You’re tired of your roomie’s piles of dishes that are constantly in the sink. You’ve had it up to here with the epic mess your roommate leaves for you to clean up everyday. Maybe it’s worse…maybe you don’t leave your room for fear of accidentally running across the weirdo you’re living with. How about you’re behind on bills because your roomie would rather spend her money on her collection of expensive shoes than pay the rent. Enough is enough, it’s time to get rid of your bad roommate.
Some of us had bad roommates. Some say it’s a character building experience that everyone goes through, others have stories that defy justification. There’s good news though: you don’t have to suffer this nightmare any longer than you want to.
1 – Do the legal and financial homework
Getting rid of a bad roommate is easier said than done, especially if you’ve signed any kind of paperwork together or if money is tight. You’re going to need to understand two things are the most important factors in this decision: the law and your bank account.
Depending on where you live and what kind of roommate agreement you’re bound by, ridding yourself of a bad roommate can be pretty tricky. Even if all your roommate did was pop in and unpack an overnight bag, they might already be considered a legal resident of the dwelling. If you own the place they share with you, or are the primary leaseholder, they might still be bound by renter’s laws.
Since this can vary from state to state, seek advice from a professional. In this case, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lawyer (though good for you if you have one handy). Your friendly neighborhood sheriff or constable is probably willing to walk you through it, if you’re willing to ask. A lot of times, an eviction can be secured by visiting the local courthouse, filling out some paperwork, and paying a filing fee. Once proper notice is given, your tenacious tenant is given a move-out date, after which they can be legally removed from the property.
That said, it might be you don’t own the place you’re staying at, in which case you should have a contingency plan for paying rent and bills. Sometimes this isn’t a problem, but if it is, think about lining up another roommate to take over the payments.
2 – Accept that your roommate might not be the one leaving
Ask anyone who has gone through this before, and they’ll likely tell you the same thing: it’s far easier to just move out than it is to evict a bad roommate if they’re renting a room. If you’re under a lease, a lot of times it just takes a written roommate agreement, signed by all parties on the lease, that your name will be removed from it. If you’re a month-to-month renter, it’s as easy as moving your stuff out before the next rental term.
This is part of the reason it’s so important to do the financial homework before you move forward. In a lot of cases, moving out isn’t just easier, it’s cheaper. While most courts meant to solve renter disputes are easy to navigate without a lawyer, by the time court fees pile up you might have already paid the down payment on a new place to live.
Don’t discount moving out of hand. If you’re not particularly attached to your place, it’s likely going to be your easiest and cheapest option.
3 – Write an e-mail
If your roommate provided any kind of agreement either verbal or written this is your chance to remind them. Start the letter by thanking them for renting the room and anything they may have done that you appreciate. We tend to focus so heavily on the things they don’t do that we forget to realize that it could be worse. Try to come to a mutual agreement to meet them in the middle. If they work 12 hour days and can’t find the time to wash their breakfast dishes when they’re running out the door in the morning try to be considerate of how exhausted they may be. Instead, ask if they can just be sure to clean up their mess by the end of the day.
4 – Sit down and have “The Conversation”
Let’s be real, nobody wants to have this conversation, but it needs to happen. Honestly, you might be surprised at the result. Sometimes a bad roomie match is a mutual feeling, and a simple conversation might be enough to clear things up.
One thing you shouldn’t do is overwhelm the evictee with reasons why they’re being asked to leave or carry the lease. This isn’t a time to unburden yourself of your complaints, this needs to be a polite, civil conversation. Explain that you’re just not feeling like the arrangement is working out, and ask the other party what they’d like to do. There’s a 50/50 shot they’ll have been feeling the same way – you don’t live with another person without developing at least a small sense of when something is wrong.
This isn’t an option for everyone, obviously, but if you can solve the situation with a conversation, all the better. And since you’ve already done the legwork on what kind of legal paperwork (if any) needs to be filed, you can begin the process immediately.
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5 – Offer to pay or help
You may have to offer a financial incentive to speed-up the moving-out process. You can pay their first-month rent and/or return their security deposit. It may cause you to struggle a bit in the financial department but if you are really desperate to start anew, it’s all worth it. If you were friends, to begin with, and are parting on a good note do something nice for them. Help them pack their things, load the moving truck or unpack boxes to their new place. They may have been a bad roommate, but not necessarily a bad person. You’re probably just incompatible as roomies but can still be great buddies so try your best to stay friends and get through this rough patch together.
6 – If you need to evict, give official notice
You might be looking for the catharsis of throwing your roommate’s stuff out into a hallway, or changing the locks while they’re gone…but not so fast.
In most places, an evictee has to have a reasonable amount of time to vacate, typically around 30 days. Notice will need to be written and delivered promptly. The required notice will often be written for you when you file the eviction, and if you’ve come to this point, it’s probably best to leave it at that. Once the move-out date has passed, if your roommate hasn’t moved out, they’re what’s known as a hold-over tenant. Depending on local laws, you may be able to file criminal trespass complaints at that point, and any belongings they’ve left on the property may be subject to reclamation to pay back rent and damage.
It’s important to keep yourself safe during this process. If you’re in a situation where you think you might be in danger, see if you can spend the remaining time staying with friends or family. A legal restraining order might be the way to go if you’re truly in fear of reprisal. If you feel you are in danger, do not return to the residence you can help it. Your stuff is not worth your personal safety. If you have to go, bring a friend or two, don’t risk going unaccompanied. If the separation is the result of a domestic abuse situation, consult local laws, as you may be entitled to police protection.
Ditching a roommate can be a complicated process, and if you intend on staying put at the residence, it could even fail at points. That’s not to say it will. Getting rid of a pesky flatmate is tough, but by no means impossible. And when it’s all said and done, think about adopting a new process for choosing your next roommate. Here are some great questions to make sure you’re asking the tough questions upfront. While you’ll doubtless be more choosy, it’s more likely you’ll find the roommate you’re more compatible with.
Pre-screening your potential roommates the right way
Often we rush to find a roommate or quickly get caught up in conversation that we forget to ask all the questions we thought of in advance even skip steps in our verification process. A checklist is a great thing to have during an interview so you can stay focused and get all the answers you need.
- Asking the tough questions – a list of 50 questions that are important to ask your potential roomies to get more insight into their personality, schedule, experience, property, and understanding the roommate agreement.
- Do’s and Don’ts – 7 tips to help you avoid getting scammed or having a bad experience.
- Pre-screening & verification steps to ensure your safety – social media verification just isn’t enough to share a home with a stranger. Take advantage of the resources that you have to verify your roommates identity, background, and employment.
Be prepared the next time you’re looking for a roommate. This checklist will help make sure you ask the right questions and complete all necessary safety steps.
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