How to (Quickly) Evict a Roommate Not on the Lease

How to (Quickly) Evict a Roommate Not on the Lease

Have You Read Your Lease Agreement? Now’s the Time! 

Review your lease agreement before you make any quick decisions that include having your roommate move out. You and your roommate should each have your own copy of the lease, and in that agreement you will find what your options are should your roommate intend to leave. Be sure to speak with your manager or resident services office in case they require additional steps or paperwork to properly extricate your roommate from the lease. 

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How to Evict a Roommate Who is Not on the Lease in Illinois

Ideally, you can simply have a civil conversation with your roommate and ask him or her to leave in an acceptable amount of time. When having this conversation, be sure to put your request in writing, date it, and file a copy. Remember, if your roommate does agree to move out, you will be responsible for his or her share of rent and utilities, if applicable.

Assuming your situation is a bit stickier than this, getting rid of a roommate who is not a legal cotenant may be more challenging. If he or she refuses to leave, you may need to consult a lawyer before proceeding. The state of Illinois has enacted eviction laws to establish a lawful and peaceful framework for the removal of unwanted tenants from real property. The Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act clearly states:

“…no person has the right to take possession, by force, of premises occupied or possessed by another, even though such person may be justly entitled to such possession. The forcible entry and detainer statute provides the complete remedy at law for settling such disputes. Persons seeking possession must use this remedy at law for settling such disputes. Persons seeking possession must use this remedy rather than force.”

In other words, you cannot physically force an unwelcome tenant to move out of your unit. This family member, guest, or friend technically holds possession of the property by the prior “oral agreement” of the person having a claim of title. Because you initially allowed them to live with you, they can only be removed by going through the formal Illinois eviction process. Calling the police to physically remove your unwanted roommate will not be effective, as the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act also applies to police officers and landlords. If your unwanted guest can prove that he or she was originally allowed to move in, he or she cannot be removed as a criminal trespasser.

So, what can you do? You’ll have to formally terminate the right of possession of the unwanted guest through a written 30-day notice to terminate his or her tenancy. If the individual still hasn’t vacated the residence after 30 days, you have the right to file an eviction lawsuit. A judge can demand this individual vacate the apartment. This process can be very timely and costly, but it is the only way to legally evict an unwanted occupant to whom you gave possession to the property by either real or apparent permission.

Even if this person is a family member, or maybe never even paid rent, he or she does have tenancy. This tenancy can be proven by receiving mail at the property, owning a driver’s license with the property’s address, leaving belongings at the unit, having a key to the unit, sleeping at the residency regularly or semi-regularly, or even just claiming to live there. Believe it or not, not having paid rent is a non-issue.

If you’re thinking about changing the locks on this person, reconsider. Because you originally allowed this person to live with you, locking them out is actually illegal. It may even result in a lawsuit against you! A wrongful eviction may subject you to legal liability, which can become very costly on your end.

My roommate isn’t paying her share of the rent. Can the landlord hold me responsible?

It depends on whether your roommate is on the lease. Most landlords don’t care how roommates divide the rent; they want only to be paid in full and on time. Here are some common types of rentals:

  • On the same lease (co-tenants): People on the same lease are co-tenants and are jointly responsible for following the lease, including paying all of the rent due and on time. A landlord’s actions to enforce or terminate a lease usually apply to all tenants, so if one doesn’t pay, the others have to make up the difference. Even a partial payment of rent can open the door to actions authorized under the lease and state law, such as a lockout or eviction. Try to work with your landlord. It never hurts to ask if the landlord will agree to lower the rent temporarily while you look for another roommate.  
  • Individual (per-bedroom) lease: Each tenant in the same dwelling is separately responsible for following their own lease and will not be responsible for unpaid rent or lease violations of other occupants.  
  • Sublease: A landlord can be the owner, lessor, or sublessor of a dwelling. If you are a tenant and want to sublet your space, you should get your landlord’s permission first, preferably in writing. If the landlord agrees, you effectively “stand in the shoes” of your landlord, meaning that you become the lessor and your tenant the sublessee. Unless the sublessee signed a separate lease agreement with the landlord, you are responsible for unpaid rent or property damage caused by your sublessee.  
  • Oral lease: If the length of the lease is for a year or less, it doesn’t have to be in writing. Keep in mind that it can be difficult to resolve disputes with your landlord without a written agreement that spells out who is responsible for what. Sometimes you can combine multiple writings (like email) to prove a lease. Keep copies of email and other communication with your landlord in case you need it later.  
  • No lease: If there is no lease, or your lease has expired, the lease term is month-to-month (or however often you pay the rent) unless your original lease states otherwise. If you are renting month-to-month, either you or your landlord can terminate or change the lease with 30 days’ notice. 

