Can I somehow piggy back on my roommates rights to break the lease as of the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)?
February 1, 2010 1:17 PM   Subscribe

One of my roommates is in the military, he just got noticed that he is going to be redeployed in May/June. Our other roommate recently moved out and we are subletting her room for her. The lease doesn't technically end until October 2010, but I would prefer to go earlier. Can I somehow piggy back on my roommates rights to break the lease as of the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)?

Long story short, moved to a new city (Chicago) with no place to stay so moved into a place with some people off craigslist. Thought if I wanted to, I would be able to sublet my room and move out in the future. That being said, one roommate beat me to it, and now my other roommate is getting called back to duty. I am not in love with the apartment in the first place, and don't really want to be responsible for finding 2 new roommates or living with complete strangers chosen by my other roommates. I did some reading online and see that my military roommate will have a right to break the lease, will I also be able to break it with him at the same time or am I going to get saddled with an apartment I don't want and can't pay for?
posted by Bengston to Law & Government (7 answers total)
Is your name on the lease?

If it's not on the lease, you probably have nothing to worry about (note: I am not a lawyer). If it is on the lease, see if you can sign the lease over to someone else. I was the subletter/second roommate when I first moved in to the space I'm in now, and the lease was solely in my roommate's name; then when she moved to Australia a year later, she signed the lease over to me rather than breaking it outright, so I could stay there under the same terms to the end of the lease. It was a pretty simple process -- the landlord just did a quick credit check on me, then sent me a letter I just had to sign so he could countersign it, and that was it.

If you do that, then you could: get two new roommates, with the understanding that you'll sign the lease over to them in a month or so, and then that gives you a month to find another arrangement and gives them a month to find a third person. Then within a month, you've signed the lease over to them, and THEY are there through October, and your'e gone.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2010

Are you all signed to the same lease, or do you all have individual leases? If the result of his leaving is that you'll have to renegotiate or re-sign a lease, then my (non-lawyer) opinion is that you're in the clear.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2010

We are all signees on the same lease. The problem with Empress's suggestion is that I think it may be hard to sign over a lease in May or June that is ending in October. Seems like sort of a short time for someone to sign a lease etc. Essentially I would like to be able to break the lease (willing to pay some sort of contract breaking fee) without having to go through the trouble of finding 3 new tenants or paying the fee to break the lease for all 3 signees (what would inevitably be thousands of dollars.)
posted by Bengston at 2:23 PM on February 1, 2010

Does your roommate who is in the military have access to some sort of legal advice? Maybe he could ask for you.
posted by amtho at 2:56 PM on February 1, 2010

We are all signees on the same lease.
First, IANAL.

UIUC's Tenant Union indicates that you will most likely be responsible for the balance.

With that said, read the terms of the lease carefully. The lease will probably contain the term "jointly and severally liable". All joint leases I've ever signed hold all roommates "jointly and severally liable". This means you are on the hook, no matter what your other roommates do.

You need to go see the landlord ASAP. One roommate will be breaking the lease under the SCRA, and one is already subletting. You might be able to convince the landlord to release you with some form of penalty. But most likely the cheapest option is going to be riding it out.
posted by OwenMarshall at 4:14 PM on February 1, 2010

Talk to your landlord and explain the situation. You are correct - you can not afford this apartment on your own.

Questions, etc.:

It sounds like roommate that moved out has no replacement, therefore he/she is technically still on the lease, correct? Or did the 2 of you sign her off the lease with the approval of the manager/landlord? Does the landlord even know he/she is gone??

If so, did you execute a new lease with just 2 names on it (you and military guy?) Let me know.

If all 3 names are still on the lease, than you and old roommate are technically on the hook for the apartment once military guy is off the lease. Do you see why that is?

I'm looking forward to your clarifications.

The good news is that, ultimately, the landlord doesn't want you there if you can't pay. TRUST ME. So in the end, you just need to call and tell them what is up and ask them how you should handle it.

But you should know your options going in, and your answers to my questions might help us formulate a plan with you.


PS - DO NOT offer to give the landlord any money for breaking your lease. JUST DON"T. If they mention it might cost you a penalty fee, you should (a) negotiate the amount (b) split the cost between yourself and the other roommates.
posted by jbenben at 4:26 PM on February 1, 2010

Some clarifications:

1.) Old roommate who left is still on the lease because, essentially, we wanted to pick out our own third roommate rather than have her fill the space in a hurry because her move was fairly last minute. Obviously, in retrospect, this was not the best plan.

2.) We didn't do anything with the lease and she is sort of expecting us to find a third person to fill her spot in the lease because we were all friendly and agreed that would be best for everyone. That being said, the landlord does know she is gone and that we are trying to fill her spot, but mentioned that he never really talked to her about it, still has her down payment, and still considers her accountable.
posted by Bengston at 7:52 PM on February 2, 2010

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