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A reader e-mailed me the following question regarding a roommate moving out in the middle of the month vice at the end.  The e-mail reads as follows:

Hi mike, it's R. Well last email I told you had my first tenant. 
What do I  do if he has a change of plan. We have a month to month 
agreement. He is a flight instructor and we get along very well. 
One of the other instructors is inviting him to move in and share 
costs at his apartment. He payed for the month. I feel bad but I don't 
feel like I should have to refund half the month. And he is not arguing. 
What is the right thing to do I am trying to run a business. Any way this
week the other room will be occupied as I have two. So second tenant and 
hope he stays the time he said he would   Any comments. I really like 
and respect this first tenant that is leaving because he will be 
getting Internet and hanging with a fellow instructor he said nothing 
to do with me or my accommodations. What should I do. What is fair?.

It depends on the agreement you have with your roommate.  The agreement I have between my roommates and I is a month-to-month rental.  If he or she moves out mid-month, the rent for that month is prorated on the number of days they’ll be living in my spare room.

That said, that’s not always been the case.  There have been a few situations where a roommate has moved out mid-month and was willing to pay the full rent amount.  I didn’t ask for the full month’s rent, they simply wanted to pay.  In these situations, I don’t put up resistance to free money.  I’ll simply take it as an inconvenience for the transaction cost to find a new roommate.

The last time this happened was about a year ago.  This was one of those situations where I was away on travel when he moved out.  Via e-mail, he notified me that he’ll be moving out in the middle of the month, but will pay the entire month’s rent.  So, needless to say, I wasn’t complaining about accepting a full month’s rent rather than prorating it.

I think the rationale most roommates realize that it’s an inconvenience to find roommates and understand paying an extra few bucks is cheaper than breaking a long term lease.

  • Judy October 1, 2012, 11:41 pm

    Here’s how I handle this situation–because I count on a full month’s rent every month as part of my income – if a renter wants to move out mid-month I tell them that they will be required to pay that full last month’s rent. However, if I find a new renter to move in before the end of that month, I will pro-rate the new renter’s rent and refund a corresponding pro-rated portion of the previous tenant’s rent. I think this is fair and keeps me from losing vital income. (In some cases, this might also provide a little incentive for the renter moving out to help find a new renter if they can!)
    On the other hand, if I could afford it and/or they were a very good renter, I’d be happy to pro-rate their last month’s rent whether or not I found a new renter.

  • kathryn February 28, 2013, 8:56 pm

    Treat it like a business.
    I agree with Judy, except for her last sentence. If they were a good tenant, they wouldn’t expect you to pay for their decision to vacate.

    “On the other hand, if I could afford it and/or they were a very good renter, I’d be happy to pro-rate their last month’s rent whether or not I found a new renter”


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