If an unmarried couple sign a lease agreement for month-to-month rent, who is responsible for paying the rent if one of them moves out?

UPDATED: Aug 29, 2011

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If an unmarried couple sign a lease agreement for month-to-month rent, who is responsible for paying the rent if one of them moves out?

I rented a house to an unmarried couple with a small baby 2 years ago. The lease agreement was for month-to-month. Because of financial difficulties, I allowed them to pay bi-weekly. Recently, the man moved out permanently, leaving rent due for the past 2 weeks and also utility bills. He is unable to pay me now, but says he will pay his half of the rent/utilities due when he gets the money. If she continues to live there, does he have any further responsibility for paying any rent, or is it her responsibility? Can I tell her I want her to move out or do I have to legally evict her?

Asked on August 29, 2011 Louisiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) Who signed the lease agreement? Whomever is a signatory to it is responsible for the rent, and you may sue that person or persons for unpaid rent. So if they both signed it, they are both responsible; if only he signed it, only he is; etc. A lease is a contract; whomever signs it is bound.

2) Regardless of who is responsible for paying, you are entilted  to your rent. If you don't get paid the rent in full when it is due, you have the right to evict--that's because, without paying the rent, there is no right to occupy the space.  So, for example, say that he signed the lease and is not paying, even though she is living there; you can still evict her, because he has no right to possesson--and thus cannot let her live there--if he is not paying the rent.

3) Regardless of who is on the lease, you could opt to accept rent from the other--so if he's the only person on the lease, but she will pay, you could accept the money from her. If he's on the lease and she pays, she may have a right  to go after him for the money (it depends on their own arrangments/agreements), but the critical thing for you is this:

* you must be paid the rent

* if you're not paid, you can evict

* you can accept payment from someone other than the named tenant if you choose for the rent (i.e. a friend, family, etc. can make the payment)

* you have a right to sue any tenant(s) on the lease for unpaid rent

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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