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How do I get rid of a roommate who isn't a good fit?

By Trulia | Published: Oct 14, 2009 | 7 Comments

Life deals us a lot of cards, most of which seem to be utterly random, a few of which are aces, and a few of which are total stinkers. Sometimes through strange circumstances (subletting, boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, deceptive appearances) you may find yourself living with a roommate who is not simply a bad fit as a friend, but is actively eroding the quality of your life.

Perhaps they've never cleaned a dish since moving in; perhaps they're not paying bills or rent on time, ever; perhaps they're throwing three death metal-themed parties a week and then leaving town so that you can pick up the fun-sized Heineken mini-kegs and plastic cups that now decorate the living room. Ultimately, you want them gone, and gone now. What to do?

Well, as it turns out, rousting a person from where they sleep at night and eat most of their meals is not necessarily an easy thing to accomplish. People cling hard to the space that they know, and nobody wants to start the hunt for a good apartment... again. So go through this simple series of questions as you ponder the live-in nightmare who has made home-sweet-home a layer of he'll.

Can this be negotiated and/or repaired?

Many problem roommates who seem irredeemably annoying can, in fact, be salvaged through a simple, frank discussion. Establish the problem in a non-confrontational way ("the kitchen is a wreck to the point where nobody can use it, and it stays that way"), raise the stakes ("I really can't live like this anymore") and strive toward compromise ("will you work with me to come up with a plan to ensure that it stays relatively clean from here on in?")

In extreme cases, you can even seek joint counseling -- counselors will talk to roommates, and in many cases external mediation can fix a seemingly unsolvable conflict... at least long enough to get through the length of the lease.

If your roommate from hell is amiable to working together on a plan, then things can be patched up and moved forward. Many people, when the pattern of their ways and the consequences of that pattern have been demonstrated, will in fact pull things together and follow the newly established rules. Just make sure that those rules are clear, enforced, and fair (if you break them, you have to pay the consequences, as well.)

Can this be handled legally?

Let's say negotiation has failed, or your roommate didn't even hear you out to begin with. What's their legal status? If they're an illegal sublet, or somebody's significant other, or someone otherwise not on the lease, good news! You can give them the "if you don't shape up, I'm having you evicted" speech. This will raise tensions, but it will also put a whole new spin on how important it is to respect your legal, lease-abiding roommates.

Alternately, you can simply go to the landlord and have them evicted.

Can you, personally, find another situation?

We often live with horrible people because:

a) We don't want to go through the hassle of looking for a new place and

b) We feel like we've "lost" the conflict if we move out simply because the roommates are terrible.

That said: If you can find another place to live with friends or more reliable roommates, give it serious thought. Waging a daily war against some jerk in your home is a major drain on your energy reserves, and, ultimately, the important thing is that you love where you live -- not that you cling to a particular house or apartment.

Ultimately, the worst thing you can do -- consciously or unconsciously -- is to wage a war of attrition against your roommate, assuming that your bad habits / loud music / constant nagging can eventually drive them into the street. First of all, that's unlikely to happen. Second of all, their retaliation will simply make a bad situation hellish. Don't burn the bridge until you're sure you'll never need it again -- and, even then, why not just walk away and leave it standing?


By Shawn Rosa,  Wed Dec 14 2011, 12:16
having a bad roomie is the worst nightmare possible!
By DJ in CA,  Thu Mar 29 2012, 21:49
For the first year new roomies are "occupants", not fellow tenants. We are in a unique situation in that we are very long-term month-to-month (total for the house is @14 years, month-to-month for the past 5 years or so).
IMHO month-to-month is a much better idea for tenants AND landlords (I also own a rental). Honestly, as a landlord, if you have a good tenant who suddenly has to move you should let them, If they lose their job and have to move good luck on collecting the rent anyhow, and if they are bad tenants you'd like to be able to get rid of more easily (not sure what part of "no pets, no smoking, no drugs, no subletting" wasn't clear, but my first tenant apparently used the rental agreement as a check-list --8 animals, grandkids dealing drugs out the bedroom window, illegal subtenant was a felon). I was able to give her a 30 day notice (important -- it was NOT for cause, which made it MUCH harder for her to fight, since I didn't have to PROVE she had broken the rental agreement -- it was just "buh-bye. I don't want to rent to you anymore")
By Land Trek Prop. Mgmt.,  Thu Jun 14 2012, 11:06
Your landlord cannot evict just one roommate. Everyone in the property would have to vacate the premises in order to go through a legal eviction. The landlord can strongly suggest they leave, but even if the roommate is not on the rental agreement/lease, the landlord CANNOT EVICT JUST ONE OR SOME OF THE TENANTS. ALL MUST GO. I'm a landlord of hundreds of rentals.
By AHAVERST,  Mon Jan 7 2013, 18:08
if anyone legititmate who knows anything about Florida law can help out here with a situation please email me at AHAVERST@yahoo.com .

Heres the situation I am facing. One roommate who has lived here a month as a subleasee, hasn't paid her second month's rent, is refusing to pay bills and hasn't provided a $300.00 refundable security deposit. No roommate agreement has been signed and so we are trying to evict her. She is making us sick by smoking inside the house and again still hasnt paid bills. She also has a felony background she didn't disclose until after she moved in. We have firearms in the home which we have registered but given she is on probation still she is not allowed to be around firearms (which she doesnt know about yet) and alcohol which she keeps stealing from us.

Any help on how we can get her out exceptionally quickly and legally, I would welcome your input directly to my email. We gave her an option and 48 hrs to come up with an option either pay past due bills and move out or pay the remaining rent and bills and move out the end of the month. She called the cops and they are now saying its a civil suit and we have to file paperwork with the court to evict her.

Again any suggestions please directly email me.
By Mark Saunders,  Thu Feb 5 2015, 10:28
tough issue
By Smith.cs262,  Wed May 13 2015, 16:29
i have a druggie roomier i need out! police wont help HELP OC CAL
By Cameron Robertson,  Thu May 14 2015, 20:54
It is actually not that simple and from my personal past experience, I would rather just move out than having to sort things out with the problematic roommate which might turn out ugly. My problem with him was over a storage cabinet that we initially agreed to share equally. However, over a period of just a few months after I moved in, his things were already occupying 75% of the entire cabinet so I had to stuff my things in a bag under my bed. It became more of an inconvenience for me but I just shrugged the whole thing off my mind and moved on.

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