Here at Splitwise, we are focused on simplicity, ease-of-use, and trust. If you owe your roommates money, you can use our service to keep track of that. If you want to figure out how much they should owe you, we offer fairness calculators and blog content. If you want to settle a dispute using us as your mediator, you can email Dear Splitwise.
But sometimes, things get a little more complicated then friends settling debts. For instance: your roommate broke the lease and the landlord is coming after you for the money. Or say the landlord won’t do anything about the broken toilet which is rapidly making your apartment unusable. In times like these, what you need is legal advice, not fairness advice.
Personally, our favorite provider of free and paid legal resources for roommate situations is Nolo (and no, they are not paying us or buying us cookies for this heartfelt endorsement). For instance, are you looking for a model roommate agreement to make sure you have some legal standing if your Craigslist roommate bails on you? They’ve got one free of charge. (In my experience, people rarely actually use these things, but if you’re living with strangers, you probably should at least think about it).
If your landlord is a huge tool, you may want a state-by-state guide to tenant’s rights. What if you have to break a lease with the fewest possible negative consequences (hey – sometimes, you have to)? How do you fight a rent increase, or get emergency repairs paid for? Every Tenant’s Legal Guide has some very clear and well documented tips on these questions, and many more. Seriously, I’ve read this pay-to-download book from cover-to-cover, and it was actually kind of fun.
Free legal websites aside, sometimes you just need to hire a real lawyer (which I am not) if things get really out-of-hand. But for many common situations, you might be able to outsmart your landlord or your roommate and win the day by knowing your rights. Most important take-aways I learned (with free blog-post links):
- If one of your roommates breaks the lease, the other roommates can end up liable for the unpaid money. So pick roommates carefully (and a roommate agreement might help you recover unpaid money from a deadbeat roommate).
- If you have a deadbeat landlord who refuses to make necessary repairs, you can sometimes legally deduct repairs from your rent with well-documented letters.
- When roommates leave or get added to an apartment, there are some potentially thorny issues that you should know about.
- Different states have different rules about how much notice must be given before a landlord comes into the apartment (in non-emergency situations).
- There are limits to the amount of security deposit that can be required in some states.