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Attorney Gearty was recently interviewed and gave his expert opinion on the topic of unmarried couples living together.  This interview was published in a Lancaster based newspaper and the full article is published below.  As you will see, there are various considerations to be made prior to entering into a lease with another person.  Married couples enjoy various privileges that may not exist for unmarried couples.  If you are considering entering into a lease with your partner who you are not married to, we would encourage you to contact Gearty Law Offices to discuss the pros and cons before entering into any such arrangement.  Furthermore, it is always suggested that you have an experienced attorney review your lease before signing such an important legal document.  As a general practice law firm, we have experience handling various legal issues throughout various areas of law.  Gearty Law Offices has experience drafting, reviewing, and litigating leases (both simple and complex).

Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era

A new lease on life?

A new lease on life?

February 28, 2013

BY KIMBERLY MARSELAS, Correspondent

A new baby was due, and so was the rent.

That didn’t keep Brian Hoffman’s tenant from cheating on his girlfriend, or that girlfriend from begging to be let out of a yearlong lease the couple had only recently signed.

Tears or no tears, landlords draw a hard line when it comes to cohabitants who want to split up while living together. During his 20 years in property management, Hoffman has issued one warning hundreds of times, whether he’s talking to in-love, but unmarried, tenants or best friends about to become roommates.

“Your relationship doesn’t matter to me, but your arrangements with regard to this lease will matter to me,” says Hoffman, whose Yeager Agency rents out dozens of units across northern Lancaster County. “If you move in and find out that she is an absolute bum or if she doesn’t respond to the lease, I’m going to hold you responsible.”

In the case of the expectant parents, Hoffman says the man used that fact to his advantage, telling his girlfriend he didn’t care if she disliked his cheating. She had to continue paying rent and utilities. They eventually both moved, Hoffman says, but not before forfeiting a security deposit and paying thousands in termination fees.

If breaking up is hard to do, try moving out when your name is still on a rental agreement. Paying off the remainder of a lease or early-exit fees — in addition to rent on a new place — can be financially devastating. Sticking it out and enduring months of anxiety isn’t a pleasant alternative.

Rent.com recently surveyed 1,000 U.S. renters to find out what life is like for those who break up while living together. The site found that 38 percent of renters have ended a personal relationship while living together, and 61 percent of those people kept living together for a month or more.

Not everyone is willing to make that kind of sacrifice. Sometimes a breakup means one party skips out, leaving the remaining tenant holding a mounting stack of bills.

David Boyd, property manager for Crossroads Property Management’s more than 500 homes in Lancaster, Harrisburg and York, has dealt with many a renter whose special someone wasn’t as special as he or she seemed. If the one left behind can’t muster the monthly rental and utility fees, they may be forced out as well. Boyd says in some cases, like that of a single mom, he might try to give a tenant a few extra days to work out payment.

“You never like telling someone, ‘You’re not paying your bills. You have to leave’,” Boyd says. “You want to help them, but you’re also responsible to the property owner.”

Lancaster attorney Justin C. Gearty Jr. says landlords can make a claim with the local magistrate, seeking to evict the person still in the unit, terminate the other person’s right to access the unit and win a monetary judgment against both tenants.

If one tenant moves out, Boyd says the other should always notify the property manager. In some cases, the landlord may want to run a new credit check to see if the person qualifies to rent the home based on one income. The lease can be amended to remove one name if both parties agree. In that case, only the roommate left behind will be responsible for the remainder of the lease term.

Rent.com’s survey found that 25 percent of renters who remained roommates after a breakup did so “because they didn’t see why they should be the one to have to leave.” If both partners want to keep the space, it may be time to consult a professional.

“They could retain a lawyer or mediator to help them reach some sort of agreement,” says Gearty, adding that any new arrangement will be at the sole discretion of the landlord.

Psychologist Michelle Callahan, a relationship expert who teamed up with Rent.com on the breakup survey, lists a number of ways to determine who gets to keep the rental unit. Someone who works from home or cares for children there might have more incentive to stay. If the apartment is particularly close to one person’s job, that person might feel entitled to remain.

Of course, the person who wants out of the relationship may just want out of the home, too. Having an exit plan is something both renters should weigh before ever signing a lease, Gearty says.

When a contract’s involved, breaking up gets complicated and may be stalled.