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Know Your Rights » During Your Tenancy » Roommates & Neighbors

Roommates & Neighbors FAQ

My neighbor plays loud music and violates quiet hours. How can I get them to stop?

It is up to you to decide what problem-solving strategies make the most sense in your situation. You could try communicating directly with your neighbors about your concerns, or making complaints in writing to the landlord regarding the problem. It is up to the landlord to enforce the rules of tenancy in the building or complex. If your landlord isn’t responsive, you can document the situation in writing and send the landlord a letter addressing your concerns. You can also try pursuing Dispute Resolution with your neighbors directly in an attempt to resolve the problem. See Negotiation Process for examples of options you can use to try and resolve problems with your neighbors.

My neighbor smokes inside their unit, and the smoke is coming into my apartment. What can I do?

You can try many of the negotiating tools described in Negotiation Process above to help you solve the problem of second-hand smoke. You can refer to your written rental agreement to see what the smoking policy is, though keep in mind your rental agreement may not be exactly the same as your neighbors. You may also try the process described in “Repairs’:/rights/section/repairs. If you are a person with a disability, and the smoke is significantly impacting your health and wellbeing, you may try to contact a civil rights agency for more information about fair housing and reasonable accommodation. You can contact the American Lung Association of Washington and Puget Sound Clean Air for more information. See also Fair Housing & Disability Laws for a list of fair housing agencies in your area.

How can I get the landlord to remove my name from the lease or rental agreement after I vacate a shared housing situation?

It is best practice to send all your communications with your landlord in writing, sending your letters and documentation by certified mail with a return receipt requested. You can notify the landlord that you are vacating the property and request that your name be removed from the rental agreement. If the landlord does not do so, you can document your removal from the household in writing, and ask that all former roommates sign it to show that you have vacated the house. Send a copy to your landlord, certified mail return receipt. Even if you do this, you will likely still be considered a party to the lease. This means that you could still be liable for non-paid rent or be the party to an eviction suit if one is filed.

Can I be held responsible if my roommate violates a term of the lease, or doesn’t pay their portion of the rent? Can I be evicted if my roommate doesn’t pay the rent?

Unless each resident has a separate lease, any notice that the landlord sends regarding rule violations or nonpayment of rent applies to everyone on the rental agreement, and not the individual tenant at fault. If one tenant is late or delinquent on their rent, everyone on the rental agreement can be evicted. In a situation where one roommate does not pay their rent, the other tenants in the unit may choose to cover the cost of the delinquent tenant’s rent in order to avoid facing eviction. They may send a letter to the landlord documenting that one tenant did not pay their portion, and then they may try to recover rent from the roommate who did not pay, or in small claims court if necessary.

How should deposits be handled when there are different roommates moving in and out of a house where all the tenants are on the same rental agreement?

There are several possible options for how deposit money is dealt with in shared living arrangements. Look to the rental agreement first to see how deposits are dealt with, and get as many specific details as you can in writing from the landlord on how roommate changes should happen. Deposit costs may be divided among each tenant moving into a unit, or may be paid individually. If it is not set out in your rental agreement, be sure to get thorough documentation of the amount each tenant pays, and what the landlord requires when one tenant vacates and another moves in. The landlord may have the new person moving in pass their deposit money to the tenant moving out. Tenants who vacate while the rental agreement is still in effect may have the benefit of not having damages or cleaning charges immediately deducted from their deposit, but they may legally still be held responsible for deposit deductions even after move-out.

Can I kick a roommate out of the house?

Roommates can ask one particular member of the household to leave, but a landlord is the only one who can initiate eviction procedures or terminate tenancy. However, in the case of roommates who are under the same rental agreement, any action the landlord takes to terminate or enforce the rules of tenancy will apply to all tenants on the rental agreement, not just individual tenants.

I live in a house with roommates, and we’re all on the rental agreement. When one person decides to vacate, do they still have to give 20 days’ notice?

It is always a good idea for tenants to give written notice before they vacate a unit. In the case of multiple tenants on the same contract, document as much as possible in writing to the landlord. If the tenant is vacating, especially if they are breaking the lease, it is best to do so with the landlord’s knowledge and cooperation. Look to the lease to see what rules, if any, apply to this situation. Month-to-month tenants are required to give 20 days’ notice before the date that rent is due. Be sure and get documentation that your name has been removed from the lease once you vacate.

Do we need the landlord’s permission to add someone new onto the lease?

Yes. It is a good idea to always get the landlord’s permission in writing before any changes happen in the household. Some landlords may be flexible with tenants selecting and moving a new roommate into the household, but the landlord does have the right to screen and approve any new residents. Generally speaking, everyone who signs an agreement initially also has to sign any changes that the landlord wants to later make to that agreement.