What Are My Rights As a Roommate?

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When renters take on roommates or house guests, the question of legal rights often arises. The key question in determining the rights of any roommate is whether or not the person is on the lease. Each state has its own laws governing renters and tenants, and a roommate's legal rights are protected by these laws if he is listed on the lease. If not, the roommate's rights are subordinate to those of the renter.

Tenant Rights

A renter's rights are largely determined by the landlord-tenant laws of the state in which she lives. There are two possibilities when you live with a roommate; either both of you are included in the terms of the lease, or only one of you is. If both of you are included in the lease, both of you have the legal rights and responsibilities of a tenant.

For example, tenants have the right to stop the landlord from unlawful entry and possess the right to a habitable environment, according to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation. If only one roommate is listed on the lease, that roommate is responsible for all lease conditions and has all the legal rights of a tenant.

Contractual Rights

Other than complying with the terms of the lease, you and your roommate have no duty to act in any specific way towards each other. You do, however, have the right to enter into a contractual agreement with your roommate and include any terms you choose. For example, you and your roommate can decide who has to take out the trash, buy the food and pay the bills. If you are considering taking on a roommate, you have the right to require the person to agree to the terms of any such contractual agreement before she can move in.

Eviction Rights

An eviction is a legal proceeding through which a landlord removes a tenant from a rental property. If both roommates are listed on the lease, neither can evict the other, but the landlord can evict either or both if the lease is violated. Similarly, if only one roommate is listed on the lease, the landlord can evict the lease holder. Consequently, any roommate living with the lease holder is also evicted.

In eviction situations, the key factors are the terms of the lease and whether or not those terms have been broken. It does not matter who breaks the terms of the lease. If either roommate fails to pay rent, for example, both can be evicted.


About the Author

Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.

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  • loft apartment image by Christopher Martin from Fotolia.com