Depending on the terms of your roommate agreement, you may be able to ask them to leave. 

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Question:

My roommate has been paying rent at the end of the month, rather than on the first, when it is due. I’ve been forced to pay the whole month up front and wait for them to pay me back. I’m the only one named on the lease, but we have a signed roommate agreement. Am I on the hook for the full rent? Can I ask them to leave?

Answer:

As the only tenant named on the lease, you are indeed on the hook for the full rent, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer at the firm Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben & Joseph who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.

This means that if you pay just your share of rent on time, and your roommate is late with theirs, the landlord could start an eviction case for nonpayment of rent.

Of course the possibility of eviction would be bad news for your roommate as well. But if that potential outcome isn’t enough to convince them to pay rent when it is due, you may be able to ask them to move out—or take them to housing court yourself—depending on the terms of your roommate agreement.

“If the roommate agreement is like a lease, with terms specifying that the roommate can reside there until a certain date, you can’t throw them out because they’re paying late,” Himmelstein says. “Unless the agreement says so, it is not grounds for termination if someone doesn’t pay rent on time.”

On the other hand, if the agreement doesn’t specify how long they can live there, and your roommate is month to month, you don’t need grounds to ask your roommate to leave, as they have no right to remain if you don’t want them to.

“If you ask your roommate to leave and they refuse, you could serve them with a 10 day Notice to Quit—although some attorneys are of the opinion that a 30, 60 or 90-day termination notice, depending on the roommate’s length of occupancy, is required—and then bring them into court on a holdover proceeding,” Himmelstein says. “But that process would take months, and the court would give your roommate time to move even if you obtained a judgment against them.”

It could also end up being costly since you would likely need to hire an attorney. And you may need to live with a very uncomfortable situation until your roommate’s lease is up and you can ask them to move.

For future reference, it may help to look at these templates for roommate agreements, which include clauses that protect you if your roommate does not hold up their end of the financial arrangement, or if they move out before the terms of the agreement are up.

And note that when it comes to divvying up the rent, if you’re in a stabilized apartment, you cannot charge your roommate more than 50 percent of the rent. Market-rate tenants face no legal restrictions on what they can charge.

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Read all our Ask a Renters Rights Lawyer columns here.


Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.

 

Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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