Help! My Roommate Moved Out and I Can't Keep Up with My Mortgage Payments!

A lot of people get a roommate to help cover the mortgage in their first (or fourth!) home. A little rental income lets you afford a bigger place, and having a roommate can be a lot of fun. But what happens when your roommate finds better digs?

Hopefully your roommate gave you a bit of notice before they moved out.

But what if they didn’t? Or what if they did and you just haven’t been able to find a new roommate yet? How can you get through that stressful time without defaulting on your mortgage?

Take these steps first to keep up with your mortgage payments.

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Do you have an emergency fund?

Hopefully you were putting some of the rent check into a savings account every month. If you did, you might have to rely on that money until you can find a new roommate.

Watching that account balance drop is going to be rough, but it’s not nearly as bad as having to default on a mortgage payment.

But that isn't very helpful if you didn't have an emergency fund, is it? (Lesson learned: you need an emergency fund.)

Find a new roommate, like, now

Ask friends, post on Craigslist, and talk to the housing office at the nearby college. You’re in a time crunch, but it’s still important to do your background and credit checks before you let someone move in.

Not having a roommate is better than having a roommate who can’t pay the rent and who you now have to evict. As tempting as it is to rush into something new without seeing if you'll be compatible, try to hold off until you find "the one."

Get creative

You don’t need a full-time roommate to get a rent payment. You can just rent it out for a weekend or a couple days.

Think about a big event you can use to market. Live near a big state school during football season? Those traveling fans are going to need a place to stay.

Does your town host any big music festivals? Even without a big event, you can always try to rent out your place for a weekend using something like Airbnb.

And if none of those work, here are some other ways to keep up with your mortgage payments.

Consider how much equity you have in your home

Do you have enough to take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or loan?

These are sometimes called second mortgages. If you've been paying your mortgage for a while, you may have built up enough equity to borrow a little back.

How about refinancing?

If anything has changed since you moved in—interest rates dropped, your credit score or employment history increased, your home value rose—you may be able to refinance your loan and have a lower payment every month.

But what about last resorts, when you just can't make that mortgage payment on time? What are you supposed to do then?

Talk to your lender

The truth is your lender doesn’t want you to default on your loan. After all, they do want to get paid. So most are willing to work with you if you really need help.

In this situation, they might be willing to give you a forbearance on your payments until you can find a new roommate. You might also take this opportunity to talk about refinancing options.

If that will keep you from defaulting on your loan, they may be open to it.

Take legal action against your former roommate

Remember, you’re a landlord, even if your roommate was a friend.

If your roommate signed a lease agreement with you and is now breaking it, you can take legal action. (Please tell us you had your roommate sign a rental agreement.)

Since hiring lawyers and filing paperwork is going to cost you money, too, this might not be the best first step.

But if the money you’ll get out of it is more than the money you’ll spend, it might be worth it. Just remember, if your roommate was your friend before she moved out, it’s a pretty safe bet she won’t be after this.

What can you learn?

Next time, you'll be more prepared.

  • Ask any future roommates to sign a binding lease, if you didn't this time.
  • Consider buying a house you can afford without a roommate. It may be smaller, or it may not have the large yard you wanted, but you'll save yourself a lot of trouble and stress.
  • Always have an emergency fund. Ideally, you'll have a few months of expenses paid. And homeowners never know when they might need emergency funds to pay a plumber, an electrician, a roofer, or anyone else to make a necessary repair.