If you are an unmarried adult, chances are pretty good that you live with a roommate. Whether you are in college, attending a summer retreat, or employed and trying to save money on living expenses, it would not be unusual for you to have a “roomie.”
Occasionally, roommates become disagreeable: they strew their dirty clothes everywhere, listen to loud music while you're trying to sleep, refuse to wash their dirty dishes, or simply act like they own the place and treat you as if you don't matter at all. Perhaps you can endure all that, but what if things get ugly and your roommate threatens violence—or, worse, becomes violent? What can you do? If you live in Pennsylvania, is it possible to get a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order against a roommate? Well, it's complicated—maybe yes, maybe no. Let's look at what is possible.
Obtaining a PFA Order
A Protection from Abuse Order is obtained by going to court and requesting protection from actual or threatened physical abuse by an alleged abuser. The order typically requires the alleged abuser to stay away from the victim and from the victim's home and workplace, as well as other places frequented by the victim.
But not just anyone can obtain a PFA. To apply for such an order in Pennsylvania, the parties on both ends of the alleged abuse must be family members, household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood. As people who share a home, roommates fall into the category of “household members.” They may also be “sexual or intimate partners”: they may have a sexual relationship, a romantic relationship, or a close and intimate friendship. In these situations, the abuse could stem from the two parties interpreting the nature of the relationship differently—one person might have understood a single sexual encounter to be an isolated incident while the other believes it implies a romantic partnership, for instance.
When it comes to roommates as “sexual or intimate partners,” there's a lot of gray area. In Pennsylvania law, it is up to a court to decide if an abusive roommate situation meets the standard for a PFA. A skilled attorney can help you make your case to the judge.
If the court decides the relationship between two roommates does not qualify for a PFA, the abused roommate does have other options. The victim might sue for damages for battery or assault, or for whatever wrongful activity has taken place. They might also be able to file criminal charges against the roommate. In the event of violence, or threat of violence, the victim should always notify law enforcement.
Do You Need Help?
Perhaps your roommate's abusive behavior has become intolerable. You no longer feel safe. Give us a call. We can advise you and give you the guidance you need to pursue a PFA or other appropriate remedy.
Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm or call 888-535-3686.