If I am under a joint lease and my roommates refuse to pay their portion of rent but I can’t financially pay their portion, who is held responsible?

My roommates decided to move out of our apartment over 2 months ago without giving myself or the leasing office any notice. They left notes saying they would continue to pay their portion of the rent but so far only one of them has paid. I had to pay my portion and the other girl’s for the last 2 months. Financially, I will not be able to continue to pay 2 portions until our lease ends. We all signed a joint lease and I won’t be able to find anyone to sublease the rooms until the lease ends. What should I do?

Asked on November 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Obviously, getting subtenants under your existing lease would solve your problem. However, if your landlord will not let you do so, see if you can find 2 other tenants and ask the landlord to terminate the existing lease and execute a new one. Otherwise, I'm afraid that you are on the hook for your roommate's share of the rent.

The reason is that, when you signed the lease you all collectively and individually became legally responsible for it. This is known as "joint and several liability". This means that if 1 tenant doesn't pay their share of the rent then the other tenant(s) is liable for it. 

That having been said, you can take your roommates to court and sue for any money that you are out-of-pocket on their behalf. If you win, you will be granted a judgment. You could then have the notation of the judgement placed on their credit reports.  Why don't you inform her of this and see if that prompts them to come up with some rent money. Otherwise, you can use the judgment to garnish their wages and/or other personal assets, such as a bank account.


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