Is my roommate still liable for rent if he moves out before the end of the lease?

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Is my roommate still liable for rent if he moves out before the end of the lease?

I signed a year long lease in a 4 bedroom house with 3 other people; 2 of whom were dating at the time and pregnant with their first baby. Around month 4 of the pregnancy, they broke-up. Around month 5 1/2, they got into a scary fight and he moved out. He’s not paying rent anymore and has left us in a bad situation. We’ve been unable to fill his spot and have 5 months left on the lease. The 4th bedroom was supposed to be for the baby who will be here at the end of March. Our landlords said that they will take our security deposits if we can’t make the full rent. Is that legal? Is he liable?

Asked on December 21, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Maryland

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Tenants on a lease are both "jointly and severally " liable for fulfilling the terms of the lease.  Unfortunately for you, this means that if one of the tenants moves out the other tenants are still legally required to pay the full rent.  A landlord can choose to go after legally pursue the vacating roommate but is under no legal requirement to do so.  However, that having been said, the remaining tenants can sue the defaulting tenant in small claims court for any additional money that they are out-of-pocket due to their vacating the premises.

At this point, keep trying to rent the room.  Possibly, you can all agree to rent it for less than the tenant who left paid.  This may make the rental more attractive to a prospective tenant.  After all, something is better than nothing.

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Tenants on a lease are both "jointly and severally " liable for fulfilling the terms of the lease.  Unfortunately for you, this means that if one of the tenants moves out the other tenants are still legally required to pay the full rent.  A landlord can choose to go after legally pursue the vacating roommate but is under no legal requirement to do so.  However, that having been said, the remaining tenants can sue the defaulting tenant in small claims court for any additional money that they are out-of-pocket due to their vacating the premises.

At this point, keep trying to rent the room.  Possibly, you can all agree to rent it for less than the tenant who left paid.  This may make the rental more attractive to a prospective tenant.  After all, something is better than nothing.


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