Nearly all leases will hold each tenant jointly liable for the entire rent no matter the dynamics of the apartment share.  It’s rare for a landlord to make individual lease agreements with occupants on a room-by-room basis. Even if your responsibility of the $1000 rent is $500, you are still liable for the entire amount to be paid in full every month and can be evicted based on any default of the rent.

Friends can be worse than strangers when it comes to financial disputes so here are some tips to protect yourself when entering into a lease agreement:

  • Make sure the agreement has a clause where the lease is assignable and transferable which will allow you to replace a roommate without breaching the whole lease. This clause will also help to replace a roommate who must leave before lease end.
  • Sign a separate agreement between roommates that explains responsibilities for rent, expenses and bills. This will not help you in an eviction proceeding, but it will allow you to go after your co-habitant for damages for the breach of lease.
  • Pay the same share of the security deposit based on your percentage of the rent.
  • If your roommate destroys their bedroom, the damages will be taken out of the communal security deposit. A separate agreement between roommates at the start of the lease to be personally responsible for any damages they or their guests incur will protect you and be useful as evidence in litigation.
  • Institute a system so payment to the landlord or utility is transparent and all tenants have confirmation every month when the rent or bills are paid. (Venmo, Paypal, Quickpay, etc.)  Do not just pay your roommate your share of the rent and assume he will pass it along to the landlord.
  • Don’t waste time when a roommate fails to pay the rent. Take steps right away (notify landlord, discuss with the breaching roommate and ask the roommate if they are willing to simply move out so you can search for a new roommate or prepare for litigation).

Don’t put your head in the sand when it comes to roommate issues.  Be proactive and protect yourself!