When a Roommate Wants to Leave Early

Whether you want to move out, or get one of your roommates to leave, it's important to understand the legal consequences of one roommate leaving early.

All too frequently, living arrangements that look promising when you’re just friends turn into disasters when you become housemates. Maybe it’s the gym bag dumped on the kitchen table every evening, the inconsiderate parties on work nights, or the “occasional girlfriend” who turns out to be a regular, unpleasant presence. Whether you want to move out, or  get one of your roommates to leave, it's important to understand the legal consequences of one roommate leaving early. (This is addition to the legal consequences of all tenants breaking a lease and leaving early).

When cotenants split, there can be serious consequences beyond hurt feelings. The remaining roommates must scramble to cover the departed tenant’s rent share, and the one who has moved on may find herself at the receiving end of a small claims court case demanding her share of rent.  

Legal Consequences of a Roommate Leaving Early

In a month-to-month tenancy, a cotenant who wants to leave must give the landlord the required legal notice—30 days in most states. Forget trying to leave on short notice—most landlords won’t prorate a month’s rent. This means that the remaining tenants will have the same amount of time to hustle up a replacement. (Remember, this will require the landlord's approval since your lease or rental agreement undoubtedly has a clause prohibiting unauthorized occupants.) Of course, there is nothing wrong with cotenants deciding among themselves that they will give each other a longer notice period. If a cotenant violates this internal agreement, the remaining tenants can go after him in small claims court for the time (expressed as rent money) they were shorted. But the remaining tenants will still have to pay the full rent to the landlord as long as the departing tenant gave the landlord the statutorily required notice.â

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