How to Get Rid of Your Roommate (Legally!)

He’s messy, his rent is always late, and now he “lost” his pet scorpions somewhere on the premises. In other words, it’s high time for your roommate to hit the road.

But how to get him out? Legally speaking, can one tenant kick the other to the curb based on a few common lease violations? And, if so, what is the least-stressful way to accomplish this feat? Below, we discuss several tips and techniques for lawful roommate eviction, as well as conduct to avoid at all costs – or you may find yourself on the curb.

Communication is key

As in any relationship, lack of clear communication between roommates could be the downfall of an otherwise promising cohabitation situation. When a problem first arises, talk it out. Perhaps your roommate is under unusual stress, isn’t aware of the rules or just needs a little coaxing to meet obligations. Hopefully, this tactic will calm the waters.

But if not, it may be time to bring your landlord in on the conversation. If your roommate is engaging in clear violations of the lease agreement, your landlord should be notified immediately, and the violations should be clearly documented through pictures and descriptions. Assuming your roommate is a tenant of record (more on that below), he or she maintains a distinct legal relationship with the property owner or landlord and must abide by the terms of the lease. While general messiness is not usually cause for eviction, late rent payments and unapproved pets likely are, so alert your landlord. He or she can start the eviction process under your state’s landlord-tenant laws.

Off-the-record roommates

This issue can become much more acrimonious if your roommate is not a tenant of record (i.e., an inhabitant who has not signed a lease agreement). In essence, this person has no legal duty or obligation to the property, its owner, or its lessee (you), so state landlord-tenant laws do not apply. Accordingly, it may be time to seek an alternative legal remedy. However – and this is key – you cannot physically force a roommate out the door by pushing them or throwing belongings on the sidewalk.

Most states have enacted a more civilized approach that provides the unwanted guest the right to notice and due process. In many states, a roommate must first be put on notice that he or she is no longer welcome. To accomplish this, a simple one-page statement declaring that the roommate arrangement has ended should suffice. Further, provide the roommate with a deadline for leaving, which usually must be at least 15-30 days from the date of the notice. Lastly, as much as you might like to avoid actual interaction, be sure the roommate actually receives the document.

See you in court!

Hopefully, the roommate will take a hint and exit gracefully. If this does not happen, however, it will be necessary to file a petition for eviction in your local court, which is likely the same court that handles formal landlord-tenant matters. By allowing the roommate to remain on the property sans lease, you actually created a month-to-month oral tenancy agreement, which must be undone using proper legal channels.

The court staff will give you a date and time for an eviction hearing. At the hearing, be prepared to present the eviction notice mentioned above, as well as evidence to show that the roommate was never included on the lease and – at most – had a month-to-month tenancy as an off-the-record roommate.

The court will likely grant the petition, and your roommate will have no choice but to vacate the premises immediately.

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