Roommate troubles: Spain or Bust edition.
July 27, 2012 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Roommate is moving to Spain in 4 days. Has not found replacement. Please help.

A few weeks ago I posted this rambling question that I admit was a bit melodramatic.

Basic situation is this: roommate and I are signed to a 12 month lease ending next May. Roommate decided at the beginning of this month to move to Spain. He hasn't found a replacement for himself with a credit history acceptable to our landlord yet.

Landlord has been out of touch for the last couple of days. I'm assuming he's on vacation, incapacitated, or something like that. In his absence, should I try and get my roommate to sign a document agreeing to meet certain conditions or something like that?

I've decided that I'd like to stay on in spite of having my roommate leave. I realize that this is at the discretion of the landlord, since technically having one party leave is breaking the lease. I will be able to afford the apartment alone, although it may not seem/look like that to the landlord. My basic question is what can I do to protect myself. How long is my current roommate obligated to pay rent? Given that he's going to be in Spain, how would I possibly collect on this? I'm pretty sure his parents are listed as co-signers on the lease.

For reasons stated in the past post, I'd prefer to have as much time to find a new roommate as possible. As an aside I'm wondering if it's reasonable to ask this new roommate for a month's worth of deposit money? Current roommate claims that he's willing to lose deposit in order to defray the costs/time of me finding a new roommate, but that just seems like a fait accompli.

I suppose utilities should be transferred to my name; otherwise he's threatened to turn them off. Is there anything I need to know about this? Fairly new renter here.
posted by matkline to Law & Government (12 answers total)
I'd think if he's on the lease, he's obligated to keep paying his half of the rent until you or he can find someone to talk over his half of the lease. Your landlord shouldn't care that he isn't staying there as long as the rent is still getting paid. IANAL, YMMV.
posted by reptile at 9:32 AM on July 27, 2012

In his absence, should I try and get my roommate to sign a document agreeing to meet certain conditions or something like that?

Your roommate already signed a lease that obligates him to meet certain conditions, like paying rent. He's bailing out on that contract - why would you expect differently for yours?

I'm pretty sure his parents are listed as co-signers on the lease.

You should never, ever use the words "pretty sure" when it come to a lease. Get your lease, look at it, see if the parents are co-signers. Don't have a copy of the lease? That's bad. Get one. Now.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:36 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's not your roommate's job to find a replacement; it's yours.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:36 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

If the lease was in a "continueing agreement" sort of state then I think the person moving out only needs to give 1 months notice and its really upto you to find a new flatmate.

However when you are in a situation where its a recently signed 12 month contract then they are sort of on the hook for a bit more. But you really should be looking for a new flat mate with some vigor. If I was the one moving out I'd continue to pay for maybe 2-3 weeks after I"d moved out. (if I'd given 1 months notice before moving out). Any more than that and I'd just say no. Its not that hard to find a flatmate generally.

If the Landlord has refused a number of candidates then I would try and shift some of the blame onto them and ask for reduced rent since they are responsible for drawwing out the process. - You might not have much luck but its better than nothing.
posted by mary8nne at 9:37 AM on July 27, 2012

1. What are YOU doing to find a new roommate?

2. Is it possible that you could get a roommate that doesn't meet your landlord's credit requirements*, but have said roommate not formally be on the lease and have him or her give you a check towards rent? This has been the arrangement for almost every roommate situation I've ever been in.

3. In principle, yes, if your roommate decides to move overseas at short notice, breaks the lease to do so, and then does fuck all to find an acceptable replacement, yes, he should be on the hook for the rent. Principle doesn't amount to fuck all in the real world, though. This guy doesn't sound like a very principled dude.

(In fact, the cynic in me wonders if you shouldn't keep him on the lease, have him continue to pay rent or arrange a subletter, and "see how it goes" with this whole living in Spain thing. Especially since he's a flake and likely can't legally live in Spain, anyway. Decent enough chance it'll go bad and he'll be back.)

*With the caveat that YOU have to trust that this person will pay rent, of course.
posted by Sara C. at 9:42 AM on July 27, 2012

Do you actually have a written lease? your last question suggested you might not but this question suggests you do. who actually signed your lease? what does it say?

What state are you in? states differ as to rules about renters being "jointly and severally" liable for full rent, meaning your landlord can go after you for all the rent if your roommate leaves the country, and its up to you to sue your roommate for his part or collect from his parents if they are in fact co-signers. I would talk things over with the roommate's parents and landlord before it comes to this; don't take on a subletter without permission, continue paying full rent if you can afford to do so, in which case your lease will still likely be valid. If you find a new renter, make sure there is a new lease signed.

