It's hard enough to deal with the emotional impact of a broken relationship. Unfortunately, you may also find yourself in a financial crisis at the same time. You've been splitting the rent on that sweet little two bedroom for years--but now you suddenly find yourself paying for two. And your landlord doesn't care a bit about your current relationship status when it comes to your lease.
"A divorce is not grounds for breaking a lease. Neither is two people breaking up." says New York real estate agent Shawn Zade. "They are financially responsible until the end of the lease to pay the rent."
Even if you both signed the lease, that doesn't mean you're only responsible for your half.
"Both parties are always responsible for the full rental payment," says Zade. "The landlord will go after any of the two people to get the money owed. Therefore, if he can only locate the wife, then he will sue her for the full rent."
So what are your options if you can't afford to pay and stay, but find yourself handcuffed to a lease? Well, some landlords may allow you to sublet the place until your lease expires--though you'll probably need special permission first. (Often the subletter will have to go through the same application process you did to get the place.) Others may allow you to break the lease, if you're able to find an acceptable replacement tenant. (I've done this often--usually because of a sudden job opportunity that required me to move right away.)
If you prefer to remain in the apartment or just don't have anywhere else to go, you might see if it's okay to bring in a roommate (with the landlord's permission) or ask for a fifteen day extension to come up with the rent--if your current situation came on suddenly and you don't have the cash.
"If you know you're in trouble, talk to the landlord ASAP," suggests Nancy Fagan, owner of The Divorce Help Clinic. "Before your meeting, you need to be prepared with a list of possible options to discuss with your landlord. Having a plan will show that you are committed to paying rent and sometimes that’s enough to make the landlord more willing to work with you until your situation improves."
And through it all, Fagan adds, take care of your emotional needs as well as your financial ones.
"By nature, women are nesters and work hard to make their house a home," says Fagan. "When divorce happens, the process of dismantling personal effects, carefully gathered and arranged through time can be heart wrenching. Packing stirs up feelings of loss surrounding the dreams of a life together that have ended. Packing under these conditions requires thoughtful and deliberate steps."