Is my roommate obligated to pay rent and utilities while her belongings are still present in the house?

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Is my roommate obligated to pay rent and utilities while her belongings are still present in the house?

Our rent is due on the first of next month and we are supposed to send it out on the 26th of this month. Our roommate’s stuff is still in the house and she is refusing to pay rent or anything else. The reason for her leaving was that she stole another roommate’s things. Is she obligated to pay rent for next month?

Asked on September 23, 2011 under Real Estate Law, West Virginia

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If your roommate is on the lease, she is also obligated to pay rent. But here is the tricky part. If you have three people on a lease with the landlord, each of you is typically jointly and severally liable to pay the whole rent. This means that if A and B pay their 1/3 each, and C refuses to pay, A and B or A or B must pay the remaining 1/3 and seek contribution from C by either getting C to pay back to A or B or suing C. So, it really makes no difference if she left and her belongings are there. If the landlord did not allow her to surrender her portion of the lease without penalty, she is still obligated to the landlord (and therefore to you) for her portion of the rent until either the lease is done or a new lease is signed (as just A and B or with a new C).

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If there is a written agreement between your roommate and the landlord for the current rental, you need to carefully read its terms in that it controls the obligations owed to her by the landlord and vice versa in the absence of conflicting state law.

If there is still a term under the lease that your roommate is obligated for the rental, your roommate is still required to pay what she agreed to for it regardless of internal issues that she may have with another roommate.

If she refuses to pay her obligations and if the lease agreement is collectively as to all tenants with the landlord, the other tenants may have to pay her share to keep the landlord happy and go after the one roommate who is unwilling to honor her obligations for repayment.

Good luck.

 


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