If I was taken offmy apartment lease, can my ex-roommate sueme for stopping payment on a check addressed to the apartment complex?

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If I was taken offmy apartment lease, can my ex-roommate sueme for stopping payment on a check addressed to the apartment complex?

I wrote a rent check to the complex and gave it to my roommate. However, on the same day, I decided I no longer wanted to live with my roommate. Since the first month was already paid-off and I wouldn’t be receiving my deposit back, I put a stop payment on my check although I had sufficient funds in my account on that day. I sat down with the landlord and gave them my 30-day notice and I signed off on the lease. I was told that I would not be held responsible for the rent anymore and that it would be on my roommate.

Asked on January 18, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The first question is whether you *could* actually get out of the lease. First, if there is a written lease, you do not generally have the right to get out of it. Even if the landlord agreed to let you out of the lease, you would *still* be obligated under it  unless your roommate also agreed to this--all parties to a contract (and that's what a lease is) must agree to any changes, including allowing one of the parties out of his/her obligations. Therefore, except as indicated below, if your roommate or landlord (either of them) did not agree to let  you out of the lease, you are still obligated--there is no general rule that you can give 30 days notice and get out of the lease. And if still obligated, your roomate can sue you for your full remaining share under the lease. (And the landlord could also sue you, if it does not receive its rent, whether from your roommate or otherwise.)

The exceptions, or when you can get out of a lease:

1) The above discussion applies to a written lease; if there was no written lease, but only an oral one, you could end your tenancy on 30 days notice. In that event, you would owe rent for that notice period, and could be sued if you did not provide it.

2) If there was a written lease and the lease itself specifically said a tenant could terminate the lease on 30-days notice; again, you'd be liable for that 30 day period of rent.

So in the two cases, above, you would owe rent for the time you had already been in the premises and for the 30 day notice period; if you did not pay that full amount, your roomate could take action against you. Leaving your deposit behind does not count, since that does not help your roomate--the landlord is not obligated to apply your deposit to the rent and can hold your roommate accountable for the rent, which means she could hold you accountable for your share.


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