When you’re just starting out on your own money can be tight, especially when it comes to living in cities. That’s why many people opt to live with roommates in order to share costs. It can be a great way to save some money on living expenses, but it can also be fraught with peril due to the ups and downs of interpersonal relationships. If you choose to live with a roommate here are some things you need to know before signing a lease.
What is a Roommate Agreement?
A roommate agreement is basically a written document that puts down the responsibilities of each roommate. It is often made without the landlord present. This can range from financial responsibilities to personal ones. It often outlines how rent and utilities are to be divided, but it can also be modified to include chores, food sharing, quiet times, and the policy on guests.
The three biggest things included in the roommate agreement are rent, security deposit, and utilities. These financial items are critical to any agreement.
Is a Roommate Agreement Legally Binding?
The answer to this can be tricky. A lease with a landlord is legally binding from beginning to end. If there is legal action against a tenant that broke a roommate agreement a judge will likely only hold them responsible for certain items. For example: If the roommate moves out early because they had to take a job elsewhere, leaving you to pay all rent and utilities, the court may order the roommate to pay you back in full.
The court likely won’t get involved if some of the more personal terms are violated like playing the TV too loud. Another important factor is if the roommate files for bankruptcy or has no money. If they don’t have any funds it is unlikely you will be able to collect on any judgment.
The phrase “caveat emptor”, or “buyer beware” is important before agreeing to live with a roommate. Be sure that it is someone you know and trust if it is at all possible. That makes the entire rental experience much more enjoyable for all parties involved. If you are meeting someone for the first time be sure to do your homework and find out more about them. In this day and age of the internet and social media you can learn a lot about a person before living with them.
In the event you do have to go to small claims court for failure to pay rent and utilities a roommate agreement can be a handy tool in your favor. It can help you get the share of the bills the other party agree to pay, but it is by no means a guarantee. By getting to know the person and trusting them you can make sure you have a much better experience, and it will end up as a much better experience for the second party as well, because they likely need a roommate too!