Roommates

Sharing a place with a roommate can be fun and can help reduce the cost of your housing. However, if you have problems with a roommate, things can get messy.

As far as the landlord is concerned, the persons that signed the lease are the tenants. If you are just living with someone and paying that person to allow you to stay, you may not be considered to be a tenant of the landlord directly (you might be subleasing). Landlords want as many people as possible to sign the lease because this puts more people responsible for paying the rent. It also wants to approve of all persons living in the unit (landlords typically prohibit subleasing without their permission or having persons living with you without their approval).

Often one roommate has trouble paying the rent, and this is where disputes arise. The landlord is not interested in how the rent is divided; the landlord is only interested in all the rent being paid. If one roommate pays and the other does not or moves out, the landlord will want the rest of the rent and it will not care where it comes from. And, if you signed the lease you are responsible for getting all the money to the landlord, even if you paid your share already. If the landlord does not get all the money, then it can terminate, evict and possibly take other actions like lockout, terminate utilities, and take tenant property (lien).

Even the Texas Apartment Association (TAA) says you should choose your roommates carefully: "If your roommate moves out early or cannot pay the rent, you'll be responsible for the entire amount, unless you've rented on a 'per-bedroom' basis." If you'll be sharing the rent with a roommate, make sure you both understand your responsibilities. If you both sign the lease, each of you will be responsible for the full amount of the rent if the other does not pay. If you need to find another roommate to help with expenses, your new roommate will need to be approved by the property owner, and you may need to sign a new lease or a lease addendum."

Also, if you and your roommate have a disagreement, your landlord probably cannot and will not lockout, evict, or remove your roommate for you. Police would typically consider such a dispute a "civil matter" and not get involved. A tenant can request that the landlord change the locks at the tenant's expense; however, the landlord will have to give the new key to any other tenant on the lease.

If you have problems with a roommate, negotiate as much as possible and put any deals you reach in writing. If you move out with your name still on the lease the landlord may put something harmful on your credit. You also may be liable for damages that occur in the unit. See if the landlord will let you out of the lease before you leave. You also might try to find another roommate to take your place, but make sure your old roommate and the landlord consent and take your name off the lease.

It may be a waste of your time to bring your roommate issue before your landlord because the landlord has nothing to gain by getting involved. You could try to find another roommate to replace the one that is a problem, but again, you are going to need consent from everyone involved. These are difficult situations to fix easily. Clearly the best plan is to be very up front in the beginning and be as sure as possible that you and your roommate will be compatible living partners.

What happens to the deposit when you move out? Unless it is specifically spelled out in the lease differently, any money that is returned is owned jointly by all the tenants. Any other situation would likely have to be worked out between you and your roommate.