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My Roommate Stuck Me With the Rent, What Do I Do?

Your roommate moved out and left you with a stack of bills including the rent. Raise your hand if you’ve been in this situation before? Whatever the reason was, it doesn’t matter now. You’re in a bad spot.

Without a roommate, you too might be left out in the cold–without a home. The situation sucks but the reality is, the rent needs to get paid, the landlord has a mortgage, and it seems to be all up to you.

What do you do? What if you weren’t on the lease but your roommate was? Will you get kicked out?

Rest easy, because most landlords are willing to let you stay and try to work things out–even if you have to cover the other half of the rent that your deadbeat friend weaseled out on paying. Here’s what you should do in order to keep the place.

Pay the rent and bills yourself

Easier said than done, I know, but the quick and obvious answer is pay the rent until you find a roommate. You should also immediately inform the landlord or property management company, especially if you are not on the lease. The property manager may be able to assist you in collected rent if the deadbeat roommate was on the lease. Let them help! Even if the roommate was not on the lease, you should inform the landlord of the situation and you may be surprised at their level of understanding, but keep in mind, they have a mortgage to pay too and just because they are the owner, doesn’t mean they are sitting pretty.

Also, be sure to notify your landlord before adding a new roommate on the lease. In most situations though, staying in contact with your landlord during this trying time is the easiest way to stay out of his or her doghouse–and stay in your house.

Have your ex-roommate sign an agreement

Have your ex-roommate sign to agree to: pay their portion of the rent and utilities UNTIL you find a new roommate; pay for damages caused to the unit during their time of stay; pay for said rent and damages by a finite date; and (most important) sign away any rights to be a tenant (if they were on the lease) now or in the future. If all else fails, then go to the next step.

Small Claims Court

Nobody wants to sue. Suing other people costs money–and hiring an attorney usually raises the ante. Taking your ex-roommate to court may be an option, but do your homework and understand there is no guarantee, even if you feel you have a solid case. And don’t think you’re going to become a millionaire. In the District of Columbia and Maryland, the dollar limit on a small claims court case is $5,000.

If you decide to take on a new roommate, try doing what the professional property managers do and provide a credit, background and criminal check or better yet, have the property management company add them to the lease and ask for their help. Screening for good tenants is what they do!

Do You Have a Nightmare Roommate Story?

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