Remaining Tenant’s Rights When Co-Tenant Breaks Lease

The remaining tenant's rights when a co-tenant breaks the lease are the right to sue the co-tenant for anything that breaches the lease agreement and finding another roommate to sublet the space. The biggest hurdle you face when a roommate moves out is that your landlord has a right to the entire rent each month, even if one of the people paying it skips out. Call the number above to speak with an attorney today about your remaining tenant's rights when a roommate breaks the lease.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A lease is a contract between landlords and tenants. As a contract, it is enforceable by the parties to the contract. That means that the landlords can enforce the lease against the tenants and the tenants against the landlords. It also means that one tenant can enforce it against the other party if the second tenant breaches the agreement.

Only those terms in the agreement can be enforced. For example, the first tenant could sue the second for their share of the unpaid rent, but if the original lease does not mention utilities, the tenant may not be able to pursue a claim for outstanding gas or electric bills as part of the cause of action for payment of the lease obligation.

Is it worth suing your co-tenant?

From the tenants’ perspective, the main problem in this situation will often be that the enforcement of the lease against a co-tenant will require a lawsuit. Since lawsuits cost money, the tenant should first consider whether the breaching co-tenant would actually be able to pay any award against her.

If not, if realistically there is no way to collect from them, then suing may result in the remaining co-tenant throwing bad money after good. An attorney experienced in landlord-tenant law can help the remaining tenants understand their rights, what they can expect to recover, and also the potential cost of taking legal action.

Depending upon the dollar amount owed, small claims court may also be an option.

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Do you still have to pay full rent?

The other big problem is that the landlord has a right to the full rent, even if one of the people paying it has skipped out on their co-tenants. As a result, if the remaining tenants do not pay rent on time, in full, the landlord could evict them because of the lease terms.

In this situation, the remaining tenants need to remain current on the total lease obligations, not just their share, even as they’re looking to recover from the breaching co-tenant.

As a result, it may make sense for the remaining tenants to consider other options as well as suing the breaching tenant. Subletting to get a replacement roommate to pay the rent is one option. Another option for the remaining tenants might be to work with the landlord to have the breaching tenant removed from the lease and substitute another person on the lease.

Again, a landlord-tenant attorney can help the remaining tenant understand her rights and recourse.

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