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A few weeks ago, one of my roommates chose to disclose to the other roommate (someone I don't trust, and tell no personal information to) that I am a carrier of Herpes (HSV-2), to which she freaked out.

I was called into a "roommate meeting" which was mostly to steamroll me with a rehearsed lecture on the dangers of Herpes (something I've had for 9 years, and only get my information on directly from doctors and doctor approved websites), and threaten to sue me twice for not disclosing I had it before we signed on the lease together, because we share food. Clearly seeing she has little to no basic understand of how common and non-life affecting Herpes is (besides the obvious stigma) I tried to explain that's not how it works, and her level of anger escalated, so I left.

Since then, I just haven't spoken to her, choosing to let her cool off on her own time, but instead she has taken to harassing me, moving my things into my room whenever I'm not home, using things then piling them in front of my bedroom door, etc. Came home a couple of nights ago to everything of mine she doesn't use outside of my room piled up against the door barricading me out. She had slipped a packet on HSV-2 under the door (which I am certain she didn't read, because I think it would have made her feel a lot better about it, and realize she, too, carries at least one strain). It is beyond clear by now that she is trying to push me to feeling so uncomfortable at home that I'll move out, and I'm feeling so at a loss of what to do about it.

Is there anything I can even legally do against a roommate who is super clearly discriminating against me for having HSV-2? Several friends have suggested a restraining order, and I AM starting to look for somewhere else, but in the mean time, I don't know how I'll get out of my lease, or feel safe at home.

  • What jurisdiction are you located in? – sharur Aug 1 '17 at 0:31
  • And what would you like to do, legally? – Dale M Aug 1 '17 at 3:14
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This is a very difficult situation.

Discrimination is not the right frame within which to view this as your roommate doesn't have authority over you the way that an employer or landlord would.

The basic legal issue would be whether your roommate is constructively evicting you from you residence without valid justification for doing so. And, the answer might very well be yes.

But, even if that is the case, since the roommate is not an agent of the landlord, your roommate's actions probably don't relieve you from your duties under the lease.

So, your relief might be to vacate the premises and then to sue the roommate for the rent you have to pay without receiving anything in return. This is expensive relative to the likely returns, and there is no certainty that you would win or that you would get your attorneys' fees if you prevailed. This would also be a slow solution taking several months at a minimum.

Or, in the alternative, you could leave and cease paying the rent, forcing the roommates who remain to pay it if they don't want to be evicted as they are probably jointly and severally liable for the rent. (If they sued you for your share of the rent, constructive eviction by one of them would probably be a good defense.) The landlord could sue all of the roommates if they don't pay, causing them to be evicted and you to be on the hook for any rent or other amounts that they owe, including the landlord's attorneys' fees (and hurting your credit). You could probably cross-claim for indemnification of any amounts you were required to pay in that lawsuit against your roommate. But, this too would be an expensive, complex and slow solution if the remaining roommates don't decide to simply keep paying the rent.

It would be very hard for you to evict your problem roommate for breaching the lease by denying you your equal rights to the premises, since you are not the landlord, although it isn't impossible that a court would allow this relief and it would be relatively quick. It would also leave open the question of who was responsible for the evicted roommate's rent. The remaining roommates would be liable vis-a-vis the landlord, and would face eviction if they don't pay, and probably couldn't get a new roommate without the landlord's permission. And, the evicted tenant would probably remain on the hook vis-a-vis the landlord, but might not have a duty to indemnify the roommates who stayed.

Also, in any lawsuit where you sue the roommate, the roommate would likely counterclaim against you for non-disclosure of HSV2, and while that would probably not prevail in the end, it would make the legal process hellish for you.

The trouble is that there are really no good solutions that you could easily impose on them. A mutual agreement between the landlord and the other tenants to release you from the lease so you could find somewhere else, or to release the problem tenant from the lease so that you and your other roommate could replace that person, is probably the best solution, but that takes mutual agreement of multiple parties.

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    This is a great answer but omits an obvious avenue. Try simply discussing the situation with the landlord. They may be willing to remove either you or the troublesome tenant from the lease agreement. It's even possible they have other potential tenants waiting for a home and could move one in to replace you, allowing you to move elsewhere without any legal or credit worries. You won't know if you don't ask. – Darren H Aug 1 '17 at 7:54
  • @DarrenH Fair point, although I do touch on the idea briefly in the last paragraph. As a lawyer, the notion that you establish one's involuntary legal options first and then negotiate in the shadow of the possible can be so ingrained that we forget to mention options involving mutual agreements. – ohwilleke Aug 1 '17 at 12:12
  • In some jurisdictions, at least, the roommate's actions might be harassment. Could one pursue anything based in that? – phoog Aug 3 '17 at 1:14
  • @phoog A good point. It is hard to say. Landlord-tenant law is pretty similar from state to state, but harassment law varies a great deal. – ohwilleke Aug 3 '17 at 1:17

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