Question: My roommate and I don't get along, and she's moving out before our lease ends. I need to pay only my share, right?
- Ron B.
Answer: Wrong. No matter who is left in the rental, the rent has to be paid in full, for the amount stated in the lease, each month. Even if each roommate wrote a separate rent check, the lease is for a total amount.
Why? Known as "jointly and severally liable," all lease terms are "all for one and one for all," including paying the full rent. Everyone is responsible.
Other suggestions to keep in mind when a roommate departs:
n Notify the landlord. This is always a good idea, because he or she may let you out of the lease or have suggestions on finding another roommate.
If you can afford the place on your own and want it yourself, let the landlord know. Don't be surprised if the landlord runs a credit check anew or demands meeting any new tenants.
n Head off deposit woes. Because deposits are usually joint and several, they remain with the unit until it is vacated. As a result, the departing roommate may ask the one staying to "cash them out." Once again, ask the landlord for guidance. Deductions for cleaning, damage or unpaid rent may apply and ultimately be taken from the deposit at move-out, possibly leaving the remaining dwellers with less than anticipated.
n Know that some landlords won't get involved. Some roommate situations are handled "in house" between residents and the new cashing out the old, less deductions from the previous tenant. Landlords or managers may prefer not to get involved in roommates disputes, unless the property or person is at risk.
n Check utilities. In whose name are the lights, cable or phone bill? If the departing roommate is planning to shut off any or all utilities, be prepared to put them in your name.
n Ask for written notice. Be sure to have the departure date and details in writing from the roommate before he or she leaves. Get an exact date through which the rent will be paid.
n If the parting is hostile, consider changing the locks. Be sure to ask the landlord first, as laws vary by locality, and provide a key promptly for the owner or manager
Question: Bob, I love it when you expose the (sometimes) corruption in the appraisal industry. As a Realtor, I try to get top dollar for the sellers who list their homes with me, but after I get a good offer that the seller accepts, then I have to battle with lender's appraiser to justify the sales price.
Recently, I took your advice to another reader to request a reappraisal when the first appraisal came in very low. My buyers only had a 10 percent down payment, so we needed an appraisal to justify a 90 percent mortgage. They made the mistake of going to (sorry, I took out the name) their bank which obviously didn't want to make the loan so the appraiser low-balled about $12,000 below the sales price.
When I phoned the loan officer, I got the run-around. But when I mentioned the buyers were immigrants / and you (I hope that didn't matter?) were helping, I hoped the bank didn't discriminate, all of a sudden the loan officer's attitude changed completely. He sent out another appraiser whose reappraisal came out exactly at the sales price. I wonder why?
Thanks to you, I remain a satisfied anonymous Realtor.
Answer: Thanks anonymous,. The appraisal is the weakest link in the mortgage loan process because it depends on subjective judgment, often by an inexperience appraiser. In the last five years, the real estate (especially in the Cape) market has gone nuts, therefore many, many more appraisers have been added. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by insisting upon a reappraisal.
Complaining about possible illegal discrimination against minorities also helped - in this case.
Have a real estate question? Write, call, fax or e-mail:
Bob Jeffries, Realtor,
Century 21 Birchwood Realty, Inc.
4040 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral, FL