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Roommate (Room Rental) Agreement Template

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A Roommate Agreement, also known as a ‘Room Rental’, is a template used for the leasing of bedrooms in a housing unit while sharing communal areas such as the living room, kitchen, etc. All the individuals listed in the contract shall be liable to each other in regards to payments for rent, bills, services, and any other agreed upon charges. In addition, if there is any damage in the communal areas the roommates, as a whole, will be liable.

College Roommate Agreement – To establish an agreement or understanding between individuals living in a dorm room on-campus.

By State

What is a Roommate Agreement?

A Roommate Agreement is a contract solely between the members living within the same rental unit that holds two or more people. Do not confuse a Roommate Agreement with a Lease Agreement, as a one is a contract between only tenants and the other is a contract between a landlord and tenant(s). Many contingencies can be listed in a Roommate Agreement, such as house rules, but the only legally binding aspect is the financial arrangement listed in the agreement. A Roommate Agreement can be used between roommates or tenants in a house, apartment, college dorm or any type of shared living space.

A Roommate Agreement is also referred to as the following:

  • Roommate Contract
  • Rent a Room Agreement
  • Joint Lease

Finding a roommate has probably never been easier. Sites like Craigslist and Facebook serve up thousands of listings for every taste and budget. Meanwhile, rising costs mean that an increasing share of the renting community can no longer afford to go it alone. Technology and financial strain form an easy alliance, making the roommate search seem cut and dry.

Yet it should not be confused with buying pants, booking a plane ticket, or the many other things made easy by the internet. Sharing an apartment is an inherently personal matter that can have real consequences. In the worst case, an ill-conceived arrangement can spell headaches for the tenants – even financial peril. Do not assume “common sense” will serve as shared guidepost; do not assume that other tenants have the same priorities or standards. The best course is to be conservative: carefully screen prospective roommates and set key terms in a written and signed roommate agreement.

The First Step: Finding a Roommate

The good news is that you are probably just a few clicks away from a veritable ocean of potential tenants. The bad news is that many are not fit to share a cab with – let alone a roof, refrigerator, and rental bill.

Most rental business today flows through just a few websites. Craigslist is the old standard, and with good reason. It’s cheap or free to post ads, the interface is noncommercial, and the site’s overall popularity means that it boasts a huge network of listings. Facebook provides a competing venue, with vibrant apartment-search groups for many cities, and Facebook’s own “Marketplace” hosts still more listings. Reddit – the barebones message board site – can also be a good source. An added perk with both Facebook and Reddit is the ability to view posters’ profiles. Though more art than science – and perhaps a bit too investigative for some tastes– scanning over a potential roommate’s pictures, posts, and other past online activities can provide a window into their personality and lifestyle.

Less anonymous are the curated lists maintained by universities, where renters are students or others with school affiliation, and the apartment owners have been vetted. Surprisingly, there are no mass-market sites that both list and vet roommates. Niche services exist, operating on a subscription basis, but they’re nowhere near as mainstream as Craigslist and its ilk. A bit of important boilerplate advice: However you find your next roommate, make sure to find out as much as you can before signing on for shared quarters. Think of your initial meeting as some blend of job interview and first date. Choose a public venue and consider bringing someone else along for a second set of eyes and instincts. Does the prospective roommate seem responsible? Do they have a record of amicable homeshares? Are they financially stable? Would you be comfortable sharing a wall – or even a bathroom? Do not hurry the process. You may need to meet five or more candidates before finding a good match.

Consider asking prospective roommates for a credit report. Experian.com and the other credit bureau sites will provide comprehensive reports at a charge, but reports are also available yearly at no cost from annualcreditreport.com . More important still is the criminal history check. While prior convictions are usually a matter of public record and freely accessible, older cases may be sealed. One source for comprehensive background checks is e-renter.com – but you should beware of false positives too. Once you have found the right person, it’s time to set terms in writing. In the best case, your agreement will serve as a signal of mutual respect and lay the groundwork for a peaceable shared home space

The Roommate Agreement

A good roommate agreement details the “house rules.” There are many potential issues to tackle, but popular ones include:

  • Rent and utility obligations: How much rent does each tenant own? When are the rent and utility payments due? In what form are bills and rent to be paid?
  • Will the roommate provide a security deposit for incidental damages? What are the terms?
  • A plan for keeping tidy: Will the apartment use a chore wheel? Hire a cleaning service?
  • Designated quiet times, policies for overnight guests, parties, and noise.
  • How the space will be shared: Who will provide furnishings and decorations?
  • Policies for smoking, drinking, and other extracurricular pursuits.
  • How much notice is expected before a tenant departs?
  • What happens if the agreement is breached?

A roommate agreement is not a lease. In most cases, the rent, length of lease, rules about pets, sublease policies, and other related matters have already been set by the landlord in the “master lease.” That agreement is primary. Other terms may be set by statute. In some states, for example subletting is a near enshrined right for renters while other jurisdictions limit short-term sublets to counter the influence of Airbnb. These lease and statutory terms are generally non-negotiable in a roommate agreement.

The Worst Case: Eviction

Most veteran renters have at least one war story. What happens if your new roommate does not keep his or her end of the bargain? While your roommate agreement should address eviction, even if it is signed, dated, and witnessed, it will not necessarily be enough to kick the troublesome tenant out.

Often, the best course is to enlist the landlord. While a lone tenant may not have the clout to evict a bad roommate, the landlord might have the power to do so, especially if this roommate is not on the lease. Even if lacking in formal authority, building owners often have the intimidation factor to get force out nettlesome tenants. A good practice is to share the roommate agreement with the landlord at the start to make sure that all are on the same page.

In the worst case, if the delinquent tenant is on the lease and disputes the allegations, you may have to cut your losses and (a) leave voluntarily or (b) face the cancellation of the entire whole lease and the eviction of all tenants. Many disputes can be nipped before they rise to the level of eviction. It’s usually easier (and often right) to assume that your roommate is operating in good, if misguided faith. Here, the old saying about catching flies with honey is apt – just because you have a legal or quasi-legal document in hand does not mean that all disagreements should be treated like legal disputes.

Frequently Asked Questions

(1) Are Roommate Agreements legally-binding?

It depends. Any agreement between roommates is subordinated by the lease (or “master lease”) that is signed with the landlord. Whether or not a roommate agreement is enforceable will depend on jurisdiction; putting things in writing, and signing and dating in the presence of a witness can all lend credibility to an agreement.

(2) What should be included in a Roommate Agreement?

In the least, you should specify rental and utility responsibilities, whether a security deposit is required, and other basic “house rules.” Agreements commonly dictate cleaning responsibilities, and policies for overnight guests, noise, and quiet hours.

(3) What if your roommate does not abide by the Agreement?

Formally, this depends on the legal status of your agreement (see above). As a practical matter, eviction can be even more cumbersome than finding a new roommate. Can you work things out? One pre-emptive practice is to schedule weekly or monthly roommate meetings. This can be specified in the original agreement. Conflicts can be brought to the floor during these sessions.


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