What can I do if my roommate fails to pay rent their portion of the rent and my landlord decides to send the debt to the collections?

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What can I do if my roommate fails to pay rent their portion of the rent and my landlord decides to send the debt to the collections?

I am in a joint lease with 2 other persons. For the past year, 1 of my roommates and I have paid our portion of the rent to date. For the past 5 months, the third roommate has failed to pay her portion of the rent, even when we informed her to do so. Our credit will be influenced due to her failure to pay rent. Is there anything that we can do so that we are not punished? We have made various attempts to contact her, but she ignores us. She lives at home with her parents. She works just about full-time at a restaurant and doesn’t pay rent, so she has money saved up.

Asked on July 12, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If all three of you are on the lease, you are jointly responsible for paying the landlord the full amount of rent; that is, the landlord is entitled to the full rent, even if one of you won't pay her share. (The only exception would be if the lease itself actually stated the share or amount each of you were responsible for; then you'd only be responsible for the amount personal to you. However, I have never heard of a lease doing this; typically, they obligate the signers jointly to the full amount.)

To avoid damage to credit, collections, eviction, a lawsuit, etc., you and your remaining roommate need make sure that betweent the two of you, you pay the landlord the full amount due under the lease and make up any past shortfall or arrears. Then you may be able to sue your roommate for her contribution to seek reimbursement.


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