Roommate have right to renew lease and, if so, how to ask her to leave?
May 7, 2013 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I live in a two-bedroom apt in Cambridge, MA. I have lived here since Sept '10 and current roommate ("CR") has lived here since Sept '12. The dynamic between CR and I is not so hot. I'm also just very much wanting to live alone and finally able to afford it.

During a recent, difficult conversation with CR about apt stuff, I mentioned that I will be moving out in Sept (when our lease ends) to find my own 1-bedroom apt. In the same conversation, she told me that she will also move out in Sept. At first she said that she'd like to find an apt with laundry, but later in the day she clarified that she may actually move out of the Boston area altogether.

Since then (a few weeks ago), I have done some preliminary apt-searching and realize that 1-bedrooms apt are only marginally more expensive than my current well-priced 2-bedroom, which I LOVE. I called my landlord to ask if he and his wife would be receptive to my staying after Sept and keeping the whole place for myself. He said yes, that he would like that, though also asked what CR's plans are.

The idea of staying in my current home is my clear first choice. The common spaces are predominantly furnished with my things and, moreover, I consider it home. My next step, therefore, is to follow-up with CR to confirm that she plans to move out by Sept. I've been doomsaying about the possibility that CR has considered staying in the apt, too, and finding a new roommate since she learned/thinks I am moving.

I'd like to prepare for the follow-up conversation should it go like this:
Me: "Hi CR. Since we last talked about the apt and you mentioned your plan to move, I've actually reconsidered and decided that I'd like to stay and rent the whole place out for myself.
CR: "Oh wow, you know I've reconsidered, too, and would also like to stay and find a new roommate since you said you were leaving."
Me: HERE'S WHERE YOU COME IN...WHAT DO I SAY, MEFITES? Thinking something along the lines of, "well, I'd feel badly about asking you to move, but since I've been here longer would you consider it?" I think it goes without saying that we don't want to live together another year. I don't want to ask her permission ("would you consider it?"), but am not sure of my rights, and don't want to be a total asshole despite very anti-social behavior on her part throughout the year.

So, essentially, is it reasonable to pull rank? Also, my lease has a clause about Self-Renewal: "On or before July 1, 2013 and, if applicable, on or before July 1 of succeeding years, Lessors shall give written notice to lessee of any rent increase for the following year. This lease shall then be in effect for the next year at the indicated rent, unless prior to July 1, lessee(s) give written notice of intent to terminate."

Does this entitle her to renew the lease?

What are my options legally? How can I get this to work out to my advantage (specific phrasing for dreaded conversation much appreciated)? Should I ask my landlord to get involved if neither one of us wants to move out? Thank you!
posted by AlmondEyes to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My disclaimers from my last answer on this topic still apply.

Thank you for providing the lease. I think it is a pretty bad one. Specifically for this question, it is silent as to how the landlord goes about terminating the lease. In that case, the Massachusetts landlord/tenant act would apply.

It sounds like the landlord would be happy to have you stay as a single tenant. If that is the case, I do not think you need to have any conversation about this matter with your roommate. Instead, I think the best course would be for the landlord to provide proper notice to CR that he does not intend to renew the lease with her. Unless there is some peculiarity of Massachusetts or local landlord/tenant law, he is the one who has ultimate say as to who lives in his property. Your landlord needs to have a talk with his lawyer about how to do that.

I do not think you need to get involved at all. Your landlord knows your wishes and is in agreement with that plan. Work with him to make that happen and keep CR out of it. Your plans have nothing to do with her plans.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:07 PM on May 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

Can you just sign the lease for next year now? Did the landlord give you the impression that they wouldn't allow that unless your roommate expressly stated that her intent is to not renew (which seems weird, but I've never been a tenant in your city)? I'd pursue signing the lease now. Your roommate has expressed a desire to move to a place with laundry facilities, possibly out of state. I don't think that those stated intentions mesh with wanting to stay at your current place with a new roommate.
posted by quince at 6:15 PM on May 7, 2013

IANAL. My understanding is that since she is signed with the landlord, not with you, she has an equal right to you to renew the lease. You can try to pull rank on her, but she's not legally obligated to follow your wishes. Unless one of you has somehow violated the lease, I don't think there's anything the landlord can do.

Frankly, I would just tell her, "BTW, CR, I've decided I'm not going to move out after all. Are you still planning on leaving in September? I want to finalize everything with Landlord." Present your continued tenancy as nonnegotiable, not something you are just thinking about. Hopefully, if she doesn't want to live with you as much as you don't want to live with her, she'll go through with moving. At this point, I wouldn't try and tell her you think she should move--it seems like that could just make her stay just to spite you.

It's possible that she'll say "Great! I'm not moving either," and it will turn into a game of chicken over who will cave and end up moving out.
posted by tan_coul at 6:16 PM on May 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

Do you have any real reason to believe that your current roommate may want to stay? Based on what you've written above, that worry seems a bit unfounded. If this were me, I'd say something like the following:

"Hey CR, I wanted to follow up on our last chat. You're still planning on moving out, right?"

If Yes: "Ok, cool. I've been thinking about staying in this apartment and going without a roommate, and Landlord said that would be fine. I just wanted to let you might even mean more flexibility for you and help you avoid that dreaded 24 hours between move-out and move-in times at the end of the month!"

