What is a landlord to do when the husband has moved out and now the wife wants off the lease? Each week veteran landlord and property manager Hank Rossi answers questions from other landlords and property managers around the country about their rentals. Here is this week’s question:

Dear Landlord Hank

“I have a two-story duplex and my renter wants out of the lease early,  which is not up until March. I declined her request.  Her husband, who is on the lease, has moved out and taken a job in another state. Now she asked me to remove her husband from the lease. And she wants me to add another roommate to the lease. Her lease is up in March. I do not think I want to add anyone else. What should I do?” Debbie

Dear Landlady Debbie,

This is not meant to be legal advice. You could handle this in a couple of different ways.

The scenario sounds like your tenants have run into financial difficulty and the husband is chasing work. If your property is easy to lease, you may want to let her buy out of lease, if you can find a replacement tenant, as long as she knows she is responsible for term of lease, until new tenant is found.

If you received last months rent and deposit up front, that would normally cover buy out once replacement tenant is found. (Get all this in writing!!!!)

You can also look at her initial application and check her financial status-would you have rented to her alone as a single applicant?  Is she strong enough financially, to cover rent alone?

Looking to add a roommate to the lease?

If she is looking for a roommate, it sounds like she is going to have difficulty paying rent by herself. If you don’t allow her to get a roommate, she may default on lease and then you’d have to evict-usually a lengthy process.

Also, if you allow her to have a new roommate, I’d keep husband on initial lease, screen new prospect as usual, and add new tenant to same lease, requiring deposit, etc.

This is a sticky situation, but a new roommate, that you approve, could allow this tenant to remain in your unit in good standing. I’d talk to new tenant and make sure this person knows the lease terminates at the end of March and you’d expect that person to vacate at that time. You would not want new person to think they could get a roommate if needed to continue tenancy. Adding a new roommate is very, very difficult. If the two don’t get along as well as anticipated, then things can get ugly, and you may have to evict both.

Personally, I’d go for the buy out of original tenant and start over with some new folks. Good luck.

See a related post: How flexible should you be with lease terms?

About the author Landlord Hank:

Dear Landlord Hank: My renter's husband has moved out and now she wants off the lease. What do I do?

Landlord Hank working on one of his rental properties.

“I started in real estate as a child watching my father take care of our family rentals- maintenance, tenant relations, etc , in small town Ohio. As I grew, I was occasionally Dad’s assistant. In the mid-90s I decided to get into the rental business on my own, as a sideline. In 2001, I retired from my profession and only managed my own investments, for the next 10 years. Six years ago, my sister, working as a rental agent/property manager in Sarasota, Florida convinced me to try the Florida lifestyle. I gave it a try and never looked back. A few years ago we started our own real estate brokerage. We focus on property management and leasing. I continue to manage my real estate portfolio here in Florida and Atlanta. “ Visit Hank’s website here.