In any relationship, sometimes things can go sour. With a roommate or significant other, this can mean not only dealing with emotional consequences but also the financial issues involved in splitting things up. Often, this includes determining who will stay in the apartment, and who will move out.
The Residential Tenancies Act in Ontario does not address what responsibilities residents have to each other. If you signed a roommate agreement, you may have recourse against your roommate if they fail to honour those obligations, but your landlord isn’t bound by that agreement. The landlord’s main concern, whether you and your roommate get along or not, is that rent is paid.
Names on the Lease
Legally, anyone named on the lease is responsible for the obligations of the lease, including paying rent. To legally sever a roommate relationship, the person who will be staying in the apartment has to assume the lease, and the person leaving has to be taken off. This can be done with the approval of both parties and your landlord. Your landlord does not have to agree to your roommate being removed from the lease; you may have to find a new roommate, secure a guarantor, or sign a new lease
You can’t take someone off a lease without their permission. You also should never leave your name on a lease when you are leaving, “because it’s easier.” Even if you move out, if your name is still on the lease and your former roommate fails to pay rent, causes damage, or breaks the lease, you can be held responsible as well.
Get it in Writing
Negotiate the terms of leaving with your roommate, and get it in writing. For example, if your roommate paid half the last month’s rent when you moved in, and is now being removed from the lease, you might write them a cheque for that amount. They can then sign that they are not eligible to receive any of that money later.
Other things, such as who gets which furniture, vacancy date, cleaning, and any other responsibilities should also be agreed in advance and in writing.
Under the law, every occupant of a rental apartment has the right to reasonable notice, in order to find new accommodation. You usually can’t just change the locks and tell someone they don’t live there anymore. Unfortunately, what is “reasonable” depends on each situation. Since roommate situations aren’t covered under Ontario tenancy regulations, you’ll have to work out reasonable notice between you.
If a roommate won’t leave, you might have to. The same rules apply – you’ll need to get your name taken off the lease with the landlord’s approval, and try to reach an agreement about what money is owed and which items belong to you. Unfortunately in some cases you may forfeit your rights to money or belongings if you are desperate to leave.
If you feel your roommate is threatening your safety or has committed a criminal offence, call the police. In these cases, you may not have to provide notice to quit, and the violator may be barred from the premises. You’ll also have a record of the situation should you need to prove in court your right to evict.
We recommend seeking legal advice if you and your roommate are unable to come to a reasonable agreement about vacating the apartment, or if you feel your rights have been violated.