How to Get Rid of a Roommate Legally

Some roommate conflicts can't be worked out.
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Roommate conflict is always unpleasant, especially since you share living space. If you've tried and failed to resolve your issues, it's understandable you'd want your roommate to move out. Unless your roommate is willing to leave, however, your legal options for hastening his departure are often limited by your state's landlord-tenant laws.

When Roommates Collide

The law often treats roommates, even if they don't have a lease, as tenants. This means you, or your landlord, have go to court and prove grounds to evict your roommate. If you own your home, eviction is usually a straightforward process. If you rent, forcing a roommate gets more complicated and you may need a lawyer.

If You Own Your Home

If you own your home, you have the power to evict your roommate. If your roommate never signed a lease, or signed a month-to-month rental agreement, give your roommate notice you won't be renewing the agreement. According to Nolo.com, you normally have to give 30 days notice, but state laws vary on this issue.

If your roommate has a longer lease, you'll have to wait until the lease expires, unless you have grounds for eviction. These typically include not paying rent, damaging the property and engaging in illegal activity.

Tip

If it is just you and one roommate living in your home, check your state laws. Your roommate may be considered a "boarder," and you won't have to go through an court-ordered eviction. Instead, you'd give your roommate written notice you want him out. If he doesn't leave, you can have the police arrest him for trespassing. If you aren't sure whether your roommate is a tenant or a boarder, seek legal advice.

If You Rent

If you are renting, evicting a roommate becomes more complex. If your roommate is on the lease, only your landlord can file an eviction. If your roommate isn't on the lease, you may be able to evict her yourself.

If Your Roommate Is On the Lease

If your roommate has signed a lease with your landlord, your landlord needs to handle the eviction. Unfortunately, getting a landlord to evict a roommate can be challenging:

  • Landlords don't want to referee their tenant's personal disputes.
  • If both you and your roommate have signed the lease, you may both be equally responsible for paying the entire rent. A landlord who is getting the rent isn't motivated to go to court because of squabbling roommates.
  • Unless you have a month-to-month rental agreement, your landlord needs grounds to evict a tenant. Even if your landlord is sympathetic to your situation, unless you can prove your roommate is violating the lease, there is little he can do to force your roommate out.

Still, if you and your landlord have a good relationship, talking with him may be a good idea. He may be willing to talk to your roommate, investigate whether he has grounds to evict her or simply refuse to renew her lease when it's up.

If Your Roommate Has No Lease

If your roommate isn't listed on the lease , you are your roommate's landlord and can evict him. Contact a lawyer or the legal aid office in your area for guidance.

Warning

If your roommate isn't on the lease but pays rent directly to your landlord, you may have problems getting an eviction on your own. If your landlord regularly accepts rent from your roommate, their relationship may be that of landlord-tenant, even if you are the only person on the lease. Talk to a lawyer to find out whether you still have standing to evict your roommate.

The Eviction Process

Eviction procedures vary by state. Check with your lawyer or courthouse for the details on how it works in your area. In most places, you must first give your roommate written notice that you plan to evict him. If he doesn't take action, such as moving out or paying back rent, by a certain date, you can go to court and request an eviction hearing. If the judge rules in your favor, the sheriff will come out and formally evict your roommate.

Warning

Don't change the locks on your house or apartment until the sheriff enforces the eviction. Locking a tenant out of their home before the sheriff's eviction is illegal and you may face civil and criminal penalties.

If you are concerned for your physical safety, contact the police and explain your situation. You may be able to get an order of protection against your roommate, keeping her out of your home.

Tip

Consider mediation. A mediator may be more successful in helping you and your roommate either resolve your issues or decide who will move out. Mediation may be less expensive and stressful than going to court.

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