Will My Deadbeat Roommate Trash My Credit?

A terrible roommate can make your life unhappy in a lot of ways. But let’s say you have a financially irresponsible roommate who never pays their bills. Do their bad habits affect you … other than constantly having to chase down the rent?

Credit.com lays down the facts. Credit bureaus track you every financial move based on what you do–not on what other members of your household do. Married couples’ credit info is comingled only if they have any joint credit accounts.

Your roomie’s slackerdom isn’t supposed to affect you. Unless you co-signed something or applied for credit together, comingled credit information is an error, and if you find it, you should request that it be removed.

Or you’ve moved in with an identity thief…which is a whole other set of problems.

Can Your Roommate Ruin Your Credit? [Credit.com]

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  1. jrs45 says:

    The trouble is, many, if not mos leases are cosigned. (I’m surprised this was left out from the summary.)

    In that case, your deadbeat roommate certainly can affect your credit.

  2. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Outside of leases (which there is no getting around), I think most people are smart enough to not cosign anything with a roommate. I think it gets a lot trickier when living with a significant other — Things get cosigned, joint checking accounts are setup for paying bills, etc. When relationships go south, vindictive behavior is much more common than two roommates parting ways.

    I know a few people who have had their credit and ChexSystems reports trashed because of it.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      My sister’s credit got trashed when the ex thought it would be way awesome to let their home (his due to the divorce settlement, but he never refi’d, in contempt of the decree) go into foreclosure.

      He is a monstrous d-bag.

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        That sound like the kind of thing she could easily fight, though.

  3. bhr says:

    I had a friend who had to go to court to get an ex roommate to repay missed rent after she (the friend) moved out. The roommate got “revenge” by renewing the lease (leaving my friend on the hook, initially, for an extra year) and changing the name on things like the cable and electric (all she needed was mail in my friends name at the address). Messed her credit up for a while till she got it all sorted out.

    • Difdi says:

      Should have pursued criminal charges too, that’s credit fraud.

      Screwing with credit as revenge is trumped by going to jail for that revenge.

  4. Liam Kinkaid says:

    “Credit bureaus track you every financial move based on what you do‚Äînot on what other members of your household do.”

    Credit bureaus are supposed to base things on what you do. Whether they do or not is another story. My credit history got “co-mingled” with someone else with the same name, living in Florida. Of course, he has stellar credit, so I’m not complaining about those records on my credit history.

    And, while this doesn’t/shouldn’t affect my score, I have a previous address on my record that I’ve never lived at. However, an ex roommate (with whom I never shared any accounts – I only lived at the same address) lived at the address with someone with the same first name as me.

    So, in a perfect world, your roomie’s credit/actions won’t affect yours. In the real world, credit bureaus are extremely quick to err and glacially slow to correct.

    • RandomHookup says:

      That is an issue. Whenever I do background checks for new hires, I receive a massive list of possible other identities — mom, dad, spouse, roommates… It’s not perfect system, that’s for sure.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    “Will My Deadbeat Roommate Trash My Credit?”

    Your roomie’s slackerdom isn’t supposed to affect you. Unless you co-signed something or applied for credit together.

    That was easy.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      Easier said than done. Credit Bureaus are well known for mixups in trying to match people to credit info, especially when some info, like the same address, is the same.

      BTW, I’ve had roommates twice, and in both cases we did not co-sign anything. Maybe we were supposed to, but I knew it was better to avoid that.

    • Selunesmom says:

      Or their deadbeat ways caused you to be behind on the bills in your name – because you paid all of the rent (since most landlords won’t let you pay just your share) and couldn’t pay the utilities.

      (Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and the credit problems to go with it.)

  6. RandomHookup says:

    Two points:

    1) Most leases require tenants to be jointly and severally liable — if the roomie books, you can be held responsible

    2) If you are the name on certain utilities, you are on the hook if your roomie stiffs you on his/her share.

    And…a roomie who wants to mess up your life by stealing your identity or placing accounts in your name can do so pretty easily. You could also find your credit cards missing or compromised or a keylogger on your computer. You are vulnerable if someone wants to cause you problems.

    • thomwithanh says:

      My landlord actually had seperate, independent leases with each housemate.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        That’s more unusual I think – it’s in the landlord’s best interest to have a joint lease; that way he/she can go after any tenant separately or all of them at his/her discretion.

        • sponica says:

          that’s if the rental is above board to begin with…my first apartment had no lease. it was awesome. as long as I paid my share of the rent, the landlord was happy with me. he was awesome and would let me pre-pay for months at a time when I got my student loan checks…

          now my roommate spent those same checks on booze and often hid from the landlord. thankfully the only utility in his name was cable, which he paid when he got the disconnection notice

          • RandomHookup says:

            There’s no requirement for a lease in most cases (as far as I have seen). You are considered month-to-month or tenancy at will. It’s possible that it wasn’t above board as well, but lack of a lease doesn’t mean anything.

      • RandomHookup says:

        Interesting and might not be legal in some areas. I can’t do it where I have rental property or that would be considered a “boarding house” and I’m not zoned for that. Also makes it difficult to deal with joint responsibility for common areas.

      • JJFIII says:

        I would guess that is a college town situation? Most landlords want joint and severely responsible. That means they can go after you, OR the roommate or both of you.
        My old landlord reported to the credit bureaus, which actually was a good thing, since we were never late on rent

  7. backinpgh says:

    Roommates can always mess up your credit by not paying their share of bills that are in your name. If you can’t afford to pay the difference for them, you end up in trouble.

