Broken Leases, Broken Dreams

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Dear Apartment Guru,

My roommate and I are on a lease until April 2011. He got a new position and wants me to sign a letter of intent to vacate so that he may move 80 miles away. He will pay the fee to do this. My problem is that I cannot live by myself and I want to know what legal rights I have. I do not make enough to stay in the apartment. I feel I am being bullied into signing this paper. I live in the state of Nevada.

Can I ask for compensation in this matter, I would like his part of the five months of the rent and utilities before I agree to anything. I am unemployed and a full-time student and can not afford this right now.

Thank You,

-- Hung Out to Dry

Dear Hung Out,

I hear ya, sister. Here you are, thinking everything is fine. You have a roommate you can tolerate who makes going to school full-time possible. And now this.

"If both are signed on the lease," advises David Olshan of Nevada Legal Services, "both are separately liable. So the jilted roommate can sue the vacating roommate [for costs left by the vacating roommate]."

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So the good news is that if your roommate doesn't pay to break the lease, or if you refuse to allow him to break it, you can sue him. However, this isn't necessarily the neighborly thing to do.

Take a minute and ask yourself, Hung Out, if it's really fair to ask your roommate to continue to live in your apartment when he has found employment elsewhere. I understand that you don't want to be the victim, but I don't think your roommate should have to be one, either.

The first thing you might want to do is look into finding a subletter. Later, you can inquire with your landlord about transferring the lease to his or her name. If your roommate is at all reasonable, this is something he will be happy to consider and even to help you organize.

However, if there is some reason that he will not agree to go this route, I encourage you to sign the letter of intent to vacate. I know it won't be easy, but it will save you an extreme amount of hassle in the long run. Litigation is never easy, no matter the outcome.

I promise you that you will find a new place to live -- perhaps you should look into a subletting arrangement for which you will not need to make a deposit or down payment.

Knowing that your roommate wants to do right by you and your landlord should give you some peace of mind that he will make all the arrangements and payments necessary to terminate your lease. That should be of some comfort. And if all ends amicably, you will still have a friend to visit 80 miles away if you need a weekend vacation.

The Aparment Guru, Joselin Linder, is the co-writer of "The Good Girls Guide to Living in Sin," "Have Sex Like You Just Met," "Game-Based Marketing" and the author of "The Purity Test." She has been grateful these last months for your readership and questions.

You can continue to read her articles and guides and RentedSpaces.com and HousingWatch.com.

For more advice on renting and roommates see:

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