Unemployed Roommate? What to Do When Your Roomie Can’t Pay Rent

It’s a problem no one wishes to face: a roommate suddenly unable to pay rent due to a job loss, health matter, or another unfortunate, unforeseen circumstance.

But it happens, so it’s best to understand what your options are and how to react. It’s even better, of course, to avoid the problem altogether. Here, we look at both scenarios: what to do when your roomie can’t pay rent and how to avoid the situation altogether.

The Situation: Your Roommate Can’t Pay Rent

Rent payment issues with roommates can result in all sorts of unwanted consequences. Before mentally heading down the worst-case scenario, the first step towards resolution involves talking to your roommate about potential solutions.

First, speak openly and calmly about their situation and potential solutions they may access — emergency savings or loans. They are likely just as worried and could benefit from the support of a non-judgmental friend.

If circumstances dictate it, follow up the conversation with your roommate with a similarly open and calm conversation with your landlord. If the landlord has been in business for any appreciable length of time, this won’t be the first time a tenant has approached them with this issue.

Ask your landlord if there’s any way to reduce the rent temporarily. You can suggest an extended stay in exchange for such consideration if that sort of solution works for you. In some cases, a private landlord might be more sympathetic to your situation. Regardless, cooler heads often prevail in such situations — so whether you’re dealing with a large company or private landlord, focus on practical solutions.

If the situation turns sour, unpaid rent can lead to small claims court if you need to seek rent compensation from the roommate. Such a possibility exists because you may need to cover ALL of the rent to avoid eviction or a hastily-arranged move depending on your lease terms.

For example, if your name is the only one on the lease, whatever verbal terms you and your roommates have come to likely won’t hold up in court. The rent burden in that scenario remains on your shoulders.

If you’re unable to come to a resolution with your roommate, you could face eviction and a big blow to your credit rating. Since an eviction can remain on your credit report for up to seven years, it may even impact where you live in the future.

How to Prevent Unpaid Rent from Occurring

While unexpected circumstances certainly can arise, it’s best to know from the getgo what happens in case of unpaid rent. The best way to prepare for unpaid rent is by creating a roommate agreement that covers who pays how much in rent and contingencies should one of the roommates be unable to pay their share. Doing this allows all roommates to answer the question, “What if my roommate stops paying rent?”

In addition to rent, a roommate agreement can also cover:

  • How utility costs will be determined and divided
  • Who gets which bedroom, and how common areas are to be used and shared
  • How — or even if — food sharing is addressed
  • Frequency of guests to the unit
  • How to resolve disputes
  • What happens if one of the roommates must move out

There’s another proactive measure you can take: ensuring you have emergency funds available if a rent issue between you and your roommate arises. An emergency fund is a good idea for several reasons (emergency car repair bills, we’re looking at you), but covering rent is right at the top.

If trouble hits before you can compile your emergency funds, consider these suggestions that can help you bounce back.

The Right Situation for YOU

When a roommate can’t make rent, it affects everyone on the lease. Unpaid balances can lead to fees, dings on your credit score, or even evictions — even if you’re not the one who can’t pay.

Avoid this situation entirely by choosing an apartment property that offers individual leases or living alone. Find your ideal living situation with ApartmentSearch!