Five Precautions Renters Should Take When Throwing Out a Roommate

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So your ex-roommate is a slob. They never pay the rent, they throw wild parties, they eat all your food, and they abuse your cat. You have decided it's time for them to leave. Unfortunately, roommates can't evict each other unless one of them owns the building. Short of a restraining order, there's no legal recourse you have to make sure that your psycho ex-roommate stays away. But there are steps that you can take to limit their ability to return without sending up some serious red flags.

1. Make sure all of their stuff is out of your apartment.

This may seem obvious, but you'd be amazed at the number of renters who trust that their distraught soon-to-be-former roommate is going to be thorough in removing all of their belongings in a hurried departure. Don't give them any reason to come back. Take special care to make sure that little, important things are removed, such as medications, food and media.

2. Change the locks.

Don't worry about getting their keys back. There's no way to trust that they're going to give you all of their copies. These days anyone with a smartphone can make a copy of a key just by taking a photo and sending it into online services like Just change the locks and get copies of the new keys to your landlord and remaining roommates.

3. Get their name off of all pertinent documents and contracts (along with their cosigners).

I can recall one poor renter who forgot to tell his landlord about his pending, tumultuous divorce case. Sure enough, his ex-wife called to say she was locked out and the landlord, none the wiser, let her in. She trashed all of his belongings, shattering his TV, breaking his dishes and ripping up his clothes.

Get them taken off the lease. Your landlord may put up a fuss if you don't have someone to replace them, but the more important thing is making sure they can't call the management office claiming to be locked out. If one of their family is cosigning your lease, find a replacement for them and notify them of the change in circumstances.

If they were never on the lease to begin with it may raise some eyebrows with your landlord when you go and speak with them about the situation. After all, bringing in another tenant without your landlord's awareness is usually a violation of your lease. But if your ex-roommate is leaving or already gone, this is as good of a time as any to come clean. You might get a lecture about background checks and liability, but keeping the deadbeat roommate away is the most important thing here.

Remove them from any utility bills too – power, water, trash pickup, gas, media, phone, security system, Netflix. If you use their credit card to order pizza, make sure to change that too.

4. Take their name off of the buzzer and mailbox.

If the intercom rings to their phone, make sure it gets redirected to yours. While you're at it, make sure to file a change of address form with the post office if you know of their new address. You don't want them having to come back to pick up the mail. If you continue to see their mail arriving in your box, you can write “MOVED” on it and drop it into any nearby mailbox.

5. Tell the front desk and/or your neighbors.

If you live in a building with a front desk attendant, make sure they all know that your ex-roommate is not to be allowed access anymore. If you live in a smaller building, let your neighbors know that they're not to allow your former roommate into the building. If your building has a shared bulletin board or a gathering place on social media, it might be worthwhile to post something there.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

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Published by

Kay Cleaves