Evict the Roommate from Your Life

If your roommate is annoying but not violating the lease, posing a threat to you, nor willing to compromise, you have one other option: evicting that roommate from your life.

Yes, this might require you to wait your lease out or break it ahead of time. Early lease termination laws vary across states but, here are a few general tips to help break your lease as smoothly as possible.

  • Provide your landlord with advance notice.
  • Offer articulate reasoning and any evidence for what’s compelling you to move (by this point, the landlord is probably aware of the issues you’re experiencing).
  • Be willing to negotiate the particulars of your leaving (maybe finding someone to replace you on the lease, or paying an extra month’s rent after you depart)

Don’t focus on the legwork required here. Instead, set your sights on how sweet your next place will be!

How to Evict A Roommate

In order to evict a roommate in California, a tenant must follow the process below:

1. Provide Written Notice

Before filing a formal legal procedure to evict a subtenant, the tenant must provide the subtenant with written notice to leave the premises within 30 or 60 days. Thirty days is the minimum requirement for month-to-month subtenants. However, if the subtenant complies with the demands of the notice, such as paying back rent, then they may continue residing on the property.

Furthermore, a tenant can provide the subtenant with a three-day notice if they meet the criteria above for eviction. However, the tenant must provide the subtenant with a detailed explanation about the reason for eviction pursuant to the three-day notice.

2. Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

Once the notice period concludes, if the subtenant is still occupying the premises, the tenant may file an unlawful detainer to legally evict them. To initiate the formal eviction process, the tenant will need to file the complaint with the court and serve the summons and a copy of the complaint on the subtenant. Then, the subtenant will have to respond within five days or vacate the premises.

Additionally, the subtenant can oppose the complaint and file a response. Under these circumstances, the court will set a hearing date on which both parties must attend court and discuss the merits of their case. Then, after hearing both sides of the issue, the judge will issue a final ruling.

If the judge rules in favor of the tenant, the local sheriff can serve the subtenant with a five-day “lock out” notice to vacate. However, if the subtenant refuses to leave by the “lock out” deadline, the sheriff will physically remove the subtenant on the day of “lock out.” On this date, the tenant can legally change the lock on the apartment.

What is it about roommates?

A running gag in “The Big Bang Theory” used to concern Sheldon’s roommate agreement. Whenever Leonard was uncooperative, Sheldon would pull out this hefty tome to remind his friend of the obligations he’d signed up to.

Advice for renters: What happens when my roommate moves out and I'm not on the lease?

This may have made roommate agreements into a joke. But legal website Lawyers.com suggests they’re an excellent idea. “Most roommate disputes can be avoided by laying out simple guidelines and expectations at the beginning of the living arrangement in a written roommate agreement,” it says. Of course, you may prefer to make yours more concise and less prescriptive than Sheldon.

Common issues

Roommates commonly fall out over issues that are mostly predictable:

  • Who pays what and when
  • Who does which chores and how frequently
  • How tidy people should be
  • “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine”
  • When an occasional … ahem, overnight guest effectively becomes an additional resident
  • General behavior, including appropriate hours for partying, loud music, and smoking, drinking or drugs

Don’t vaguely hope your roommates will act in a fair and civilized way over these. Instead, turn reasonable expectations into obligations by having people sign up to a written agreement.

Dont Forget to Check Local and State Regulations

In addition to double-checking the terms of your lease agreement, you’ll want to look into the specific laws governing evictions, tenant’s rights, and more. You always need to check local and state laws before proceeding with any of the above scenarios.

Figuring out how to leave a lease with roommates can feel stressful. Knowing how breaking a lease might affect you down the road can help you make an informed decision about how you’ll proceed.

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