4 Things To Do If Your Roommate Can’t Afford Rent

published Aug 22, 2022
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Living with a roommate is a big adjustment — and it isn’t always easy. You’ll both need to learn to compromise when it comes to cleaning, personal space, noise, and other issues. Living with a roommate will also allow you to save money on rent or live in a nicer area, but what if your roomie can no longer afford to pay their share?

First, look at the lease.

Leases are legally binding contracts and what happens next depends on the details in your rental agreement

If only your name is on the lease, then you are legally accountable for paying rent in full every month. If both names are on the lease, you’re still liable for the rent payment. The landlord could decide to evict both of you or take you to court for the missing amount. If your name isn’t on the lease, then your landlord cannot hold you accountable for the missing rent; however, your landlord could still try to evict you and your roommate from the rental unit.

Talk to your roommate.

Talk to your roommate and find out why they cannot afford to pay their share of the rent. Is this a one-time event or will it be a recurring issue? If it’s going to be an ongoing problem, then it may be time to consider other options. 

“My advice would be to talk to the non-paying roommate about possible plans to vacate or borrow money to cover their portion of the rent until the lease term ends,” says Jaime Kaloustian, leasing director and real estate agent at Alpha Properties NYC. 

“The paying roommate would have to stand firm that they cannot afford the full rent and would suffer financial hardships if they continue to not pay their share. If the non-paying roommate cannot borrow money, then vacating may be the only way for the paying roommate to try to get a different roommate.”

Notify your landlord of the situation.

You and your roommate could also explain the situation to your landlord. Your landlord may be willing to give you some extra time or allow your roommate to set up a payment plan for their part of the rent. If this has been a regular occurrence, then this could also help you make your case against your roommate.

If your roommate has moved out and still hasn’t paid their portion, you may still be liable for the full amount. “Sometimes, having an honest conversation with your landlord is a possibility. If the landlord can easily put the unit back on the market and rent it quickly, there may just be some nominal fees to pay for terminating your lease. Or, fees could include a few months’ rent,” Kaloustian explains.

Come to an agreement or find a new roommate.

You and your roommate could also come to a separate agreement. You could consider paying the rent in full as to avoid possible eviction and fees. Once your roommate is able to afford rent again, they could pay you back all money owed. Make sure to get this in writing and have both parties sign.

Another option is to find a new roommate. “There’s a website called leasebreak.com where tenants, with a landlord’s permission, can list the remainder of their lease to potential subletters,” Kaloustian says. “If the paying roommate wants to stay, they can also utilize leasebreak.com to find another roommate.”