How do you solve: The Case of the ROTTEN ROOM-MATE.?!?

By Peter Janowski.

Sometimes we have unique situations in our lives that we cant imagine a way out of. When you need to know your options, think of Glenlake Paralegal as your “solution provider for legal matters”.

Some solutions require 20-20 hindsight where the answer is as simple as “I should not have done that”. When you sell $20K of merchandise to a company and they don’t pay up – the solution is obvious, you sue them (or if you want to maintain the business arrangement, you me-di-ate.

Some solutions evade us completely and those are challenging and frustrating and make for a more interesting blog than “we came-we sued – we conquered”.

Here’s a scenario that many come across and few can solve. Let’s call it “The Case of the Rotten Roommate”.

The Landlord in this story is an ambivalent corporation. They have a lease signed by two people and expect that a) the rent will be paid on time and b) there will be no damage to the property. Big and impersonal, they have no interest in siding with one or the other of the signatories on the lease.

The roommates met through summer employment, where the requirements of the job put them in close working quarters. The shared rigors of labour and commonality of goals created camaraderie between them. It seemed natural that when the opportunity to throw in together for living arrangements presented itself, they would do so without much thought.

Two months into a 12-month lease and the deeper qualities of each roommate are beginning to emerge. One tenant is a young professional, and gainfully employed in a satisfying career, lets call him “the Good Roommate”. The other unemployed, narcissistic and irresponsible one, we shall call “the Bad Roommate”.

The Good Roommate now finds he is carrying the costs for the Bad Roommate and wants to sever the relationship, but because both individuals have signed the lease that is problematic.

The Good Roommate wants to stay in the luxury $1500.00-a-month apartment and is willing to exhaust the lease, but does not want to be responsible for all the debt that the Bad Roommate is acquiring.

Time is of the essence for the Good Roommate because the longer this goes on, the more indebted the Bad Roommate becomes.

The Bad Roommate is not paying any bills and is leveraging the good nature of the Good Roommate. There is no communication of value between the two because any attempt to reach an agreement (such as asking the Bad Roommate to leave) is taken as a personal attack and so the cycle continues.

The Residential Tenancy Act 2006 is applied to both tenants on the lease, however the Landlord and Tenant Tribunal will not intervene since, as the name implies, it only handles matters between the tenant and landlord, not between tenants

Initially the Good Roommate though about pursuing a remedy through the Small Claims Court System, but this avenue was avoided because of the practicality of sharing a domicile with someone that you are suing.

There are no mechanisms to remove a deadbeat roommate from your life. If the landlord were sympathetic there may be a way to break the lease with both only to hand it back to one.

If a neighbour were sympathetic and reported the smell of marijuana (did I mention the Bad Roommate is a druggie?) the landlord could have the Bad Roommate evicted for criminal activity in short order, but that means involving the police (and what with the way reports of interaction with the law are freely shared with potential employers and just about anyone who asks), that is a non-starter for the Good Roommate as well.

The Good Roommate could sublet the room if he can get approval from the landlord, but the Bad Roommate has the right to discriminate and could further hamper those efforts. Besides the Good Roommate has a conscience and dreads inflicting the same misfortune on an unsuspecting individual.

I wish I could wrap this one up and put a nice little bow on it for the Good Roommate. Like I said, “sometimes solutions are 20-20 in hindsight”.

I would be interested to know what you think. How would you solve the case of the Rotten Roommate? Please put your comments in the space below.

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