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“I’d really appreciate any advice as to who’s legally liable for the partial rent here.”

Photo by Jordan Barab

“Dear PoPville,

Like the person who wrote in the other day with a rental/lease question, I’m writing in hoping to get some advice on a tricky lease situation. I rent a lovely 3-bedroom rowhouse in DC with 2 roommates. We’re all three on the lease together (“jointly and severally liable”), and we pay the landlord one single combined payment each month. The lease is now month-to-month, having rolled over from a year-long lease originally.

One of my roommates gave exactly 30 days’ notice to move out, and I’ve been diligently searching for a new roommate to start July 1 … and so far coming up short.

I’ve done roommate searches like this before, so I know how it works, but I’ve never had this problem before. Of course, this time around I need to find someone who not only seems like a friendly/clean person generally, but also is taking social distancing seriously (this is non-negotiable for me, as I’d be living with the person, so their germs are my germs).

In a scenario where I can’t find someone in time to start July 1, I’d love some advice on what to do – basically, whose problem this is, to cover a third of the rent for that month. The departing roommate? On the one hand, she created this problem (by leaving and not giving much notice); on the other, she technically met her responsibility by giving a month’s notice (barely). The landlord? I don’t think he’d take kindly to getting less than the full rent; and while our lease is month-to-month, it’s not like we’re ending it entirely, as the other two of us will still be living here. Me, as the remaining roommate? I feel like I’m doing my due diligence by seriously looking for new roommates; it’s not my fault I’m not finding any good options. I’d really appreciate any advice as to who’s legally liable for the partial rent here. Thanks in advance! (I did also leave a message with the Office of the Tenant Advocate, & hoping to hear back.)”

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