5 Essential Elements of an Efficient and Effective Roommate Agreement

As a renter, you rent from a landlord or property management company and typically sign a legally-binding lease or document that protects both you as a renter, and the person who owns the property. These agreements between landlords and tenants cover a variety of subjects and areas, working to provide both parties with what they need to ensure a successful, working relationship.

  • Thursday, May 9, 2019

  Rental Market   Renter   Legal   Utility Setup   Rents & Deposits   

As a renter, you rent from a landlord or property management company and typically sign a legally-binding lease or document that protects both you as a renter, and the person who owns the property. These agreements between landlords and tenants cover a variety of subjects and areas, working to provide both parties with what they need to ensure a successful, working relationship.

But what happens when you're thinking of bringing another roommate into the mix? Because a new roommate may not be included in the original agreement you have with your landlord, it's important to take the same, protective measures for yourself with the creation of a roommate agreement. These types of agreements are made between the person or parties renting the property and a new roommate and can be completely and legally binding. Though true legal action and advice are best left to your personal attorney, every roommate agreement should do its best to protect your interests. Here are a few essential components of every successful roommate agreement.

1. The Splitting and Handling of Finances

One of the most important parts of sharing any living space is finances. From the start, you and your roommate should be able to come to an agreement on how each of you will contribute to living expenses. Your roommate agreement should include the financial responsibilities and expectations for both parties, for as many areas and topics as possible.

Rent and Security Deposit

A roommate agreement should include what your roommate is responsible for, in regards to monthly rent, as well as any security deposit made. Monthly rent should be split up and clearly outlined in an agreement. As an added ounce of security, you should also decide which of you will be responsible for handling  the money and/or making  rent payments.

Any money your roommate, or yourself, contributes as a security deposit or first month's rent should be included into and detailed in any roommate agreement. Though it may not seem important in the beginning, this step can help avoid problems in the future or when it's time for one of you to move out.

Utilities, Groceries, Supplies, and More

Rent isn't the only expense you and your roommate will need to figure out. Whether you decide to include utilities as a part of your roommate's rent or split the cost of utilities amongst yourselves, the agreement should be defined within your roommate agreement. Decide how you are going to divvy up each utility, as well as the person responsible for paying it. List each financial obligation separately, to ensure clarity.

In addition, it's important to discuss other important, financial aspects of any household like groceries, household supplies, etc. Will each person be responsible for their own groceries? Or simply split the cost of the household's grocery costs? These expenses and how you'll be paying for them should be an early topic of conversation, and a clearly outlined one in any successful roommate agreement.

2. Policies for Parking and Guests

If you're lucky, parking won't be an issue between yourself and any roommates joining the household. But for many, parking spots can be hard to come by, limited, or even non-existent. And as most people own or use a vehicle of some sort, it's important to discuss and put on paper your policy regarding vehicles and parking. Does your roommate have multiple vehicles? Do you and your roommate need designated parking spaces? How much parking is even available? These simple, but necessary conversations can avoid annoying arguments and fights down the road.

The topic of guests can often be an awkward one between roommates, but it is fundamental to a successful co-living relationship. Your roommate agreement should include information that clarifies any points of discussion for the number of guests allowed at one time, when or what times of day guests are allowed, a policy for overnight guests, etc. What are your feelings on significant others? It is best to air, and clarify, these personal preferences that could destroy roommate relationships down the road.

3. Splitting Communal and Individual Space

Living with another person or a group of people can be difficult. Each person has their own personalities, traits, and preferences. Privacy is a boundary that should be discussed between any roommates, and boundaries within the home should be clearly defined. Take time and create a list within your roommate agreement that defines what in the space is for individual, private use and what is for communal, combined use. This helps give everyone the privacy they need but also provides the foundation for other topics of conversation such as chore responsibilities and schedules for using communal space.

A great roommate agreement will also include specific details about what space belongs to who. For example, your roommate agreement can include which roommate gets which bedroom or bathroom. You should also include other items into this area of your roommate agreement, such as groceries, household/bathroom supplies, and more. Are these shared? Or separate?

4. Cleaning Responsibilities, Respectful Noise Levels, and Other Things to Think About 

Living together is about more than paying bills and agreeing to things on paper. You'll need to live together and therefore, thrive together. Decisions should be made about important things that affect each of you on a daily basis. These things can be personal to you and/or your roommate, but regardless, added into any roommate agreement.

What's Your Policy About Divvying Up Chores and Pets?

It is a smart move, for everyone's sanity, to divvy up household responsibilities in any agreement. This provides each roommate with a specific role and responsibility that cannot be denied or shirked in the future. With less squabbling, you'll have a much smoother living experience together. Organize, outline, and define chores and responsibilities; as well as who is responsible for doing them. Your roommate agreement may even include a chart or calendar for added measure.

A section regarding pets should be added to your roommate agreement as well. This can be especially necessary when your landlord already has an existing pet policy in your lease. Are pets allowed? If so, which pets and who is responsible for what? And when one of you moves out (or both of you), what is the plan with existing pets?

Who's Responsible for Household Furniture, Decor, etc.?

Some things that may seem small in the beginning can become large problems somewhere down the road. As with any great roommate agreement, having it agreed upon on paper can help deter these problems. Consider discussions with your roommate about things around the house like furniture and appliances, household or bathroom supplies, etc. Not only should you consider who is responsible for them financially, but also who owns them, gets them when it's time to leave, and who has rights to them.

What's Your Policy About Noise Levels and Behavior?

No two people are exactly alike and it's essential to recognize this with roommates and acknowledge it right away. Maybe your work schedules are completely different. Maybe your roommate is a night owl. Or maybe you yourself are the life of the party. Discuss howyou live your life and make any preferences clear in your roommate agreement. Your roommate agreement can include things like a limit to noise levels, cut-off time for noisy parties and guests, expectations for guest behavior, "quiet-time hours," and more.

5. What Happens When It's Time to Go

To some roommates, this discussion doesn't seem necessary until its too late. In a solid roommate agreement, you'll want to ensure each of you has a plan for when it all comes to an end. As a very-obvious first, clearly define a time limit for living within your home or move out date. Outlined in this agreement should also include your decisions regarding what will happen when someone wants to move out. How much notice do you expect? How long is the person given to leave? Finding solutions to these types of problems before they happen can not only provide assistance when you need it but also strengthen the ties between you and your roommate.

But don't just include information about what you'll do when it's time to move on from your current situation. Be sure to create a concrete roommate agreement by clearly outlining what should happen in the event that any parties involved are found to have violated this agreement. There is no point in creating any type of agreement that does not provide consequences for delinquency and a plan of action for security.

Every person involved in a roommate agreement should agree fully on the terms within it and reach an agreement. Your roommate agreement can help you to create a defined and safe space for both of you to live happily together. It is important to take the time to step back and create a relationship with your roommate straight away that is healthy but also protective of your interests, with clear boundaries and a solid roommate agreement. Here for any and all of your rental questions and concerns, VerticalRent is your go-to source for improving the effectiveness and lives of both landlords and tenants. Contact us today to find out how we can help you!

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