What happens when a roommate on a lease stops paying their portion of the rent?

I signed a lease but I no longer live there. My 6 roomates want me to keep paying rent but I can’t afford paying rent for 2 places. What happens if I don’t pay and they sue me? What choices do I have?

Asked on September 18, 2010 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In a case such as this your roommates can indeed sue you for non-payment of your rent.  If they won the suit, they would obtain a judgement against you and could proceed to attach your bank account, garnish a portion of your wages (once you start working), and could at the very least see that your credit was adversely affected.

It's not clear how you ended up with 2 places. Anyway, what you could try to do now is to find a substitute tenant and have them added to the lease (while you have yourself removed from it). If your landlord doesn't want to do that you could sub-let your portion of the premises but you would have to remain on the lease (also your landlord might have to agree to this as well depending on the wording of your lease regarding sublets).  If you go the sublet route you could even offer a slightly reduced rent to make moving in more appealing to your sub-tenant.  You would however have to make up the difference but that would be better than having to cover 2 rents (which you can't do) or the alternative, which is being sued.  Just know that in a sub-let situation you will still be liable under the lease if your sub-tenant fails to pay their rent or causes damage to the rental premises.


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