MIA Roommate

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Dear Hoopers,
I have had the same great apartment for a while. I have always had fantastic roommates in the past, some of whom have become good friends that I am still in contact with. Although I usually got my past roommates through friends or friend of friends, this year I used craigslist for a roomie. The first guy that applied was friendly and outgoing, and had a great job. He seemed like a good fit and so I invited him to sign a year lease. Almost immediately he started disappearing for weeks at a time. He always shows up around the end of the month and pays his rent on time. He stays in contact with me through texts and always says he’s doing fine. Lately his texts have gotten less and less frequent and he missed paying rent last month. I think he may have stopped by the apartment a few times last week but I didn’t see him. He just seems to be acting weird and he’ll be behind 2 months rent next week. I’m worried for him but I’m also worried for my apartment.
-MIA Roommate

Dear MIA Roommate,
You have a great place but it sounds a little too big for you to have all to yourself. While most roomies have become friends, your craigslist’s roomie isn’t working out as well as you hoped. At first he seemed pretty nice and outgoing, but since then things have turned sketchy. It doesn’t sound to be a pretty picture and things could get worse from here.

Did you have a chance to do a background search prior to having him sign a lease? If his past rental history was solid, then perhaps this is more of a temporary departure for him. If you are unsure of his history, it’s possible that this may not be the first time he has been MIA. Obviously you can’t go back and change anything with this roommate, but relying on background checks with future roomies might protect you. Since you mentioned that you had him sign a lease, I’m not sure if it was a sublease with you or the lease with your landlord, but depending on your state this could have very different implications. I would quickly begin looking into local laws regarding this situation to see what legal actions you have available to you.


While I want to give your roommate the benefit of the doubt about his general disappearance and recent sketchiness, I have sirens going off in my head.

-Dr. Ryan

I would clearly communicate to your roommate the problems with his missing payment from last month. He can come and go as he pleases but paying his share of the rent is not negotiable. I would let him know that you will have to begin taking legal action if he doesn’t do his part.

While I want to give your roommate the benefit of the doubt about his general disappearance and recent sketchiness, I have sirens going off in my head. You may want to consider some protections. First, I would start with documentation. Document what he’s been doing lately and photograph/video all valuables you have in the apartment. In the event that things go missing, you have a way to provide documentation of what you owned. Depending on how paranoid you want to become, you may even consider other protections like placing a lock on your bedroom door. Whatever steps you take, be sure to inform your landlord about everything that is going on and what steps you’re taking.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear MIA Roomate,
Missing rent? Missing in action? It sounds like you have a classic responsibility avoider on your hands.  I would get convo started with your roommate as soon as possible. Whatever you think will be most effective in communicating, whether it be calling, texting, or face to face, it’s important that you ask direct questions and as soon as possible.

If you’ve floated the rent for two months and been okay covering until now then it’s your call on if you want to ask for the back rent. If you care to be empathetic about the situation you could ask if your roommate is dealing with some financial problems and establish what that means in terms of rent moving forward. If you still have trouble reaching him, or getting your rent, I’d consider eviction. This varies state by state, so I would consult your tenant’s handbook and lease liability clause.


It’s important that you ask direct questions and as soon as possible.

-Kate

Do you have a formal rent document from this roommate? Moving forward whether it’s living with friends or finding someone on craigslist, make sure that you have a written roommate agreement in place before they move in. It’s a good idea to have a written agreement for expectations and financial liability. Although you hope you never have to use it, you may need a formal document if your roommate fails to pay rent and  you need to pursue legal action.
-Kate

Missing Roommate quote