Smart Renting: Roommate Agreement

Thinking about getting roommates? The best way to ensure you won't have issues with potential conflicts and clearly lay out all expectations is through a roommate agreement. Not every roommate is a match made in heaven, and even if you find an ideal roommate, that person may not turn out to be who you thought. 

Decide what you want your roommate contract to cover. Some roommate contracts only cover living arrangements such as chores and household rules, while others are legally-binding documents discussing rent split, utilities and tenancy dates. If you're a tenant on the lease and don't want your roommate to have any legally binding responsibilities (and rights) then you may want to consider a roommate contract that just discusses common household rules. However, if you're the tenant but you want your roommate to have legal rights and responsibilities, you may want to consider a more formal roommate contract that's more like a sub-lease, with provisions for rent sharing, utilities and tenancy dates.

Discuss your roommate contract with potential roommates in advance. While a roommate contract is a useful tool for mediating disputes and establishing ground rules, you should discuss the roommate contract with your roommates before implementing it. You can't just arbitrarily write a roommate contract and expect your roommates to obey it. Discuss what you're trying to accomplish, and solicit your roommates' feedback. Incorporate clauses that your roommates might want, too, and make sure you all agree on the roommate contract before finalizing it. If new issues come up during your tenancy, you can always amend the roommate contract to reflect new rules or change existing rules.

Potential living issues to discuss in a roommate contract. A basic roommate contract is a valuable tool; it's like rules of behavior for you and your roommates. This type of roommate contract might cover rules about having guests over, household chores, quiet hours and shared resources. You might also discuss things like whether smoking is allowed in the house, and how you'll handle household disputes.

If you want your roommate contract to be more than a code of behavior, you can use it to discuss practical aspects of a joint tenancy, too. Lay out how you'll split household expenses, such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies and dish soap. Also discuss how food is split; whether each roommate is completely responsible for buying his or her own food, or whether or not some staples, such as condiments, flour and sugar, are shared.

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