Help With Getting out of Lease
March 12, 2009 9:31 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend needs to move out of her apartment she is sharing with roommates. What types of consequences could she be facing financially? Can she find any person to replace herself on the lease?

The background to this is quite long, but essentially my girlfriend moved in with two other friends of hers last fall. The relationship between them quickly fell apart and they have been very controlling of her. They decide what times she needs to go shopping, when she needs to clean. Unfortunately, she had been letting them walk all over her. All this time they keep threating to kick her out. This was her fault initially as the very first month, she was late on her rent, but she has been on time every since.
Now the reasons for trying to kick her out is because she doesn't shop with them, or she isn't home when they clean.
She was willing to move out, but before they moved in, they all signed a contract that stated they would all pay their share of the rent even if one of them was evicted by the others. This added to her roommates threats as they kept insisting that she would have to keep paying even if they kicked her out.
Since around Christmas, she hasn't even been living their as she had to move back with her parents due to some transportation issues. But they are still insisting she buys things like toilet paper and dish soap since she agreed share the costs of those items. I'm a really caring person normally, but the way they are treating her really has me infuriated.
Even though she hasn't been living there, most of her things are still there. She plans to move out this weekend though. She has been leery to do so though, as she is still going to be paying the rent. I suggested before to her to look for a replacement for herself. Her roommates were against the idea and said only if it was someone they knew and approved of.
My main questions are, is it possible to find someone else to take over her lease for her, and would the other roommates have to approve of that person. What about mitigation of damages? If she moves out, will she been stuck will lease payments for the rest of the lease, or are her roommates eventually responsible for replacing her. This is in Michigan, BTW if any of these answers pertain to laws that differ by the state. And I realize most people answering aren't giving actual legal advise.
posted by cbulock to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Not your lawyer nor your grumpy flatmate.
Your girlfriend has no obligations to her other flatmates. None whatsoever. All of her obligations if her name is on the lease are to her landlord and/or real estate agent. The document that contains the answers to your question is the lease, not any quasi-legal agreement between flatmates.
The correct response, by the way, to her flatmates is "I've got your equal share right here" followed with the obscene gesture of her choice.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:51 PM on March 12, 2009

It sounds like that are trying to "kick her out" (which they can't, if she is on the lease, unless there is something much more problematic than not shopping with them) for not being submissive enough. They're trying to just force her out by being nuts, thinking that she will still be liable for the rent. Or they actually are nuts. A lease agreement where they can "vote her out" is probably not enforceable - this is not a reality show or a sorority. They are probably all each jointly and severally liable (which means that they are each totally liable to the landlord for the entire rent and have to work everything else out amongst themselves) if she moves out and refuses to pay, but they can probably come after her for her share if no sublets are permitted or if no sublets are permitted without the landlord's consent. Sounds like a nightmare. Are they young? I think your girlfriend needs to stand up for herself and tell them that their behavior is unacceptable. If she is not around, she should still pay utilities but obviously should not be paying for food and toilet paper. And she doesn't have to clean or shop with them - as long as she does her fair share and buys what she uses. Her roommates sound creepy.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 10:30 PM on March 12, 2009

My little sister was in a similar situation recently with some roommates that went completely nuts on her and forced her into moving out. She offered to help look for a replacement on the lease, but let them know that since they were insisting she left it would be up to them if she couldn't find anyone. She told the landlord the situation (they were cooperative and understanding), gave a month's notice, and started looking for a new place to live.

So, I guess, seconding direct communication with the landlord, telling the roommates to get bent and to work it out themselves, and get her stuff out of there pronto.
posted by carsonb at 1:14 AM on March 13, 2009

She needs to read her lease, many of your questions could be answered by that piece of paper.

The lease should indicate if subletting is allowed. In terms of subletting, I think it's nice to let the other roommates approve, but in her case, I don't think she should make their feelings a top priority. If subleasing isn't allowed, she should go to the landlord to see if she can get out of the lease. If she can't, I suggest she walk away. It will be hard, her ex roommates will likely harrass her, and she'll likely get a decent ding on her credit. Which may be a bad thing if she doesn't have much credit. Personally, she needs to weigh if the ding on her credit is worse than the roomies, I would vote the roomies are worse.

I did it when I was in my early 20s and in a bad roommate situation. I took the ding on my credit (which looking back I think was good, because I couldn't get a credit card), after 7 years it fell off, and I have excellent credit now, bought a house, a car, have some credit cards.
posted by pokeedog at 6:26 AM on March 13, 2009

Depends on where she is- In some states you can sublet to one person without having to notify your landlord.

However, while your girlfriend's roommates' demands may sound a little zany, if she agreed to split everything 3 ways, then her unfortunate circumstances aren't really the concern of her roommates. I live in a 3 bdr apartment right now with 4 other people. We split everything 5 ways. If Joe breaks his leg and can't pay his rent, it's not fair to me that I now have to assume an extra 1/3 of the cost. Same with dish soap and whatever- Until your girlfriend finds a replacement, I think she's still bound to the agreement she made with these people.

That said, they do sound a little weird and it is in her best interest to scoot, pronto.
posted by GilloD at 8:22 AM on March 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments. I've pretty much been suggesting the same thing to her, I just wanted some other points of view to make sure I wasn't giving bad advice.
GilloD, she has been paying the rent and a third of the utilities even though she hasn't been there all this time. I don't know if I would agree that she should still be paying a third of the dish soap and toilet paper though. It's being used a third less since she isn't there. But, that isn't really even a large expense, and really the least of the issue.
posted by cbulock at 4:13 PM on March 13, 2009

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