How to Evict a Roommate From Your Rental

Process for Evicting Your Roommate

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Tenants do not become roommates with the thought that one of them will face eviction in the future, but it happens often. While a landlord holds primary responsibilities for dealing with tenant evictions, there are certain situations where one roommate is legally allowed to file to evict another roommate. Find out if you can evict your roommate and how the eviction process works.

Can You Evict a Roommate?

Your ability to evict a roommate depends on a number of factors. The first being tenancy status on the lease agreement.

You Are Co-Tenants

In many roommate situations, both roommates will be named on the lease agreement. In these situations, the roommates are considered co-tenants. The roommates are considered equally liable under the terms of the lease. This includes paying rent, paying utilities, following all other terms of the lease, such as quiet hours and pet policies, and for any damage done to the property.

In a co-tenant situation, one tenant cannot file to evict another tenant. The landlord would be responsible for filing for any eviction.

When there are co-tenants, if a judgment for eviction is awarded, the eviction would go on the records of both tenants. If you have been following the terms of the lease, you can ask your landlord if he or she will allow you to sign an agreement that releases you from liability

You Are the Master Tenant

In this situation, one roommate is named on the lease agreement as the primary or master tenant and essentially sublets to the other roommate. The master tenant must have the landlord’s permission to sublet to the other tenant. Otherwise, the master tenant will be violating their lease by allowing an unauthorized person to live in the rental.

The master tenant collects rent from the other roommate and is the one who actually pays the landlord. The master tenant may have a separate roommate agreement with the subtenant. In these situations, the master tenant is usually allowed to file to evict the other roommate for just cause. Check your state laws to confirm that these rules apply in your state.

Your Roommate Is the Master Tenant

If your roommate is the one who is named on the lease agreement, he or she is considered the master tenant. As the subtenant, you have no right to file to evict the master tenant.

Your options are to move out of the rental with the legally required amount of notice based on your agreement or, if you like where you live, contact your landlord and explain the situation. You can hope that the landlord files to evict the master tenant and agrees to rent to you after the master tenant has been evicted.

How to Evict a Roommate

If you are considered a master tenant, you will likely be able to file to evict a roommate for just reason. You must always check your state laws to make sure this rule applies in your state. When you file to evict a roommate, the process will be almost identical to the process a landlord must follow to evict a tenant.

Keep the Following in Mind Before Starting the Eviction Process

  • Try to Avoid Eviction- Try talking to your roommate and asking them to move before filing a formal eviction against them. Explain the reasons you would like them to leave the rental property, for example they are damaging the property or not paying rent. Make them aware that if a judgment for an eviction is awarded, it will go on their record and will make it harder for them to rent an apartment in the future.
  • Be Professional- You will have to live with your roommate until the eviction process is complete. Any communication with your roommate regarding the eviction should be done in writing. Do not break the law. Changing the locks, removing your roommate’s possessions or threatening your roommate are illegal actions.
  • Protect Yourself- If you are ever concerned for your physical safety, do not hesitate to call the police.     

Need Valid Reason to Evict

To file for an eviction, you need just cause. Your roommate must have violated a clause in the lease agreement or the separate roommate agreement you signed with them. The reasons you can file to evict may differ based on your state or municipal landlord tenant law. Common legally allowed reasons to file to evict include:

  • Failure to Pay Rent
  • Failure to Pay Utility Bills
  • Damage to the Property in Excess of Normal Wear and Tear
  • Engaging in Illegal Activity at the Property
  • Threatening the Health or Safety of the Other Tenant
  • Repeated Breaches of Lease After Receiving Notice to Quit Behavior- Such as Noise Complaints

Send Roommate Formal Notice to Quit

If your roommate does not agree to move out voluntarily, you need to send them a formal notice to quit. This notice must include:

  • The roommate’s name, address and unit number.
  • The specific ways the roommate is violating the lease or roommate agreement.
  • How long the tenant has to fix the behavior or move out of the rental unit.- This will be determined by state law.
  • If the behavior is not remedied or the tenant does not move, you will be filing a formal eviction.
  • Be signed and dated.
  • Delivered to your roommate according to state law- This could require you to hand deliver it, send it via certified mail or post it on the door to the apartment.

    If Unresponsive, File Formal Notice to Evict

    If your roommate refuses to leave or fix the violation within the allowed time frame, you will need to file a formal eviction with the court. The court will set a date for the eviction hearing and will serve the roommate with formal notice.

    Gather Evidence

    While you are waiting for the court date, you should gather any evidence that backs up your claim that your roommate has violated the lease or roommate agreement. Take pictures of any damage. Gather any receipts which show rent or utility payments. If the tenant has an animal that is not allowed, take pictures of the pet in the rental unit.

    Appear in Court

    Make sure to appear in court of the specified court date. Failure to appear in court is an automatic victory for the other side. Bring any evidence you have that supports your case.

    Judgment

    If the judge rules in favor of your roommate, then the roommate will be allowed to continue living in the rental. If the judge rules in your favor and grants an eviction, your roommate will be given a certain amount of time to move out of the rental. For example, they may have 3 days to move out after an eviction has been granted.

    The eviction notice will usually be posted on the front door of the unit. If the roommate does not move out by the required date, you can contact the Marshall or sheriff, usually for an additional fee, to have your roommate forcibly removed from the unit.