Roommate eviction is not pleasant, but it’s a normal part of apartment living. Sometimes things just don’t work out, but instead of leaving voluntarily, you have to use the court system to get someone to leave. It’s difficult to live with a roommate as you’re trying to evict them, or vice versa, and trying to force them out illegally can get you into a lot of trouble.
Both Names on the Lease
Your landlord may require that you add a roommate to the lease if you didn’t move into the apartment at the same time. It gives the landlord two different people to sue in case you owe back rent, since signing the lease together makes you co-tenants. While it benefits the landlords, it makes evicting a roommate difficult. Only the landlord can evict your roommate in that case, but if you go down that path, the landlord may decide to get rid of the both of you. Carefully consider your options first before involving the landlord, because you could risk losing the apartment altogether.
When you sublease to a roommate, you act as a sub-landlord. Most state laws have provisions that allow you to evict a roommate who is a sublessee. You would evict them as if you were a landlord, by providing the proper notice as required by state laws, and then filing an eviction lawsuit claim. You’ll serve papers on your roommate legally, through a sheriff, certified mail or other allowed method of service. You can’t just hand your roommate a complaint. If you’re successful in court, you can evict your roommate with the help of the sheriff or other law enforcement. Be prepared for your roommate to raise legal defenses to the case if they plan to fight the eviction in court.
Liable for Entire Rent and Damages
It’s important to ask for rent and damages as part of your eviction proceeding, because you’re responsible to pay that to the landlord, unless they consented otherwise. For example, in a sublease agreement, you’re still held liable for rent not paid. Most landlords don’t waive this, but a few do. If you’re a co-tenant with your roommate, the landlord can sue you for the entire amount of rent and damages due, because of a joint and several liability clause. That language in your lease allows your landlord to sue both roommates or either one, for everything owed to them. If your roommate takes off after the eviction or prior to it, you have the foot the bills.
It’s frustrating if you have a roommate who won’t leave, or one who moves but leaves their personal belongings behind. You can’t just put their things on the sidewalk or in storage and change the locks. Self-help evictions are illegal. The only way to deal with evicting a roommate is to file a lawsuit or get your landlord to file one if you’re a co-tenant.
Taking preventative measures against roommate evictions is better. Screen roommates before agreeing to become a co-tenant or subleasor. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.