Is It Possible to “Evict” a Roommate?

published Sep 25, 2021
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You and your other housemates have finally reached a breaking point: It’s time for your loud/dirty/disrespectful/destructive/insert-other-frustrating-adjective-here roommate to go. Whether it’s because they refuse to chip in for utilities or they haven’t cleaned their bathroom in months, you all agree that they need to move out — now.

But can you actually “evict” a roommate? And is there any possible way to do so graciously, so as not to burn the bridge forever?

According to ​​Andrew Chen, an attorney who’s also a landlord and real estate investor, you can’t technically evict your roommate — only the landlord can do this, and only for certain reasons as defined by local laws. But there are some steps you can take to help gently (and respectfully) nudge your roommate out the door. 

If the roommate is on the lease … 

If your unruly roommate is on the lease and you can prove that they’ve violated some of the lease’s provisions, you may have luck taking this information to your landlord. But, in addition to royally infuriating your roommate, this approach could also backfire on you, Chen says.

“Bear in mind that your landlord in this scenario is also entitled to evict you as well, since you are most likely jointly and severally liable for the lease,” he says. 

If your roommate hasn’t actually violated any of the lease terms, try sitting them with them for an open, honest conversation about their behavior, concluding with the fact that you’d like them to find somewhere else to live.

“The best you can do is to politely but firmly convey that living together is no longer tenable and you’re requesting the other person to move out,” says Chen, who also runs the personal finance site Hack Your Wealth.

If that doesn’t work, you may have to be the one who moves out, which may mean finding a subletter, breaking the lease, or talking to your landlord about other options. It won’t be easy, but if your roommate’s behavior is making you pull your hair out, it may be worth all the hassle.

If the roommate is NOT on the lease … 

If the roommate is not on the lease, you may both be in trouble if you try to involve the landlord, says Chen. If you tried to sneak in an extra roommate without telling the landlord, they may kick all of you out for breaking the lease’s terms, depending on what your specific contract says.

“Landlords can typically evict such occupants without cause,” Chen says. “But depending on the circumstances, the landlord may also be able to evict you if you invited an unauthorized roommate to live in the unit.”

If there is no lease …

Similarly, when there’s no lease, the landlord can evict you and your roommate at basically any time. But you both may have some recourse in court if you claim that an implied lease exists, especially if your landlord has been cashing your rent checks all along.

“Local landlord-tenant laws will govern the eviction process in such cases,” Chen says. 

Whether there’s a lease or not, and whether your roommate is on said lease or not, it’s always a good idea to have a candid discussion about your expectations before moving in together, Chen says. Take photographs of the rental unit before you move in and write down your agreed-upon “rules of engagement” for living together (e.g. who will take out the garbage, and how often? How will the bathrooms get cleaned? What about the music volume or having people over?).

That way, you have documentation to call upon when your roommate starts behaving badly. And if that gentle reminder doesn’t sway your roommate to change, you may just have to cross your fingers that she agrees to move out.

“I suggest just having a frank discussion that their behavior is impacting your ability to live in the unit peaceably and, if things don’t change after that, saying that things are not working out and you’d like to ask your roommate to leave,” he says.