Living with a roommate has its share of pros and cons. You find someone to share your expenses with. And you get company, without which you might end up feeling lonely, especially in a city as daunting as New York! If we consider the cons, you might have a tough time getting along with your roommate because they’re either out of money or delay payments on purpose. You let it slide for a bit, but after a while it becomes a habit, and you decide your roommate needs to go. Choosing is the easy part. How you’re going to go through with the process is where you’ll need to spend considerable time and effort. Don’t stress! We have put together six steps that, when followed, will help you sail through your roommate’s eviction process in one piece!
1. Communicate openly in person
Communication is at the core of every relationship, including the one you have with your roommate. So, if, for some reason, you find it challenging to live with them, be open and honest about telling them that. What’s equally critical is addressing the issue at the right time rather than waiting for it to spiral out of control.
At the end of the day, you need to figure out a permanent solution to the problem, which involves talking. Find a day and time every week that works for both of you and talk. The more you communicate, the more you’ll realize that you feel comfortable and fearless about bringing up a topic for discussion without any hesitation.
Finally, everybody deserves respect and you get what you give! So, while you may want to be assertive about the fact that the living situation isn’t working for you, do it with respect.
2. See if you can evict them
Many times, conversations lead to positive outcomes, while at others, they do just the opposite. So, when you’ve tried talking to your roommate, and all your attempts have gone south, it’s time to try something else.
You’ll have to find out if you can evict them and remember that it involves a lot of moving parts. According to the Metropolitan Council on Housing in New York, which works for tenant rights, you can’t ask your roommate to leave if they’ve lived in the rental for more than 30 days or paid rent.
Your lease agreement, rather the name(s) that appear(s) on it, will determine who has the right to evict who. If your roommate’s name is on the lease, you’re the one who has to leave. If both your names are on the lease, the situation’s tricky because no one has the upper hand. In such cases, you’ll have to ask your landlord to intervene.
And what happens if the lease contains only your name? You have your name on the lease, but you don’t have a written agreement with your roommate that says that they’ll be living with you for a specific period. In that case, there’s no question of evicting them. Technically, they’re month-to-month tenants. So, all you have to do is let them know in writing that they need to leave and give them 30 days to do it. If they still refuse to budge, the next step is formal eviction called a ‘roommate holdover proceeding’ in New York.
In a situation where none of your names are on the lease, you can still evict your roommate, provided you hold the ‘Master Tenant’ status, which means you’re responsible for rent payments every month. Evicting a roommate will also work if your lease agreement with them has ended and you haven’t accepted any more rent from them.
Finally, there’s something else you need to know about the grounds on which you wish to evict your roommate. According to New York laws, it’s called just cause, which means that you can evict your roommate if they haven’t complied with the lease terms, like not paying rent or indulging in criminal activities. Partying late into the night and leaving shared areas in a mess are hardly reasons to evict someone!
3. Give roommate notice
As shared earlier, if your lease agreement with your roommate is over and you haven’t collected any rent from them, no other notice is required. Filing eviction papers and getting a court date are the next steps.
If that’s not the case, you need to end their tenancy with a termination notice, following which you can initiate the eviction process formally. The termination notice lets your roommate know that they’ve got 30 days to move out before you file the papers in the housing court. It also mentions the last day of the tenancy. As someone directly involved in the case, you can’t deliver the notice to your roommate even though you live in the same house! You need to get hold of a process server, trained to hand over legal documents, or an adult who’s not a part of the case, to deliver it.
Complying with the laws every step of the way is crucial unless you want your case to be dismissed in court.
4. Offer them financial help
Your roommate may find another room for rent in New York. However, paying for rent at a new place involves money, which your roommate may be struggling with. It sounds like a good idea to offer some financial help to cover the rent for, let’s say, the first month. You could also offer to give back their security deposit early to ensure that they have the financial means to move into another rental as quickly as possible. After all, that is the purpose of this entire exercise, isn’t it?
5. Don’t replace the locks (right away)
Asking someone to move out or leave doesn’t go down well with them, and that’s the natural reaction. Angry people can also be potentially dangerous and do unexpected things.
You could try pacifying them by letting them know that they can spend time alone and talk when they feel up to it. If that works, great. But if the issue gets out of hand and you feel worried about your own safety, contact a lawyer and seek their advice for your protection. You might be able to get a Restraining Order against them if the situation demands it, and they’ll have no other choice but to leave. Replacing the locks could be the next step.
Finally, remember that locking out your roommate is going to backfire, and you could face heat from the police. New York laws state that you can’t evict anyone who’s lived with you for more than 30 days, let alone locking them out and going a step further by replacing the locks!
6. Take roommate to court
When all other remedies have failed, the only thing left to do is take your roommate to court. Once the 30-day notice period comes to an end, you’ll need a notice of petition and a petition to complete filing your papers in court. The notice of petition lets your roommate know that a case has been filed in the housing court to determine the petition’s outcome. It also shares details of the date and the time your roommate needs to be present in court for the hearing. On the other hand, a petition includes details of everything you must prove in housing court. Both the documents need to be delivered to your roommate. Also, the clerk’s office requires you to return the notice of petition and the affidavit of service three days after the papers have been handed over to your roommate.
We don’t live in a perfect world, do we? So our relationships with our roommates may not be perfect either. But that doesn’t necessarily imply that if we don’t get along, they need to leave. If talking can help sort things out, why do we even need to think about evicting them? At the same time, we need to brace ourselves for an outcome that we didn’t expect and decide for ourselves, what’s more important to us: peace of mind or constant stress? We believe you know the answer!