My roommate and I both signed our lease, which states that tenants must pay utilities in full. However, since we moved into the apartment in June, she has not lived there. Instead, she lives at her boyfriend's house. Earlier this month, she told me she wants to move out, and has not paid for her half of this month's utilities. Our lease is yearly, so there are 6 months remaining that she is obligated to pay for unless she finds a sub-leaser. Do I have a case in small claims court, and would I be able to get the money from her if we cannot settle the matter outside of court? Is there anything I need to be saving now in order to prove my case?I have been saving emails, bank statements, bills, and I have the copy of our lease.I should add that I am not hoping to collect only one month's worth of utility payments, but am anticipating having to pay for 6 months worth of utilities if she continues to not pay and does not find a sub-leaser. I am a college student and am hoping that I will not have to foot the bill all winter by myself, and if going to court over it is even worth the hassle.
You may have a contract claim against your roommate. A small claims judge may "split the baby" by giving you some of what you want but not everything on the grounds that the roommate is not there to use the utilities and because you are now the only user of the utilities the roommate would end up paying less. Your roommate seems to have been irresponsible with you; I wonder if getting a judgment against him/her is worth the time and effort it might take to collect from her.
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A lease is a contract between a landlord and his tenants. So, even though the lease states that the tenants shall pay, that only creates a contract between the landlord and tenants - it does not create a contract between the tenants themselves. However, there is probably some kind of quasi or implied contract between the tenants that each will be responsible for half of the utilities. As the other answer indicates, you will most likely not be able to recover all 6 months, but may be able to recover the month that she lived there, even if it was only a partial month.
If you want to sue in small claims court, the limit is $10,000. The cost of the utility bills is probably way under that, but the thing to keep in mind is that you will be spending money for the lawsuit (which may only be the filing fee), plus the time preparing for the trial. Is it worth it? Of course that answer may depend on how much the roommate owes you.
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