Complex question about leases, dogs, and drama.
April 4, 2010 4:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm on a lease with a woman who owns two dogs that are destroying our apartment. I want to move out and not get stuck paying for the damage. We're all in Arizona. Help?

I'm a guy, currently living with a woman who I have never been romantically involved with. We have about four months left on a lease for a 2br/1ba apartment. Everyone involved knew that I was moving out at the end of the lease at the time when I was added to the lease. Roommate had the apartment before I moved in and wants to re-sign to keep the apartment herself for next year, but I have some doubts about whether or not she can afford to do so. Roommate owns two young dogs, untrained or poorly trained, who regularly damage the furniture, carpet, walls, doors, etc in the common areas of the apartment. I did not realize how destructive the dogs were when I signed the lease. I've been coping by keeping my stuff locked up tight in my room, and spending as little time as possible at home. This stinks because (1) I'm paying half the rent, but can't take advantage of the common areas without fighting off the animals, and (2) I'm rather terrified that she'll leave at the end of the lease too, and I'll be stuck with the damage bill, which I think will be quite extensive.

Complicating factor: My girlfriend and I were planning to move back in together at the end of the lease, after a work location/commute issue was resolved. It's been resolved earlier than we expected, and we're now set to take possession of the new apartment at the end of this month. I have no financial problem buying out the rest of my current lease, but I want to do as much as possible to protect myself from getting stuck with the repair bills too. My first move will be to chat with the leasing office and see if signing me off of the lease is an option. If not, I plan to pay the roommate the rest of the fees as a lump sum, hopefully negotiating to pay a bit less because she'll get full use of the apt back. What can I do to protect myself against the roommate not paying the rent / trying to get me stuck with the damage bill, after I stop living there?

I pretty much know this is a horrible set of consequences of bad decisions I made, and I will definitely do more thorough due diligence before entering another roommate situation in the future, but what can I do to reduce the level of potential pain now that I'm in this lovely mess?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First have you spoken to your roommate about the issue?
Also is the damage that has been caused rather obviously the damage of her dogs?
posted by EsotericAlgorithm at 5:09 PM on April 4, 2010

Why not pay the leasing company for your half of the fees for the time remaining. At least you will know that the roommate can't claim you did not pay. Not sure about costs of repair for the damage. You might want to consider telling the leasing company if you think they won't come after you at the end of the leasing term.

These situations can be hellish to deal with. Any chance your current roommate will acknowledge that the damage costs are her problem?
posted by JayRwv at 5:20 PM on April 4, 2010

I doubt the leasing office will return half of the security deposit while she is living there. I also haven't seen people give half of the security deposit to early-leaving roommates, so this is going to be tough.

But you can certainly ask that she take over the security deposit and return your half of that money. Possible reasons to try out: you need it for paying a security deposit at the next place; it makes sense to settle all your business with one another now; any new resident would put in a security deposit, and in effect, she's the "new resident" of your half.

This might go especially smoothly if you're already giving her a lump sum from which you can subtract that money. As part of that discussion, I'd ask "what sort of cleaning or repairs do you want me to do before I go?"
posted by salvia at 5:41 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leases are usually a "joint and several liability" thing, which means that if you signed the lease, you're both liable until the money is paid - if she absconds, you could end up paying for all the damage. Did you pay any of the security deposit? Assuming that's not getting refunded, would your housemate pay you for your fraction of the deposit? Seems a stretch but that would be your way out.

If you didn't sign the lease, it's very difficult for the owners to come after you.

IANAL and I don't even know your jurisdiction!
posted by polyglot at 9:14 PM on April 4, 2010

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