If No or wavering: "Oh! That's a surprise. Last time we talked, you sounded pretty certain about moving. I know I was a bit unclear last time we talked, but I've decided to stay here since I've lived here for so long and it's convenient for me (financially, logistically, etc). I already talked to Landlord about writing a new lease with me as a single tenant."

If it becomes a big deal, I'd just go back to your landlord, fill them in, try to sign a new lease now, and (if needed), put down a deposit to hold it as your space.
posted by JannaK at 6:25 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

"This lease shall then be in effect for the next year at the indicated rent, unless prior to July 1, lessee(s) give written notice of intent to terminate."

To me, this indicates that she needs to give written notice to him of her intent to terminate by 7/1/13 - and since you will not give such notice (and in fact have given notice to the contrary, if the exchange happened by email - if not, send him an email), your lease on the place will renew. He may want you to sign a new one taking responsibility for the full rent. If she doesn't give him notice, she will automatically renew along with you.

Your script, with some modifications:

Me: "Hi CR. Since we last talked about the apt and you mentioned your plan to move, I've actually reconsidered and decided that I will be staying and renting the whole place out for myself. I talked to the landlord about it and he said he's cool with that. Have you found a new place yet?
CR: "Oh wow, you know I've reconsidered, too, and would also like to stay and find a new roommate since you said you were leaving."
Me: Oh really? I thought you were thinking about leaving Boston? (then see how it plays out).

This is tough. If you were the only one on the lease and she was subletting from you, it would be fine - awkward, but you could just tell her your decision and she wouldn't have a choice. In this case, I think that if you both want to stay, it becomes a battle of the wills. If she wants to stay badly enough that she is willing to live with you for another year (esp. after this awkward exchange), you may have to move out. If you want to stay because you like the apartment/hope she'll leave mid-year/don't want to bother moving, you'll have to put up with her and stay. And if living alone, without her is really worth it, you'll move into one of those one bedrooms or studios. But no use stressing out over that until you talk to her.
posted by amaire at 6:29 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you should add the phrase "I want to live by myself for a while" to the various good suggestions above. It's not the money that's the issue, it's your own needs so be explicit.
posted by anadem at 6:35 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

However you do the dance, if you both have equal rights to the apt, just flip a coin. Not a big deal.
posted by LonnieK at 7:36 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think the easiest answer here is just to have the landlord draft a new lease for September with just you on it. Sign it and it's done.
posted by zug at 8:28 PM on May 7, 2013

Stop doomsaying. If she tries to renew I'm sure the landlord will say something and you will be reduced to the coinflip method. Otherwise, just cool your jets and don't distract her from her plans to leave BoTown. Momentum is your friend here.

"Real bad boys move in silence." --KRS One
posted by rhizome at 8:33 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Don't ask your landlord to give your roommate notice. He can't do it (you and roommate have equal rights) and he will HATE you and see you as a problem if you ask him to do it.

I did research on this issue last year, including calling the state gov't to clarify the point, for another mefite. I am 99.9% certain your landlord can not prevent your roommate from renewing her lease if she wants to stay on.

- You can wait until July to see if she gives notice. Pray she does.

- You can talk to her now, and wait for the blow back.

If I were you, I'd wait it out, silently. I would save up money to move. I would look around for apartments in the meantime, just in case.

You seem to have issues with this person you live with. My advice for you is to entirely disengage, be prepared to lose the apartment to her if need be, and move on emotionally right now. Stop feeling like you are owed more than she is.

August is a long long way off. Stop stirring the pot with your roommate. Allow the situation to shake out however it will.

In other words...ENOUGH ALREADY.
posted by jbenben at 8:49 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

You might consider casually pointing out the need to give notice by the July deadline (or before) to build momentum for her departure and improve the odds that she'll complete this paperwork so you can secure control.
posted by carmicha at 9:18 PM on May 7, 2013

Depending on the level of passive aggressiveness you're willing to unholster here, would your roommate stay if you moved out? would they want to, or even be able to rent the place alone? Would they try and fill your slot with another person or just leave?

If you really don't want to interact with that much, i'd just tell them i was thinking about moving out and ask them what their plans were, and if it sounded like they were definitely going to then i'd just let them plan and start the process of moving out... then let the other shoe drop of contacting the landlord and finalizing just taking the place over.

This is a bit shady, but seems like the most conflict free way to get what you want without doing anything actually shitty.

This of course, only works if they don't actively want to stay and start looking for a replacement for you or something though, at which point you'd have to "change you mind" and say you were staying, or actually find a new place and move out. At that juncture i'd probably bring up the direct discussion of wanting to have my own place though, and not just avoid any sort of conflict forever. Although, personally, i would have just said that now. But this idea seems like the most conflict dodging way out of this...
posted by emptythought at 2:21 AM on May 8, 2013

Actually, this is your landlord's call.

You can say to her, "After looking around, I've decided that I want to rent this place by myself, so when's your last day?"

If she doesn't want to move either, you can both dump it on the landlord, who can then decide who he'd prefer for a tenant. It is his apartment after all.

When it comes time to renew the lease, just renew with your name only.

You and the landlord may need to evict your roommate if she doesn't go willingly, but let's not borrow trouble.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:28 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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