People want to leave apartments for all sorts of reasons. This doesn't mean their roommates want to leave as well, however. If a joint tenant moves out, several scenarios may play out, depending on the circumstances surrounding the exit of the tenant and how the lease is constructed.
Remaining Tenant Stays and Pays
Most leases issued are written so that all people named on the lease are responsible for the rent. This means that if a joint tenant moves out, the landlord still may pursue the tenant who left to get him to pay. More often, the landlord pursues the remaining tenant. The rationale is simple: The remaining tenant is easily accessible. If the landlord can't collect from the tenant who moves out and the remaining tenant can't pay the rent in full, the landlord may evict the remaining tenant because lack of payment is a violation of the lease.
In some cases, a joint tenant has no intention of remaining legally responsible for the rental amount, or of putting the remaining tenant in the position of having to pay everything. For instance, he may need to move simply because he got a great job offer out of state. Sometimes a landlord or property manager will let tenants find someone to sublease in these circumstances. This basically means the subleaser takes the place of the tenant who moves out. To do this, most landlords require the subleaser to apply just as any other tenant would and pass basic credit and background check requirements. If tenants use a subleaser, the remaining tenant pays his portion of the rent as usual, and the subleaser begins paying the portion the former tenant would have provided. The tenant who moves out still may have to pay if the new subleaser doesn't fulfill his obligations, but because most subleasers pay, typically, subletting absolves the old tenant of responsibility for the rent.
Remaining Tenant Pays Half of Rent
In some very rare cases, a landlord may draw up a lease in such a way that each tenant is responsible only for his percentage of the rent. For instance, if there were two tenants, each tenant would be responsible for only 50 percent of the total rent. The idea with these stipulations is that one responsible tenant shouldn't necessarily suffer for the irresponsibility of his roommate. This is the best-case scenario, as it allows the remaining tenant to get the entire rental unit at only a fraction of the unit's worth. Some landlords who allow these types of leases include a clause that indicates the remaining tenant should make a good-faith effort to find a roommate for the remainder of the lease term.
Both Tenants Move Out
If one tenant moves out, some landlords and property managers let the remaining tenant out of the lease. The landlords and property managers don't do this just to be kind — they understand that evicting tenants and trying to collect past-due rent is costly, and that is often better financially to find a new, good tenant who will pay rent in full every month. Like allowing the remaining tenant to pay only a percentage of rent, this is a rare situation, and landlords and property managers evaluate every rental on a case-by-case basis to determine the legitimacy of your need for lease release.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.