What you need to know before you get a roommate
It all seems like not a big deal at first. You might be friends with your roommate, or you might be thrown together by circumstance. It doesn’t matter, you still need to consider some things before (and after) you take the leap. These guidelines just might save you a lot of anguish down the road.
First, take it seriously. You are entering into a binding legal contract with your landlord, and the actions of your roommate might affect you in legal and financial ways. You are probably jointly responsible to the conditions on the lease, and if the landlord takes action, even against your roommate, it will also affect you. You need to know what your lease requires, if you can change roommates, what rules to follow and how to get out of a sticky situation.
Let’s take a typical scenario. You have four housemates are all are on the lease individually. You split the rent equally. It one tenant doesn’t pay their rent, all of you can be evicted. One option would be to sign separate leases, but the landlord usually won’t go for that. It might be better to assign one person to write the check and collect from the others. At least there can be a responsible party that can make sure the rent is available ahead of time, since they will be aware of the financial situations of the other tenants.
If you follow some simple guidelines you may be able to save yourself a ton of problems:
1. Get the right housemates from the start – Communication is the key. Schedule a serious talk about the habits of your roommate and open up to them about your own habits. Are they neat? Do they plan on having visitors or sleepovers? Do they like to party? What are their work (and play) hours? Is there someone to cover their rent if a problem arises? Ask and tell everything. You may find that you know this person less than you thought.
2. Establish the parameters – Get together on a regular basis and talk about any issues that have come up. Make sure that the responsibilities are divided and it is clear what each person must do. That would include cooking, grocery shopping,cleaning the house, yard work, repairs, paying bills, and other routine tasks.
3. Write everything down – Keep a clear record of any concerns and document any problems that might affect your tenancy. If your roommate loses their job, make a note of it. Make sure you are aware of upcoming lease renewals, the amount of security deposit each person paid and the complete contact information for each person on the lease, including emergency numbers. Make sure they everyone knows what will be required of them when the lease ends, such as cleaning the rental, so that the deposit can be returned.
Renting with a roommate can be an incredibly fun experience, but there are also plenty of horror stories. Just be prepared, use common sense, document everything, and you’ll be just fine.