Rent Coach

Rent Coach: A smoking roommate, and a heart-wrenching lease renewal

By Mike Akerly  | July 14, 2011 - 7:51AM

Q. My roommate started smoking--can I kick her out?  We're both on the lease.  

A.  If there is no provision in the lease that prohibits smoking in your apartment, then your roommate has not breached the lease agreement and she has a right to remain in the apartment until the agreement terminates.  

Even if there were a provision prohibiting smoking, the lease is a contract between you and your landlord, and your landlord would be the one that would need to take action to evict her.  Additionally, most leases hold roommates “jointly and severally liable,” which means that if you convinced your roommate to leave, your landlord has the right to collect the entire rent from you.

If you can afford to pay the entire rent on your own or if you have a replacement roommate in mind, you might consider incentivizing your roommate to leave by offering to cover a month of her share of the rent.  Keep in mind that you will likely need permission from your landlord if you wish to have someone replace her on the lease.  Perhaps she will simply agree to take her habit outside in the interest of domestic tranquility. 

Q. My landlord won't renew my lease unless I get rid of my dog. Is that legal?  

A.   A landlord reserves the right to amend a building’s policies and the renewal of a market rate lease is just like a negotiation with a new tenant – either party can propose any term they see fit to suggest.  Your landlord can add to or change the terms of last year’s lease and you may either accept the changes or choose to move.  


Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker.  His column also appears in AM New York's Thursday real estate section.

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