Roommate disputes are generally considered domestic matters (like arguments between family) and often there are not many clear cut legal solutions for resolving roommate conflicts. The first issue in understanding your rights with regards to a dispute with a roommate is to determine whether the roommate has established a landlord-tenant relationship. A landlord-tenant relationship can be established verbally or by one party simply paying rent for the right to occupy and use a specific space.
Under Texas law, once a landlord-tenant relationship is established, the tenant (or roommate) has specific protections. For example, only the landlord or his agent can evict a tenant.
If you are the landlord, and your troublesome roommate is your tenant, you will still have to proceed through the courts to evict the roommate. However, subletting to a roommate without the true landlord’s permission is illegal in Texas and any unapproved sub-lease is void. A roommate with an unapproved lease does not have a landlord-tenant relationship and you could possibly remove the person without a court eviction.
When the roommate is a lawful tenant the resolution of disputes is more difficult. One common dispute with roommates is the presence of unwanted visitors. Every lease in Texas comes with an implied warranty of peaceful use and enjoyment of the property. Excessive visitation of non-tenants could be considered a violation of this right. Whether your landlord has a responsibility depends on whether the roommate has an individual lease or if you and the roommates are a party to the same lease. If your roommate has a separate lease then the landlord may owe you a duty to warrant your use and enjoyment of the property. If all tenants are a party to the same lease the landlord has no duty to ensure the good behavior of the roommates. Another common issue is when a roommate fails to pay rent or their share of utilities.
If you are having a problem with a current or former roommate and would like legal advice or representation, contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or email Andrew@BernickLegal.com.