  8. suez says:

    God, I ran into one of these over a decade ago (that experience was part of what made me finally buy my own place). My boyfriend and I had split up and he moved out, so I was stuck with scrambling to find a new roommate when my lease renewed. Pickings were slim and I ended up with this woman co-signing. I won’t even get into how she never fully unpacked (boxes everywhere) and her foul-smelling couch she slept on in lew of a real bed (no sheets, and it wouldn’t fit through her bedroom door so she slept on it in the dining room for months before I finally put my foot down). She bounched her rent check twice, and I didn’t learn about it either time until I got notices in the mail that the management would begin eviction procedures in a week if it wasn’t paid up. Both time she made excuses and I was forced to make up the difference (on credit cards) until she finally paid me back. When the lease was finally about to expire, I told her that she needed to leave, and she refused, saying she had just as much a right to stay because she was a co-signer. Rather than fight with such an obnoxious person, I found another place and moved out. A month AFTER that lease had expired and I’d moved out, I got a letter from the rental management stating that I was responsible for the fact that this woman had STILL NOT MOVED OUT. She was basically squatting there. I drove to their office and explained, in detail, exactly WHY I was NOT responsible for HER, that she’d been nothing but a nightmare, and that she was THEIR problem now, not mine. I never did hear any more about it, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d ended up in court fighthing it. I swore no more roommates after that.

    • RandomHookup says:

      If your name was on the lease, you have a responsibility to notify the landlord in writing that you are not planning on renewing the lease. Otherwise, you are still on the hook, though the landlord could probably try to come after you after you have left since it’s usually a joint obligation.

      • suez says:

        That’s what I initially did–I wrote them a letter letting them know that I had indeed moved out, as per my agreement of the lease. I did it because it was pretty obvious that she wasn’t going to be out of there by the cut-off date. When they called me a month later to complain about her is when I reminded them that I’d done all I was required to do (checked out, handed in key, etc.) and that she was not my responsibility anymore. They left it at that. I always wonder how they finally got her out. She was the sort of roommate nightmare we’ve all heard about.

  9. SkokieGuy says:

    If a roommate takes out cable or utilities in their name and doesn’t pay the bill, you might have problems getting new service in your name.

    If your roommate does mail orders (Amazon, Ebay, UPS, Fed-Ex) and has “issues” (files too many claims for goods ‘not received’, stiffs merchants, chargebacks, etc.), your address could end up on a blacklist where you won’t be able to get deliveries.

    • BBBB says:

      Yes, addresses can get flagged by companies and it can be difficult to deal with – guilty by association until proven innocent.

      Similarly, a friend moved into an apartment and was informed by PG&E that service would not be turned on until the previous tenant’s bills were paid.

      The friend was not experienced at dealing with this type of problem, so I helped. A couple of phone calls and a visit to the PG&E payment center (owned by PG&E, not a drop box) cleared it up. We had to show a new lease that did not have any of the deadbeats listed as tenants and a note from the landlord stating that the deadbeats were no longer tenants. [This policy was implemented to prevent households from putting a new name on the account to get service turned back on after it was disconnected for non-payment.]

  10. shepd says:

    Do what I did. One of you pays the entire rent (obviously, yourself since the roomie is deadbeat). You get signatures and slips each month for their half of the rent. If the roomie is deadbeat, you explain it to the landlord and request that your lease be put into your name only at the end of (insert period until you could sever the lease legally). Tough it out until then, and sue the roomie in small claims if he won’t work out a payment plan. Not that you’ll get much from him, but the judgement can be renewed until he someday has a job and you can have the gov’t garnish his salary for you.

    The payer of the rent is also payer of utilities (if they are not included in rent). Slips and receipts and pay half like before. Only one name on any account apart from the apartment, where it is necessary. Why spread the trouble?

    If you cannot afford it on your own, time to put ads out there for another roommate or two. Again, discuss it with the landlord first, explain your financial hardship, see if the landlord would rather fix the lease situation now rather than waiting or having to evict you for having others living there.

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Joint-liability leases. If one of you pay the rent and one of you doesn’t, you are both equally liable.

    This is how a roommate ruins your credit.

  12. AllanG54 says:

    Landlords don’t report rent payments to credit bureaus so unless there’s a judgment for past due rent it doesn’t matter if a lease is co-signed or not and the payments are always late. And utilities don’t report either so there’s really no big deal in having a deadbeat roommate other than excess aggravation.

    • humphrmi says:

      Landlords don’t usually report payments, but some – especially the larger building management companies – do report, and it can hurt your credit if you are dinged for a room mate that didn’t pay their part of the rent.

    • JJFIII says:

      really? I will let my landlord know that he does not report to the credit bureau. I guess Trans Union made it all up when I pulled my credit report this year.

  13. NorthAlabama says:

    This story is accurate, but not entirely true. To explain, even though credit reporting agencies might not ding your credit rating due to a roommates unpaid bills, there are data collection companies (such as Acxiom for example) that track people based on address information. They freely sell this info to anyone willing to pay for it, and sometimes people use the service to verify credit or protect against fraud.

    Anyone who uses this service for fraud prevention or to verify credit worthiness just might stumble upon poor payments at your address, that were not because of your failure to pay. They should be able to figure out who defaulted on the payment, but sometimes they don’t dig deep enought.

    Ever get a collection call on your phone meant for someone else, simply based on the fact they used to live at your home address? That’s how they get the info.