Landlord Tenant Q&A: LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR

LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR
Young Hawaii Homes, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. My boyfriend and I just had a big fight and he moved out. I think he went back to his mom’s house. Do I need to get him off the lease (we still have 3 months remaining) or should I leave him on it?

A. I hope you’re both okay. I know it’s a stressful time but once things settle down, you and your boyfriend need to decide what you’re going to do. You both entered into the lease and are both jointly and severally liable to the terms of the lease. That means that the landlord can come after one or both of you to collect rent or to enforce the terms of the lease.

Leaving your ex-boyfriend on the lease means that he is still liable to pay the rent if you’re unable to pay it.

That can be good for you and the landlord but bad for him. But he is still on the lease and can legally come in whenever he wants to. Think about it. Do you really want your ex-boyfriend to be able to access your unit at any time even though he hasn’t been paying any rent and you’re no longer together? You can’t even change the locks on him. I’m assuming he will want to be removed from the lease and that you will agree, and that you will share in any fees and penalties.

The landlord should be notified that your boyfriend has left and should be removed from the lease. The landlord may want to reevaluate your application or have you fill out a new application to make sure that you’re qualified to pay the rent on your own. If you don’t qualify on your own, the landlord may require that you get a qualified co-signer or guarantor or that you move out. You would then have to find a new place that you can afford on your own or maybe find another roommate.

If you do qualify on your own, congratulations! You should remove your ex-boyfriend from the lease and get on with your life. For mid-term leases, we draft lease addendums that must be signed by all parties (in this case both you and your ex-boyfriend) that state who is being removed from the lease and who is remaining. It also states that the security deposit will remain with the unit and be settled between the parties; in other words, the remaining tenants will pay the departing tenants their portion of the security deposit. If there are early termination fees, credit check fees, damages, costs for changing the locks, etc., it could state who is paying for what.

Most landlords won’t return a partial security deposit if just one of the tenants moves out, so you would have to settle that with your ex-boyfriend. Make sure to check for any damages he may have caused that you don’t want to be responsible for later. Assuming he didn’t cause any damage to the unit, you would give him a check or cash for his portion of the deposit and, when you vacate the unit, the entire deposit would be yours. If there was damage to the unit caused by your fight or anything he did, you would have to get that repaired, deduct that from his portion of the deposit and return the balance to him. But, that would have to be handled between the two of you, assuming you have the signed addendum mentioned above. If you don’t repair the damage now nor charge your ex-boyfriend for the damage, the landlord will probably charge you when you move out.

The landlord-tenant code states that security deposits must be returned, less any deductions, within 14 calendar days after termination of the rental agreement. However, when only some of the tenants vacate, there’s no such requirement. But, be reasonable in returning the deposit to your ex-boyfriend and try to do it within those 14 days, unless you have to do repairs. Keep records or cash receipts to prove you returned the deposit to him so that he can’t sue you later claiming that you didn’t pay him.

Landlords: It is surprising how many times the tenants that remain on the lease at the end have no resemblance whatsoever to those you started with. Make sure that your lease addendums clearly state who all the tenants are (who is departing and who is staying); and that the security deposit will remain with the unit, will only be paid when the last tenant vacates at the termination of the rental agreement, and will be made payable only to those tenants remaining on the latest addendum.

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