If my roommate wants to break the lease but is unable to pay her half of the early termination fee, how can I protect myself?

UPDATED: May 28, 2011

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If my roommate wants to break the lease but is unable to pay her half of the early termination fee, how can I protect myself?

My roommate and I have lived in an apartment for 3 months. She now wants to break the lease which will cost us a combined total of $4000. She offered to pay half if I could pay the other half. I don’t want to move but I came up with my half. Now she says she can’t pay her half. The landlord is willing to let me pay my half and move out and let her pay her half in installments but I am afraid she will default on her payments and hurt my credit. Is there anything that I can do?

Asked on May 28, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

First, if you have any agreement with the landlord to allow you to terminate early, make sure  you get it in writing.

Second, the agreement with the landlord *could* protect you, if worded properly. For example, if it says that in exchange for paying $2,000, you will be deemed to have satisifed all your obligations under the lease, will not be in default or breach of the lease, and that in exchange for the $2,000, the landlord releases you from any potential claims, that should protect you. An attorney could help you draft a good agreement for your situation.

Third, if you and your roommate each had individual leases (rather than jointly signing a single lease), then you are each responsible only for your own obligations.

On the other hand, if you and your roommate are both on the same lease and the landlord won't protect  you by giving you a good agreement, you are vulnerable. If your roommate defaults, you may be able to sue her, but you'll yourself be liable and could have  your credit affected and be sued by the landlord.

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