One way to be sure that you are respecting the rights or your roommates and having your own rights respected is to complete and sign a roommate agreement before moving in together. A roommate agreement is a document that outlines each person’s responsibility as a roommate and how you will respect each other in terms of handling household chores, guests, pets, paying rent, and other activities that will impact your living environment. This agreement can help guide a conversation about the rules in the living environment, and can also be something to go back to if conflict arises about an issue, such as someone not taking responsibility for a chore that they agreed to help out with. Also, once signed, though this agreement may not be legally binding like a lease, it can be used as evidence in court should the violation of this agreement result in severe conflict or consequences.
What to Include in a Roommate Agreement:
1. Financial Responsibilities: Roommate agreements should outline each person’s financial responsibilities, including how much they are to pay in rent each month and their portion of the security deposit. These agreements can also outline and divide up other financial obligations including internet, cable, groceries, and other utilities. This is a great place to include who will be responsible for purchasing your UDAP contract and putting utilities in their name, as well as how other roommates will pay their portion of utilities to this individual monthly.
2. Ground rules: These agreements should also set out ground rules regarding privacy, cleaning, yard maintenance like mowing or snow removal if not provided by your landlord, overnight guests, parties, quiet hours, use of alcohol, and smoking. We suggest having roommates talk about ground rules and arrangements related to any and all of the following areas:
- Food and Grocery Shopping
- Cleanliness and Cleaning Responsibilities
- Sharing of Personal Items
- Noise/ Study Times
- Smoking/ Drinking/ Drugs
- Parties/ Guests
- Overnight Guests
- Need to move-out/ Breaking the lease
- You may want to include in the agreement responsibilities should a roommate need to move out, especially if a joint lease is signed making all roommates responsible for their portion of the rent. Below is a sample of wording that could be added to an agreement to address this concern:
- “If, for whatever reason, I move out of the dwelling, I realize it is primarily my responsibility to find a replacement tenant. I agree to look for a replacement tenant who is acceptable to my present roommates. If one of my roommates moves out, I also will attempt to find a replacement roommate. I understand the need to be reasonable in accepting a replacement roommate. If I move out of the dwelling and a replacement roommate has not been found, I realize that I am still legally responsible to my roommate(s) for paying my share of the rent and utility bills.”
Roommate Agreements should also establish one roommate as the primary contact for the landlord. This person will be the primary individual for the landlord to call if there are problems with the apartment or other concerns. This primary contact will also be the individual who makes maintenance requests, provides rental payment to the landlord if there is a joint lease, or discusses other concerns that may arise. This helps provide clearer communication, and you’ll want to make sure to let your landlord know who this contact person is.
Whether or not you choose to complete and sign a roommate agreement, you still may want to informally assign chores, make lists of items needed for those individuals doing the grocery shopping, or make a schedule to coordinate times to do laundry, etc. If you would like a sample roommate agreement to use to help with this process, go to Helpful Forms in this Roommates section.