What Happens If Your Roommate Drops Out

It’s the start of the semester, and across the country, college students are locating all of their belongings (all over the place), packing them up again, and heading back to school. But what if your roommate didn’t have a great fall or winter semester? Or maybe their funding fell through and they aren’t able to pay their bill? Sometimes circumstances change. What if your roommate drops out? What will happen to your dorm or apartment if your roommate is not returning to school?

There’s two parts of the answer for this question, and they require a combination of university official and mom hats, practical and emotional actions.

Their Stuff

So you got an email or a text from your (now former) roommate telling you they’re not returning. You might feel a little left out of the process after that point, and yes, it’s awkward to communicate. Things that are important to you are probably painful to them. Like if it’s winter semester: When are they going to get their stuff? And what about items you shared in the room, like refrigerators and microwaves? What is going to happen NEXT?

More than likely, they will be asked by the university to move their items out of the dorm room either just before dorms officially open again, or immediately afterwards. You may or may not be there for that, dependent on your schedule. Don’t be surprised if you return to a half-empty room and little communication. They’re doing the best they can in the time frame allotted to them by the university.

You may find yourself in need of a fridge or a lamp, or whatever, so plan accordingly. Amazon can deliver almost anything! And many campuses have upcycled “stores” where you can get things for cheap or free. But I’d suggest not asking your former roommate for those items.


Besides “split” items mentioned above, if you’re in a dorm, you shouldn’t have too many expenses incurred if your roommate drops out. If you’re not in dorm, but instead in an apartment, you will have some more work to do, unfortunately. Leases are usually broken up by roommate, and as such, they’re still going to be responsible for their part of the rent, but you are going to have to help find a new subleasor. Try not to take it personally. In most situations, the former roommate will be as helpful and proactive as they can be. Again, get help from parents, or property management companies and/or landlords during this time.

The Emotions

You’ll probably be faced with the prospect of a new roommate being inserted into “your” space, and one that you didn’t get the chance to communicate with in advance, or vet as part of the preparing for college phase. (No, sorry, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be in a “single” for a whole semester.) Universities are still businesses and will use that space to solve other roommate issues or needs. But be proactive during this time. Talk with the RA and dorm manager to find out what is going on. Be involved in the process.

RELATED: Finding the Perfect College Roommate

Also, be aware of your emotions. Seek help from your RA, parents, or counseling center if you find this transition difficult. You’re still in shock and probably in some way, sad for your old living situation. Even if you and the “old” roommate weren’t the best of friends, change can be hard.

Importantly, you’re not responsible for the old roommate’s emotions and stresses, but you’re part of the adventure that has, in a word, failed for them. It is a breakup, of sorts. So be sensitive and mindful. Ask yourself how your relationship was going into break, and use that as your guide in communicating with them. You’re still always going to be a memory for them, good or bad, as they will be for you. Learning how to navigate the practical and emotional landscape when your roommate drops out is a new part of adulting.

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