Is it documented that you both paid your shares of the deposit before? Chances are your landlord will not allow your roommate to just forfeit the deposit in lieu of unpaid rent. He can't just hand the deposit to you, it belongs to the landlord until the lease term is ended.

At very least sit down with your roommate today and get him to call the utilities (in front of you, so you're sure its done) and request cancellation or turnover of the accounts, or you risk going days without electric or gas until it gets turned on again in your name. This part will cause you 10x more pain if he leaves the country without getting it cleared up.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:54 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

roomthreeseventeen: "It's not your roommate's job to find a replacement; it's yours."

This. Yes, from a "moral" standpoint, it's your roommate's obligation to at least help out, but he's leaving the country, so he doesn't feel the consequences of not doing it. Your landlord is not going to care one bit about "his share" of the rent- he wants the full amount owed to him, as per the lease. Even if you live somewhere where the law has provisions about how payment liability among multiple tenants is helpful to you, it'll take a long time to unravel and, again, he's out of the country. Your landlord, meanwhile, will be looking for ways to get you out as well.
posted by mkultra at 10:13 AM on July 27, 2012

Just to let you know, there are things that a landlord says you can and can't do, and there are things that a landlord can legally require you to do. (What those are depends on the terms of your lease and the tenant laws in your specific area.)

In the past, I have had landlords who have had their own personal bugaboos with regard to things like credit history, how they are to be paid, who's responsible for what, who cosigns for what portion, whether or not you can sublet, what kind of person they want to have as a tenant, etc, etc, and often these don't line up with laws.

So, my guess (having not seen your lease, not knowing the laws where you live) is that your landlord, legally, doesn't care about how he gets paid or who pays him, just so long as he gets paid. If your roommate leaves, then his parents are on the hook to pay his rent. If your landlord keeps pooh-poohing all of the prospective tenants, he shouldn't get to hold you responsible for the entire rent.

Long story short: you really need to find out what the legal particulars of your situation are as soon as possible, and not just base this on things that you think you remember or that your roommate or landlord are telling you. Find out for sure. Everything else is just speculation.
posted by phunniemee at 10:24 AM on July 27, 2012

I just thought about this from another angle.

If you rent from an individual landlord (as opposed to a management company), and you've been in this apartment long enough that your landlord knows you're a responsible person who will cover the whole rent, it's possible that you could arrange to stay on alone (temporarily, if nothing else) without going through the whole credit check/co-signer song and dance all over again.

This probably won't work if you've already been late or short on rent in the three months you've been there, or flaky in other ways. Or if you and your former roommate were only barely able to qualify for the place and had to have his parents co-sign (it's not like some random dude's parents are going to bail out your back rent if he has to evict you).

But in general, in my experience it's better to have an apartment rented than not, and better to have a responsible tenant you can trust to pay the rent, than it is to kick said responsible person out, have it sit empty for a month or two while you find a new tenant, deal with a bunch of red tape, and then maybe end up with a shittier tenant who doesn't pay the rent.

Also -- it concerns me that you haven't even gotten permission to break the lease and stay on in the apartment from your landlord, if this is all going down in three or four days. This is why you don't wait till the day your flaky roommate moves out to have this conversation with the landlord. You should have gotten the details from your landlord the day your roommate informed you he'd be moving out. Because it's entirely possible that when the landlord finds out this went down without word one to him, he'll start eviction procedures.
posted by Sara C. at 10:28 AM on July 27, 2012

Response by poster: Okay all, thanks for the help! Managed to get in touch with the landlord just now. He was totally willing to work with me on this thing, so luckily it sounds like everything will work out fine. To all those MeFites out there thinking of moving in with a friend, be sure to keep records of things like split utilities deposits for situations like this.
posted by matkline at 10:40 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you both signed to a lease that together states you need to cover a certain dollar amount or are each of you signed to your own leases? It makes a big difference.

If you're both signed to one then you're SOL, but if you and him are signed to different ones then you can shrug your shoulders and say "sorry landlord but you should put up some ads"
posted by zombieApoc at 10:50 AM on July 27, 2012

Your roommate is obliged to pay his half of the rent until a new roommate is found. You and your landlord have an obligation to mitigate your damages by also looking for a new roommate and approving a new roommate quickly.

School is starting next month, so you should be able to find someone within a month. List the place on Craigslist and on student bullitin boards at UNC-CH. (Husbunny's an alum, so YAY!)

Get something in writing from your flaky roommate saying that he'll pay the rent for next month, and his half of the utilities. You may need it when I see you on People's Court when he gets back next year.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:17 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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