Can I be held liable if my roomate is behind on rent and I am not listed on the lease and have not entered to any agreement with the landlord?

I moved in with my roommate 4 months ago; we had the agreement that he would pay the rent if I paid utilities since he had already been at the address for a few months. Now he has fallen behind on the rent and the landlord is threatening legal action. Can I be held liable also if I am have not signed any type of lease or agreement?

Asked on June 26, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If there is a written lease and you are not on it--but your roommate is--then the landlord may not hold you responsible for the rent. In this situation, your roommate is the tenant, not you; you are a subtenant of the roommate. The landlord may only hold tenants--not their subtenants, not their children or signficant others, etc.--responsible under the lease.

However, bear in mind that if the rent is not paid, the roommate may be evicted. If the roommate is evicted, you will be evicted, too, since your right to possession is derived from your roommate's right; when the roommate no longer has the right to reside there, you will also have no rights to remain in that premises.


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