July 9, 2008 12:36 PM   Subscribe

My roommate and I are looking for a 3rd roommate. We will most likely end up getting a roommate who neither of us knew previously. Should my current roommate and I be the only parties who sign the lease, and technically sublet to the third, in case any problems arise, or should all three of us sign the new lease? What are pros and cons of each. Which option do you think is best.

I have seen people mention in previous questions regarding problem roommates that one is more empowered to remove a problem roommate if one is the only party on the lease. That way, one does not need to go through the landlord to get the roommate out.

On the other hand, that of course comes with more responsibility. Theoretically, you could then just kick them out, without having to notify landlord, wait, have landlord go through all legal prerequisites for eviction, wait more, etc etc. But then wouldn't we be the ones having to jump through all the legal hoops? Obviously we could pressure them out, but we couldn't outright kick them out, right? And of course we would be more empowered to kick them out, but then we would be the ones on the hook with the landlord for any damages, rent, or whatever reason for kicking them out, and would have to twist the kicked out roommates arm, rather than letting the landlord do that.

Other thoughts? Keep in mind I am not asking how do I kick out an actual dysfunctional roommate. I am asking if current roommate and I should have only ourselves on the lease, and not the third roommate, to protect ourselves from hypothetical future dysfunctional roommates. Thanks for your thoughts.

And finally, I'm not asking for legal advice. All advice will be taken as practical advice, and not legal advice, you're not my lawyer, etc. I live in Minnesota.

Also, I'm most concerned with worst case scenarios, but FYI, the landlord is a good guy, we have good rapport between us, and I'm sure he'd help us out as much as he could with hypothetical problem roommies, but I just want to be in the best position to protect myself.
posted by gauchodaspampas to Human Relations (7 answers total)
I'd probably sublet, if only because it means you can set your own terms. What if the new roomie doesn't work out for whatever reason? I think it'd be better to keep it between you three, rather than having to renogiate your entire lease.
posted by meta_eli at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2008

And of course we would be more empowered to kick them out, but then we would be the ones on the hook with the landlord for any damages, rent, or whatever reason for kicking them out, and would have to twist the kicked out roommates arm, rather than letting the landlord do that.

Couldn't you get around that with a contract? I don't think 3rd roommate would have to be on the lease in order to be held responsible for these sorts of things, just get it in writing first. Small claims court could potentially be necessary to actually get compensated, but at least you'd have the law on your side.
posted by phunniemee at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2008

What about sort of an interim solution, wherein you sublet for 1-3 months as sort of a trial period, make sure you like said person and can stand living with them, THEN have them put on the lease? It sounds like you don't want to have to be the one dealing with the hoops and legalities of kicking out a roommate if you need to (if you sublet), which I'm fairly sure you would have to. I would put that burden on the landlord, personally, but if you want to make sure you'll all jive together first, the trial period idea may be a good one.
posted by alpha_betty at 1:01 PM on July 9, 2008

Even if you have them on the lease, you are still going to be on the hook for any "damages, rent, or whatever reason for kicking them out." Most leases will make all lessees jointly and severally liable for rent and damages.
posted by HotToddy at 1:11 PM on July 9, 2008

What are the benefits to having this new roommate on the lease, exactly? I might be wrong, and i'm sure it differs from state to state, but aren't most leases set up such that if any one person doesn't come up with rent, the others are still liable? Therefore, the landlord can come after you if the new person doesn't pay. Hence, I can't see the difference between the new person owing rent to the new landlord, or to you.

I would assume the same goes for damages -- ie it's not like you can say to your landlord "we're not paying for that, roommateX did that, take it up with her". All three of you are on the lease, all three of you are responsible for the full amount of any damages. That being said, then technically, the new roommate is also liable if the two of you flake out. It works both ways.

Plus, if you sublet, you have the control. There are probably still tenant laws to follow (ie you just can't kick the new roomie out because you don't like them), but no matter what he case, you will be more motivated to take care of the problem than your landlord (who, even as a good guy, is getting the rent no matter what.)

Personally, I'd want to sublet. I would be uncomfortable getting into a shared responsibility legal document with a stranger.

The usual disclaimer goes here. I'm speculating, and my be completely wrong. Or not. Just my 2cents.
posted by cgg at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2008

Sublet. Don't put his name on the lease. Have the 3rd roommate sign a sublease agreement with you and file that with your landlord. This does make YOU liable for any damages/problems/etc that this guy causes but it does give you more options to go to small claims (if need be) and, if you need to kick him out, he can't fall back on being on the lease and having a much claim to the apartment as you do.

I ended up doing this and ended up having a subletter who was a complete waste of space and I ended up having to kick him out of the apartment. He specifically did everything he could to make everything a living hell and difficult and, had he been on the lease, I would have had to pretty much suffer his existence rather than having the ability to force (or at least threaten to force) him out.
posted by Stynxno at 1:24 PM on July 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. The consensus seems pretty clear. I'd still appreciate further arguments on either side though if anyone is still out there thinking about giving their 2 cents.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 1:56 PM on July 9, 2008

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