Roommate Rights

Roommate rights can take on several contexts: legal rights, eviction rights or simply the rights that any reasonable roommate should honor. The question of roommate rights depends on the context in which you're asking, so start by determining the type of question you're asking.

Roommate rights: did you sign the lease?
Your rights as a roommate are drastically reduced, legally speaking, if you did not sign the lease with your roommate. If you have no documentation outlining your agreement, you have very few legal rights in most situations. If you didn't sign a lease, all is not lost; in some states, if your landlord has accepted rent money from you directly, put your name on a doorbell or mailbox or otherwise treated you as a tenant, you may qualify for the same legal rights as a lessee. Subleases do not provide the same legal rights as a lease with the landlord, so make an effort to be included on the apartment lease if you're worried about your roommate rights.

Eviction rights: can my roommate evict me?
If both you and your roommate are co-signers on a lease, neither of you can evict the other. Because you have equal status as tenants, only the landlord can evict one or both of you. If your roommate threatens you with eviction, exercise your eviction rights and inform the roommate that there is no legal basis for removing you. Conversely, if you want your roommate evicted, you'll have to contact the landlord because you have no eviction rights over your roommate.

Can my landlord evict me if my roommate violated the lease?
Co-tenants fall into a unique subcategory when it comes to legal rights; the actions of one can constitute a breach of all. If your roommate doesn't pay the rent, your landlord can come after you for your roommate's outstanding payment. If your roommate breaches the lease, your landlord can evict both of you, even if you haven't done anything wrong. Be very careful when selecting a roommate, as legal rights and eviction rights of co-tenancies can expose you to your roommate's shortfalls.

If I sublet an apartment, can my roommate evict me?
Subleases give your roommate many of the same legal rights as a landlord, so your eviction rights as a co-tenant do not apply if you have a sublease. When you sublet an apartment, your tenancy is subject entirely to your roommate, not to a landlord.

Roommate rights: general living etiquette
When you move in with a roommate, you should sit down together and agree on common rules governing rent, living spaces, household chores, food sharing, overnight guests and moving out. Respect one another's roommate rights by adhering to these rules, and you may have a perfectly amicable tenancy. Failure to respect these rules doesn't violate any legal rights, but may violate roommate rights and compel one of you to move out. Put it in writing, so there's no question about the rules if you have disputes down the road.

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