What happens if my roommate doesn’t pay rent on a joint lease?

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What happens if my roommate doesn’t pay rent on a joint lease?

I’m on a joint lease with 2 other guys and 1 of our roommates hasn’t paid rent in 2 months. Our landlord is threatening to evict us all even though my roommate and I have proof of payment. What do I do?

Asked on April 27, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First, if you want to avoid eviction, you will have to pay the full rent. The landlord does not care about how the three of you have apportioned or split up payment among yourselves; the landlord is entitled to the full rent for the premises. If you do not pay the full rent, you could be evicted and/or sued for the deficiency or shortfall. Proving that you and one other roommate paid your shares does not matter, UNLESS the lease actually says that you each are responsible only for your share--in that event, the landlord could only evict the non-paying roommate. But is very unlikely--I don't beleive I've ever seen a lease like that. Typically, the lease simply requires payment in full from all the tenants on the lease, and it doesn't matter whether A, B, and C each pay 1/3, or A pays it all and B and C get a free ride, or any other arrangement.

Second, though, you can sue the nonpaying roommate for his share, pursuant to both the lease itself (you are all parties to it) and any other agreements among the three  of you as to who pays what. You could sue in small claims court, to save money.

So pay the landlord first, to avoid eviction and legal action; then sue your roommate if he won't pay.


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