What is my obligation to a roommate for return of the last months’ rent if they backed out of the lease prior to its termination?

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What is my obligation to a roommate for return of the last months’ rent if they backed out of the lease prior to its termination?

I signed a lease with a roommate and they backed out of it only 2 months later. At the end of the lease the landlord kept their last month’s rent and said my new roommate and I needed to pay the person who backed out for the last month. Is this person entitled to this money even though theyde faulted under the lease? I have been slowly paying them this money but due to just graduating college and just finding a full time job it’s been tough. This person wants the remainder of the money within the next 12 days or wants to take me to small claims.

Asked on August 4, 2010 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If the person breached the lease, there is no reason why he would be entitled to this rent back. A lease is a contract; it binds all the parties to it. If the roommate who back out had signed a lease, he is liable for his contributions or share of the rent under it for the entire term of the lease--including a last month's rent paid in advance. The only argument in his favor would be that you had a duty to try to mitigage or reduce the damages, such as by finding a replacement roommate. If you can't show that you tried to do this, he may be able to claim thhat your failure absolves him of responsibilty. Otherwise--if he doesn't argue this, or you can show you tried to mitigate--you would seem to have an excellent defense if sued--you can sue the lease, his obligations, and the fact that he breached.


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