an apartment in no way releases someone from responsibility for paying the rent; the fact both gf and bf signed the least does not limit the gf's liability to 50% of the whole amount -- it makes each of them jointly responsible for making sure 100% gets paid every month. Perfect hindsight suggests they should have negotiated a change in the lease with the landlord before gf actually moved out (sure, tough to do in the heat of a break-up but it's the sort of thing adults have to do when sums of money are involved) or, probably better, both should have moved out and subletted the place to a disinterested and landlord-approved third-party who would have taken written responsibility for the remainder of the lease. This AskMe really isn't that different from the common post that goes something like "one of our housemates is a deadbeat and the landlord says we have to pay deadbeat's portion -- not fair, man!"
posted by aught at 9:55 AM on November 26, 2008

In Ontario both her and the bf are jointly liable for the entire costs of the rent. The landlord is not responsible for sorting out the emotional complexities of their relationship, and can take either party to court to get the rent if it came to that.

A better solution would be for the ex-couple to pay the share the each own to this point and try and find someone to assign the lease to... the landlord will likely agree to that b/c this couple is clearly a headache.
posted by modernnomad at 10:07 AM on November 26, 2008

sigh -- "they each owe".
posted by modernnomad at 10:08 AM on November 26, 2008

sigh 2 -- "jointly and severably". ugh.
posted by modernnomad at 10:10 AM on November 26, 2008

LOL wow you guys are mean! Really appreciate the help though, and no, she's not 19. She's a 26year old.

I like how everyone keeps saying how she should have stayed, etc. But in her defense, I think none of you girls would stay when the guy has anger issues, etc. She had to leave, so she had to leave.

Either way, really thankful for all your guidance so far. Thanks!
posted by Devileyezz at 10:55 AM on November 26, 2008

I like how everyone keeps saying how she should have stayed, etc.

I just read all the answers and nobody said this. How the heck did you read this into what people said?

People said that, if Ontario is anything like the United States (and having lived there myself t generally is), she is responsible for the rent if her name is on the lease regardless of whether she is living there or not. That isn't saying she should live there if conditions are intolerable, only that put her mark on the lease and, both ethically and legally, should live up to its obligations.

One of those obligations is to pay rent until the lease is up.

However, there may be ways to work with the landlord to resolve the situation. She needs to talk with him to find out if that is the case.
posted by Justinian at 12:08 PM on November 26, 2008

If one roommate only paid half of the rent, and one roommate paid none, both people on the lease are held responsible, regardless of who paid and who didn't. At least that's how it is in the U.S.

In many places, if you want to break a lease, you either have to keep paying rent until replacement tenants are found, or you have to pay a penalty, or both. In some areas you're also responsible for costs the landlord incurs in finding a new tenants, such as placing ads.

She needs to get this taken care of ASAP. The longer the waits, the more back rent she will be responsible for. You can never just leave a rental and assume the other person will pay all the rent and wash your hands of it, because all people on the lease are responsible until the end of the lease term. She might be able to see if she can break the lease and have their deposit applied to whatever they owe.
posted by fructose at 5:38 PM on November 26, 2008

I was once in a similar situation to this one in Ontario. I'm just reiterating here what people said above, but it's true. If your name is on the lease, then you can be held responsible for 100% of the rent, regardless of whether or not you actually reside there.

LOL wow you guys are mean!

Uhh... welcome to the law. Sometimes it doesn't agree with the way you want it to be. This is one of the risks of moving in with an SO; if it doesn't work out, you're both on the lease, and have to make some compromise regarding the rent. It is in your friend's interest to work this out; the damage to her credit may be worse than the up front cost of just ponying up her share of the rent.
posted by number9dream at 5:50 PM on November 26, 2008

I like how everyone keeps saying how she should have stayed

Nobody is suggesting that she stayed in the place with him. What a few people suggested is that she stayed in the place on her own and then kicked HIM out of it. This is still a viable option, especially if all the stuff in the place is hers. Move back in, kick him out and then find a roommate to take over his half of the rent. In fact, if she still likes the place, this seems to me to be the best option, especially if he won't pay the rent!

Oh, and I agree with everyone else, she is still liable for her half of the rent, and the landlord is entitled to chase her for the whole amount. This is just the way it works, so she needs to sort it out so that she doesn't get screwed.
posted by ranglin at 1:07 AM on November 27, 2008

Firstly, it's hard to move back in and get someone to leave when they are on the lease as well. What is she going to do? Walk in, sit down on the couch, and start yelling ... "you need to leave boyfriend!"? He's going to say eff you, I'm on the lease too.

There on it escalates into huge arguments, causing stress and trauma all over again. In such a condition, she wanted to walk out and then get him to leave.

To the person who asked me how I read into the she should have stayed part, and how I think people are mean ... you came in late. There was other comments that are now not visible.
posted by Devileyezz at 5:11 PM on November 27, 2008

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