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How to Deal With an Unruly Roommate

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Agreeing to share a home with someone--possibly a total stranger--is always a gamble. Troubles and disagreements can easily arise, and the solution may not always be clear. Problems with roommates should always be addressed promptly, and you should always make sure you are aware of your rights as a tenant in cases of irresolvable differences. A great way to prevent legal troubles with your roommate is to establish a roommate contract to protect yourself and to be sure to ask your roommate all of the appropriate questions before establishing residency together.

Common Problems with Roommates:


Let's face it--not everyone has the same standards of neatness and organization. Some of us organize our sock drawer by color and fold our underwear, and others leave heaps of dirty laundry and stacks of dishes piled throughout the apartment. Dealing with a reasonable inconsistency in cleanliness habits should be expected--your roommate may not share your enthusiasm for bleaching the bathtub every other day. However, if you are finding yourself stepping over discarded pizza boxes and beer cans when you open your bedroom door in the morning, you may need to confront the issue.

Delinquent payments of rent and utilities

Obviously the most important aspect of being a good roommate, paying rent and other bills in their entirety and in a timely fashion is essential for a harmonious household. If your roommate is not paying their share of the rent, you are entitled to take legal action--regardless of whether or not they are on the lease.

Excessive noise

Loud music, parties, and blasting television sets while you are trying to work, study or sleep can be incredibly frustrating when you share a place with someone. Apartments don't exactly come equipped with soundproof walls--when you're cohabiting in such a close proximity, your noise habits are bound to irritate one another.

Unwanted visitors

Often when you room with someone that has a significant other, your roommate comes as a two-for-one deal. If your roommate's lover and friends are hanging out at your place every night, eating your goods and just getting on your nerves, you may grow resentful and frustrated.


Right up there with lack of rent payment, stealing is a huge and unforgivable sin committed by bad roommates. It may be as small as using your shampoo without asking, or as major as pilfering cash from your wallet. In any case, using or taking your possessions without permission is unacceptable roommate behavior.

Talk it Out

The best course of action in times of conflict is effective communication. If you and your roommate are having a disagreement, the easiest way to resolve it is to have a sit-down talk. Airing your grievances aloud will allow you both to express any frustrations you have and decide on a compromise.

This is certainly a reasonable tactic for smaller offenses, such as lack of contribution to chores or noisy late-night parties. However, if your roommate is stealing from you, you may not be inclined to have a heart-to-heart. In this case, you should be firm and assertive, and confront them implicitly. Be prepared for denial--and also, be sure that you have concrete evidence of the theft before making accusations.

In the case of unpaid rent, try to be sympathetic to any hardships your roommate is having, but don't let sob stories get the best of you. They are still obligated to pay their fair share, and you are entitled to be as generous or as unrelenting as you wish.

Avoid Passive-AggressiveBehavior

Ignoring the subject at hand and opting instead to complain loudly to your friends on the phone while your roommate is in earshot, leave rude notes, and exhibit standoffish and ornery behavior will not bring anything to a resolution. Your roommate will likely continue their offensive behaviors without any direct confrontation.

Go to Management

If your communication attempts fail, you may be able to bring the matter to your landlord. In regards to illegal activity or refusal to pay rent, your landlord may be able to help you handle the situation. Often, your landlord doesn't care where the rent comes from, as long as they get a check. Their ability to work with you on the removal of your roommate or breaking your lease so you can vacate the apartment will depend on the laws in your area, your type of lease and their overall willingness to aid you in resolution of the matter.

Have Your Roommate Evicted

Having your roommate evicted from the apartment may not be a simple task. Your rights and abilities will vary depending on the type of lease you share. If you're the primary tenant on the lease and your roommate is simply an occupant, the rent is legally considered your sole legal responsibility each month. This means your roommate has little or no right to live in your apartment, and you will be within your rights to throw them out.

However, it is more likely that you have a joint lease-- you're both responsible for paying rent. There are two types of liability on these leases-- joint and/or several liability. If you're jointly liable, that means either one of you is responsible for paying the full rent regardless of whether or not the other contributes. If you're severally liable, you're only responsible for your portion of the rent. If you're jointly and severally liable, you may still be responsible for your roommate's unpaid rent and you will have legal grounds to sue your roommate for the amount.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on June 24, 2013

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