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Roommates and Security Deposits

Roommates and Security Deposits

Something that comes up pretty regularly, especially in college communities, is how you’re supposed to deal with a security deposit when there are non-married roommates listed on the same lease. It’s important to deal with this correctly, otherwise you could end up with legal problems.

Our standard leases (and any decent standard lease form) will state that all tenants are “jointly and severally responsible.” What this means in layman’s terms is that money that is paid or money that is owed is for all tenants named on the lease, not divided up into equal parts. So if you receive a security deposit for $1,000 from two roommates, it is not $500 from each. It is $1,000 total from both of them. This is an important distinction.

When one roommate moves out, he frequently wants “his half” of the security deposit back. Sorry, but there is no such thing. There is only one security deposit, and it is not due for disposition until all tenants named on the lease terminate the lease. So if one roommate leaves earlier, then the deposit is not owed to him, in whole or in part. He just has to wait until the termination of the lease.

Alternatively, the roommates could come up with an agreement to deal with the security deposit differently. For example, they may agree that half of the deposit is to be returned to the departing tenant, and the remaining tenant has to replace it. The landlord is under no obligation to do this, however. He may consider it easier than dealing with a fight over the deposit, though.

The best practice is to make sure that you explain all of this up front to the tenants so that there aren’t any surprises. They usually don’t understand the legal jargon in the lease, or worse, they don’t read it at all, so explaining it to them is the smart move to avoid future problems.

If you’d like to just avoid these issues and allow a group of professionals to deal with it for you, give us a call or submit a request for more information on our website. We would love to assist you with your rental property.