A roommate with no lease has legal rights. A written agreement holds more weight and makes it easy for a judge to determine the intent of the parties. However, you still have rights in the absence of a written agreement. In some circumstances, you’ll be considered a tenant, and the tenancy according to real estate laws is month-to-month. You have the same rights enjoyed by the tenant who signed the lease, and if there’s a problem, it would have to be resolved according to the laws. In other circumstances, you’ll be considered a subtenant, and in those cases your legal rights are limited.
Co-Tenant Vs Subtenant
A judge will have to examine the facts of the case to determine whether you’re a co-tenant or subtenant. Your jurisdiction may also presume which one of the two you are absent an agreement and until you can show otherwise. You need to find out what your laws state, and contact a tenant lawyer if you need help. There are some facts that tend to show that the agreement between you and your roommate is a co-tenant arrangement. For example, if you pay your portion of the rent to the landlord and not to your roommate, then you’re more likely going to be considered a tenant. If you deal solely with your roommate on all issues, including making payments, then you’re acting more like a subtenant.
Rights of a Co-Tenant
If you live in a jurisdiction where you’re considered a tenant even with no lease agreement, then you’re entitled to the same legal rights as a tenant who signs the agreement. Some of these include the right to:
- Receive eviction notices prior to the roommate filing an eviction notice
- Reasonable repairs
- Habitable premises
- Rent the apartment without being discriminating against
- Live without landlord harassment
You should get your name added to the lease agreement, so that there’s no question of your status as a co-tenant. That will ensure that your tenancy goes beyond a month-to-month arrangement, if the lease is for a more lengthy term.
Rights of a Subtenant
The subtenant has rights as well, but not as many as a co-tenant. Your roommate is considered your landlord in a subtenant relationship, and he can evict you with or without cause in many jurisdictions. Here are some of the rights you have as a subtenant:
- Right to pay rent not higher than what the tenant is paying (in many jurisdictions)
- Right to receive notice prior to eviction
- Right to review lease agreement
- Right to sue landlord as long as the lease agreement permits subletting
Your roommate may be able to get you out of the apartment if the lease does not allow a subtenant arrangement. If you want more security in your living situation, then sign a sublet agreement.
Renting an apartment with no lease is a risky proposition. You should do what you can to negotiate and sign a written agreement with your roommate.