Typically, each co-tenant gets the legal right to occupy an apartment by means of a rental contract. Under a lease contract, co-tenants, or joint tenants, are equal partners in the apartment lease.
By signing a lease, each party enters into a legally binding rental agreement with a landlord. And, under the terms of a lease, each signing tenant has identical rights and responsibilities.
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Also, as is stipulated in a lease, each roommate is "jointly and severally liable" for paying the rent and other agreed-to fees, such as utilities and trash removal. Should one roommate not pay her share, the other roommate is responsible for the entire amount.
While you can't always get your name removed from a lease you signed, it may be possible to no longer be obligated to the terms of a lease agreement when the rental period has not yet expired.
Joint Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
As joint tenants, your rights and those of your roommate are the same. Should you leave the property before the end of the lease term and refuse to uphold your financial obligation to the lessor, you have violated the lease. The tenant who remains has no rights in this situation. She will require the landlord's approval to either share the apartment with a different roommate or to remain in the apartment as a sole resident.
Removing Someone From a Lease
When you sign an apartment lease, you assume legal and financial responsibilities. This includes your commitment to pay a portion of the monthly rent and, perhaps, other resident fees. Consequently, if you leave the residence, the remaining lessee must pay the entire amount of the rent, rather than her previously agreed-to share of it.
So, begin by asking your roommate if she is willing to accept the entire responsibility for the monthly rental fee. If she agrees, your landlord may be willing to create a new lease in your roommate's name only. In this way, you are effectively removing someone from a lease. To do so, the landlord, or lessor, will require the written permission of your co-tenant.
Negotiate Single Tenant Lease
Because your lease is a binding contract, your landlord has no legal obligation to renegotiate the lease, which is in effect what you're asking when you ask about removing someone from a lease. If you breach the contract, you'll likely be subject to the rent and legal fees.
If, however, the co-tenant agrees to take over the lease, you can then ask the landlord to create a new lease in that tenant's name only. Whether the landlord agrees to do so depends on a lot of factors, such as your roommate's income and the term of your lease. These and other factors will also determine if the landlord charges a fee for doing so.
Even if the landlord does charge a fee to create a new lease, it's likely he'll require you to pay any related fees, such as that charged for a new credit report on the remaining tenant. The lessor might charge those fees, even if your co-tenant's credit check proves he doesn't meet the rental requirements.
Negotiate Early Lease Pay-Out
If the landlord won't agree to rent the apartment to your roommate as a sole tenant, another option is to attempt to negotiate an early-out payment for yourself. This would be a one-time payment that is less than your portion of the total monthly rental for the remainder of the lease term.
In this case, if the lessor agrees, ask that he document the agreement and provide a receipt showing the amount of the early-out payment.
Identify a Replacement Tenant
Both your co-tenant and landlord may agree to remove someone's name from a lease if you find a roommate who meets both of their requirements and whose credit report confirms he is a viable candidate. If either party rejects the change, you have no option but to continue to pay your portion of the rent and remain liable for any damage to the apartment during the lease term.
Should a new, acceptable tenant be found, she and your current roommate may enter into a new lease agreement with the landlord and your current lease will be terminated. At the time the lease is terminated, your financial obligation under your current apartment lease will be concluded. This is assuming that you don't owe any rental, utility or maintenance fees or any other charges.
Alternatively, if the new tenant is acceptable, the landlord might modify the current lease to remove you as a tenant and add a new one. While this approach is less desirable than a new lease agreement, it is an option, particularly if the landlord requires new leases to run a typical term of six months to a year.
No Lease Revision
You might find a replacement tenant who is acceptable to your roommate, but your landlord may refuse to revise your lease. In this case, the landlord can force the person's removal from the apartment. Also, you remain responsible for the lease payments until the end of your lease term.
Before you make any move, check the particular laws and rules in the jurisdiction where the property is located. To make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities regarding a lease, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options to removing someone from a lease.