What to do if the female who signed a lease with me disappeared and moved out when rent was due a few months ago?

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What to do if the female who signed a lease with me disappeared and moved out when rent was due a few months ago?

The house I have been renting has a cockroach infestation and sewer issues that the landlord is refusing to correct. Then, 3 months ago, I asked the landlord for a buyout which she said didn’t exist. Now that I delivered my termination of lease letter I have been told I better pay them $650 or they will take me to court for the remaining months on my lease. The landlord says my previous roommate is not responsible for anything because she no longer lives in the home. Can they do this? I am moving because my home is constantly being broken in to and the living conditions are so unsanitary I can’t even use my water.

Asked on October 17, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Missouri

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The landlord can collect rent from any tenant who signed the lease.  Since your roommate disappeared and didn't pay rent, the landlord could look to you for payment of rent.  You could sue your former roommate for her share of the rent, but since she disappeared, you would have to have her served with your lawsuit by publication (running a notice of your lawsuit in the legal notices section of a newspaper for a period of time which varies from state to state).  This is not feasible because since she disappeared, if you got a judgment against her, you wouldn't be able to enforce the judgment.

In every lease, there is an implied warranty of habitability which requires the landlord to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with state and local housing codes.

When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant notifies the landlord as you have done, and the landlord is required to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs.  The conditions you have described (cockroach infestation, sewer problems, and unsanitary water) are health and safety issues constituting breaches of the implied warranty of habitability.  When the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs, the tenant has the following remedies:  The tenant can make the repairs (call someone to make the repairs) and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant stays on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  Another alternative is to sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  You can also contact the local housing code inspector, who can bring an enforcement action against the landlord for housing code violations.

As mentioned, if you move out due to a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, you terminate your obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of your lease.  You don't owe the landlord the $650 under these circumstances. 


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