What can I do if my roommate moved out took all of her stuff but is threatening to get a copy of the key and enter?

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What can I do if my roommate moved out took all of her stuff but is threatening to get a copy of the key and enter?

Her name is still on the lease but she is not paying rent. She moved out 45 days ago. She has no business coming into my home now that she has left. I am already taking her to small claims court the the rent she refuses to pay. But I am afraid she will damage or steal my things.

Asked on May 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Until and unless she is evicted, she has a right to enter the premises (your home) unless she clearly surrendered (or gave up possession) or unless she was actually evicted. Moving out, by itself, is not necessarily enough to show that she surrendered possession--people can rent premises they do not actively live in, for example. What would be required for this is a clear demonstration that she left intending, at that time, to give up her right to the premises.

If you are the landlord (you say it is your home), and she clearly surrendered possession, you could bar her access; be aware that if she disputes this, you may end up in court having to show she surrendered her right to possession. Or you could bring an eviction action against her for nonpayment of rent,  to get a judgment of possession cutting off any rights she may have. (This might be the best thing to do, to leave no question as to her lack of right to enter.)

If you are not the landlord, but rather are a co-tenant, you have a problem: only the landlord, not a fellow tenant, can evict a tenant or otherwise bar her access, such as if the tenant surrendered possession. Co-tenants may not keep their fellow tenants out. So if you are a tenant and not the landlord, you could ask the landlord to take action, such as to evict her, but you cannot yourself keep her out.


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