From The Mailbag: Roommate’s Gone

Having roommates can be a handful of trouble.  A recent writer explains the situation that came from a roommate who deployed:

I have a question. My ex roommate signed a lease with me in Feb 2013, he was deployed in April of 2013 and he used some new law that allowed him to take his name off my lease without my knowledge and left me with his half of the rent. Apparently, this law doesn’t break the lease, it just removes his name from it.

He submitted the lease to the US Army when we signed it but he didn’t submit the paperwork that says he took his name off the lease. He is getting paid a higher BAH because of the zip code we live in, has no financial obligation to this house, and I am stuck paying his half of the rent.

Who can I contact/talk to to make sure he doesn’t receive any money for this zip code? Can that even happen?

Mike

Ugh!  What a hassle.

Dear Mike,

You’re in quite a situation.  I understand that you are frustrated that your ex-roommate not paying and possibly receiving BAH.  However, I don’t think that is your biggest issue right now.

BAH is based upon the duty station zip code.  If he is deployed, and eligible to receive BAH, then he should be receiving BAH at the zip code for the duty station from which he was deployed.  The zip code of the residence doesn’t matter.  Honestly, while it sounds like this is irritating you, you should probably not expend your energy thinking about this.  If he is somehow committing BAH fraud, that’s not your problem.

What IS your problem is the fact that you are now paying the entire rent.  You should probably be able to get out of this, either by using the law or by appealling to the sense of the landlord/leasing agent.

First, there are two ways that leases can be written.  In one way, all the lessees are all obligated for the entire amount of the rent.  In the other way, each lessee is obligated for their portion of the rent.  Usually, when it is written the second way, the entire lease becomes void when one person terminates their portion of the lease.  You need to read your lease carefully to see what it says.  If you don’t understand it, many areas offer free landlord-tenant legal services, or it might be worth a few dollars to have a lawyer look at it for you.  There are often some loopholes that exist, especially if your ex-roommate has used the provisions of the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act to get out of his portion of the responsibility.

If your lease is absolutely unbreakable, I would appeal to the business sense of the landlord or the leasing agent.  Evicting you for non-payment is expensive, and most smart landlords would rather find a better solution.  Politely explain that due to this change of events, you are unable to pay the entire rent.  Apologize for the inconvenience and ask how you could work together to solve this problem.  Offer to move out ASAP or as soon as they find another tenant, whichever they prefer.  Offer to help advertise the unit and make sure to keep it spotless and available for showings, if that is appropriate to your situation.   A lot of the details will depend on whether you are dealing with an individual landlord or the leasing agent of a complex.  Once you’ve talked with them, follow it up with a letter explaining the situation and detailing your conversation.  Have it delivered with a signature confirmation and keep this for your records.

It is possible that the lease is unbreakable, and that the landlord is willing to go through the hassle and expense of evicting you and/or taking you to small claims court if you choose to move out and break the lease.  However, a sensible and experienced landlord or leasing agent should be looking for the best way to minimize the cost and drama of helping you out of this situation.

Good luck to you!

Kate

So, readers, what do you think?  Have you experienced a similar situation?  I’m sure Mike and other readers would love to hear your experience and advice.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • johnny rambo