What is a co-tenant’s responsibility for remaining rent in the event of an eviction that is not their fault?

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What is a co-tenant’s responsibility for remaining rent in the event of an eviction that is not their fault?

I just signed a lease with a friend and her sister. Her sister’s boyfriend stays at the house for days on end, even stays when his girlfriend is at work. I have asked for him to leave when she isn’t home but he does not leave. The landlady will not allow me to sublet my room and she is now threatening to evict all of us because she’s tired of dealing with us. Is this legal? The sister broke the lease by having an unauthorized tenant in the house; I have paid my rent and been a good tenant. How can they evict us all? What happens if they do? Am I still responsible to pay the remainder?

Asked on August 22, 2011 Indiana

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If there is an unauthorized occupant on the premises, you can all be evicted regardless of who is responsible for allowing that person top stay. And yes, you will all be responsible for the remaining rent.

A lease is a contract and you are all in breach of it. When you each of you signed the lease you both became legally responsible for all financial and other obligations imposed it. Why? This is known as the legal theory of "joint and several liability", which means that any one of you individually, or all of you collectively, are liable for any breach of the terms of the lease. This is why you need to pick future roommates with care.

At this point, make sure that any rent owed is paid; if not your landlord could go to court and obtain a judgment. If so, she could choose to go after only one of you for the entire remaining balance (think joint and several liability). If she picks you, you could however sue your roommate for reimbursement of their share. But this means your filing suit in court and then trying to collect.

Note: The one bright spot in this is that your landlord is under a "duty to mitigate damages". This means the she must try and re-rent your unit as soon as possible. Once she does, any further rental obligation on your end ceases.


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