LANDLORD DILEMMA: What Would You Do?

We had a set of three roommates move into one of our units at the beginning of the month, and they all signed a six-month rental agreement and lease. Well, a few days ago one of them called and said he needed to move back home (out of state) for some personal reasons. I asked if the others were staying. He said they were and that he was trying to find a replacement. I told him that as long as the others were staying and the new person moving in qualified that that was fine with us. We’re fairly lenient when people have an emergency and need to leave the area. Well, last night I had the following conversation with one of the roommates that was left.

Tenant: (In essence) Rob (name changed)  didn’t give us any notice and just moved out. We think before you gave him permission to do that you should have contacted us. We didn’t even know he was going to move. We feel like he needs to keep paying his share until the six months is up. Could you call him and tell him he’s still obligated to help us with the rent because he signed the rental agreement with us?

Me: I already told him we wouldn’t hold him to the lease. I didn’t realize that you were not aware of his situation and okay with it.

Tenant: No, we had no idea. He said he’d get a replacement, but he’s sent people over that we don’t even know and even sent someone really old, like about thirty, (I smile at this point) and we don’t like anyone he sent over. We think he needs to keep paying us. He can’t just assume we’re going to let someone move in we don’t approve of.

Me: I can see why you’re not happy that Rob left you so soon, but whoever still lives there is responsible for the rent. He has done his best to find a roommate. It would be hard for him to find a roommate you’re completely happy with.  If you are not happy with a roommate he would like as a replacement, and you  don’t want to cover the rent with just the two of you, it is up to you now to find a roommate. That roommate would need to be qualified though. And he’d need to fill out an application with us so we can check references. We don’t want to lose track of who is in the unit.

Tenant: (angry) But Rob signed the lease just like we did.

Me: These kinds of things happen with roommates and even with couples or families. Whoever stays is responsible for the rent.

Tenant: If you could just call him and find out why he moved and find out if it’s really that big of an emergency. He promised he’d pay and that’s why we got a larger unit.

Me: If you decide you can’t afford the apartment and need to move, we’ll let you out of your lease as well and consider it an emergency as well.

Tenant: But we love the place. We’re just not at all happy with how this has been handled.

Me: Well, it’s always a little sticky with roommates. I hope you are able to resolve this because we’d love to have you stay.

———-

Unless I find out differently, Rob is off the hook. Whoever is left and lives in the unit needs to pay for the rent because we rent by the unit, not by number of people. I will call our attorney and also pray about this. What do you think? What would you do?

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