Interesting Stuff

Can A Roomate Break A Lease


When you and a roommate both sign a lease, you’re probably expecting to be responsible for half of the rent each month. However, under the terms of your lease, you’re probably responsible for the full amount of the rent in the event that your roommate doesn’t pay her share. Whether your roommate loses her job and falls behind or actually moves out mid-lease and has no intention of making further payments, you may find yourself on the hook for more rent than you bargained for. This is an important consideration when you’re making plans with a roommate: It’s a good idea to make sure you trust the person you’re sharing a lease with, and to put aside a little buffer in case your roommate doesn’t live up to her obligations. If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you should do is talk with your property manager; the rental office may be able to work with you to find a new roommate or to move into a smaller unit. If you do end up incurring extra expenses because your roommate bailed out, remember that even though you’re responsible to your landlord for that rent, you can still pursue repayment from your non-paying roommate.


Do Smokers Have Rights?

The interests of smokers and non-smokers often conflict, as we’ve seen in the evolution of policies regarding smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants and many other shared areas. Many state and local governments have restricted smoking in various areas and to various degrees. While many non-smokers are happy to see these restrictions implemented and reclaim their clean air, smokers often feel burdened by the ever-growing restrictions.


A decade or more ago, when smoking restrictions were spreading across the country, many smokers complained that soon they wouldn’t be allowed to smoke anywhere but in their own homes. It turns out even that might not be true.

Secondhand Smoke in Multi-Unit Buildings

According to the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke can be a serious problem in multi-unit housing. Smoke can migrate from other units and common areas and travel through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing, and ventilation systems, thus exposing non-smoking tenants to the harms of secondhand smoke.

In addition to the health risks associated with secondhand smoke, non-smoking tenants often complain of the smell, discoloration and other nuisances associated with smoking in the building.

These issues provide an incentive for many landlords, and even local governments, to create restrictions on smoking in multi-unit buildings.

The Right to Smoke

Smokers, it turns out, have few, if any, rights with regard to smoking restrictions in multi-unit housing. Restrictions aren’t even necessarily limited to rental properties. While it’s easiest for a private landlord to create a policy for his own complex, the standard against which governmental restrictions are tested is not stringent—and local ordinances can apply to condominiums as well as rental properties. In fact, a condo association can implement smoke-free rules as well.

While your management company won’t usually be able to change the rules regarding smoking in the middle of your lease, many landlords shifting to a smoke-free environment simply introduce those restrictions as each lease comes up for renewal.

The Scope of Restrictions

While some smoking regulations deal only with common areas of a building or the property as a whole, others extend to individual units, including private balconies or patios. Common area restrictions may include the grounds, pool area, parking lot and premises as a whole, or may relate specifically to entrance ways and confined areas such as laundry rooms and mail rooms. The restrictions will be clearly spelled out by the ordinance or building policy.

If you’re a non-smoker looking to avoid second-hand smoke, your options are growing. Smoke-free buildings are becoming increasingly common and in many areas city ordinances provide at least some protection for residents of all multi-unit rental properties.

If you’re a smoker, you still have options, but make sure you check into both an apartment community’s policies and the relevant local ordinances before you make your next move.


Questions Before You Move In

ChecklistLandlord Questions:

  • Are there any application fees?
  • How long is the lease?
  • After the initial term of the lease, will I need to renew for a year or will I be able to lease month to month?
  • What are the lease-breaking fees?
  • Are there penalties for late payments? What are they?
  • How much is the security deposit? How much of the deposit is returned at the end of the lease? What will prevent me from getting my security deposit back?
  • What utilities are included in the rent?
  • What is the approximate cost for utilities that are not included in the rent?
  • Is parking included in the rent or are there additional parking fees?
  • How is routine maintenance completed for the unit? Are maintenance people on call 24 hours a day? If not, who should I call if there is an emergency?
  • Are there any additional fees for using the pool or gym?
  • Am I allowed to have pets? If I don’t have one now, and I get one at a later date, will my lease change?

Landlord Horror Stories

LandlordsOne thing that could completely ruin your renting experience is a bad landlord. One crazy schmuck could make even the most amazing community pool have about as much value as your kids’ blow-up version.

After asking some of my friends about their worst landlord experiences, I have to say, I have been downright lucky with mine. Here I was whining about my landlord who took a week to come fix a broken light (I apologize Mr. Maxon … you’re awesome), when these ladies had some seriously crazy landlords.

I challenge you to top these six …

Creepiest Landlord:
My last landlord was stalkerish. He would randomly show up and even entered my apartment without giving a 24-hour notice.

Biggest Ick Factor:
One time, we had our friends over after we’d all gone to pick up a Christmas tree, and we were standing outside talking when he came out the backdoor (we lived upstairs, he lived downstairs), walked across the lawn, and proceeded to drop trou in the middle of the lawn and start taking a leak.

Most Likely to Become Paparrazzi:
One of my landlords hit on my roommate because he thought she looked like Reese Witherspoon. It was hella awkward … he was an ugly 55-year-old fat man.

Shortly after Christmas one year, we had a fire in the ceiling — started by the fireplace in the apartment above us. An ILLEGAL fireplace. The end result was a big-ass hole in our ceiling for about four months while the landlord got around to fixing it. His excuse was that he couldn’t get anyone to come in the middle of winter. Meanwhile, we lived with this horrid hole and pretty much lived with the people upstairs since you could see right up there and there was no noise barrier. And he refused to lower our rent.

Biggest Pain in the Ass:
We had a landlord who went away all the time and we could never get in touch. He was skiing in the middle of winter when our pipe burst and filled our place with water, but no one would come and fix it without the homeowner’s approval, which we could not get. Also, this same guy told us no dogs, so we moved to another apartment that would let us have our dogs. Later, he lowered the rent for the new tenant and let them have their dogs. I am still bitter. The place was so nice.

Worst Overall:
My last landlord charged us for some sneaker drying rack that he said we took when we moved out. We had no idea what he was talking about, but he said he knew it used to be in the apartment because he would come down to dry his shoes when we’re weren’t home. Mind you, this was the dryer IN our apartment that we paid utility bills to run.

What’s your worst landlord story?