What Happens if My Roommate Goes to Jail?

What Happens if My Roommate Goes to Jail

Though it may be a rare occurrence, some people have found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having their current roommate become incarcerated. This is a very difficult situation and can leave a person with no idea what to do.

There is no defined process for how to handle things when your roommate gets arrested. The purpose of this article is to help you handle the different aspects of this situation that you may be lost on how to navigate.

Searching online for resources will likely result in you finding some helpful advice for the situation. However, you will likely only find advice on specific aspects of dealing with a roommate in prison. This article deals with all the different areas you will have to focus on if your roommate was arrested. So, what happens if my roommate goes to jail? Let’s find out…

Factors to consider

There are a few factors that you have to consider when dealing with a roommate that is in prison or heading to prison. Your answer to these questions will determine how you move forward with the things you have to answer.

What they were arrested for

This factor is important because the severity of the charges can determine whether or not you want to communicate with your roommate. If they were convicted on minor charges, you may want to reach out and speak with them, especially if you two were friends.

On the other hand, if the charges are serious, you may not want to contact them at all. In this case, you may even have to consider hiring an attorney to communicate with them or navigate any legal troubles that you may have by association. This will allow you avoid paying for what you know nothing of.

Whether someone is willing to post bail for them

Your roommate may be in jail but not convicted yet. This means that there is a possibility that they are returning to your home or apartment. The only way this would be possible is if someone posts their bail.

If you and your roommate are good friends or more, you may be willing to pay the bail. If this is not the case, they may have other friends or family that can do so. Their return to your shared living space is necessary information because it helps you determine what to do next.

If the bail is paid and they inform you that they will likely be imprisoned, you can let go of the hope that the situation is resolved. This gives you more time to start planning for how to handle the rent and other things like finding a new roommate.

How long they will be detained

If your roommate has already been imprisoned, you will need to find out how long their sentence is. This will let you plan and sort out your affairs like bills in their absence. You may have to move to a new place.

Ways the arrest might affect you

When your roommate is arrested, there are a few major ways that this may affect you. We will be explaining these below and providing some options for how to deal with them.

Dealing with rent

The primary way that having an incarcerated roommate would affect a person is by dealing with the rent. This is especially problematic if you have a monthly lease. The reason you live with a roommate is likely because you are unable to afford the full amount of the rent by yourself.

With your roommate arrested, you have to think about how to deal with the rent. You have some options here. One of these is to sue your roommate in an eviction court. This way you can work on finding a new roommate quickly to handle half of the rent.

Another option is to contact your landlord and explain the situation. Your landlord may be sympathetic and come up with a solution to reduce the rent costs while you search for a new roommate or agree to break the lease. You may also need to wait for your landlord’s permission to get a new roommate if you and your previous roommate signed a contract.

Police attention

Another effect that having your roommate get arrested is that it may bring unwarranted police attention to you. One thing that may happen is that your roommate’s crimes leave you under the inspection of the police as a potential accomplice.

If you are a friend to your roommate, this is especially likely. You can deal with this by hiring an attorney if necessary and making a point to get your story straight in every situation.

Handling your roommate’s personal belongings

One of the most tedious things you may have to deal with is handling your roommate’s property. If your roommate is the kind of person that has a lot of stuff, you may find yourself stuck with the responsibility of dealing with all of it.

You may need to clear out their room for a new tenant to move in or clear out the house if you are moving out completely. The room might also have been a site of a police search which may have left it in a big mess.

Options for what to do with your roommate’s belongings

Here are a few options for what to do with your roommate’s possessions if they have been incarcerated:

Visit them and ask them what you can do

The first thing you should do is contact your roommate if you can. You can place a call to the prison or visit them to discuss. This is important because if you do something to their belongings without their permission, you may be legally liable down the line.

To be safe, get them to put down their intentions in writing. Whether they want you to sell their stuff or give it out, you will have their express permission and will not be held liable under the law. You should make your roommate sign this document.

Put their things in storage

This is another option for what you can do with your roommate’s things. The drawback to this is that you may have to pay for renting the storage space as well as hiring movers to transport their things. You can contact your roommate for solutions to this problem.

If your roommate has any family, they may be willing to pay for the storage or send someone over to handle moving the items. Keeping their things in storage is a great idea to take the responsibility off your shoulders.

Storage spaces are easy to rent and the biggest issue with this option is moving the items. You can handle this by asking for help from people you know or hiring a moving service to assist you. This may be especially necessary if you do not have a car or other means of transport.

Hold a yard sale and sell their things

This is an option that you should definitely get your roommate’s permission for first. If they agree, a yard sale is a great idea to get rid of the majority of their things. Items like clothes and furniture are very popular at yard sales and you can keep the money for your roommate or use it to pay their rent for a few months.

Your roommate may permit you to sell a few expensive items such as a car or expensive furniture. Selling their items is perfect if you want the burden of dealing with their things taken from you.

With options like keeping the items in storage, you may still have to manage the storage space or keep tabs on it. Selling their things is efficient and quick and makes sure that you don’t have to worry about the things anymore.

You can sell their things in a physical yard sale if you have the means to do so or you can sell them online. Platforms like Etsy let you sell rare and unique items easily and for affordable prices so you may not have to put too much effort into getting rid of their things.

Contact their family and send their things over

Finally, you can reach out to your roommate’s family and ask if they can send somebody over to collect your roommate’s things. This is the easiest option because the matter is completely out of your hands and you can finally rest.

If this option is available, contact their family as soon as you can to arrange for their things to be collected. If things go smoothly, the room could be cleared out in a week or less and you can focus on finding a new roommate and handling the other things you need to deal with.


When you are faced with a situation like your roommate getting arrested, things may seem hopeless and overwhelming at the moment. Don’t despair because there are many options for how you can deal with the different issues that arise due to this problem.

Just remember to face each issue one at a time. Since the most pressing matter will likely be finding the money to pay rent, you may want to give notice to your landlord about the situation. This way, you can ensure that they are on the same page as you about moving forward.

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