Renting with a roommate is a great way to save a bit of extra cash each month, and can also boost your social life. However, things don’t always run smoothly, and if disagreements do arise, it’s good to have some form of written agreement as back-up.
This is where a roommate agreement comes in. Useful for keeping the peace and making sure that you and your roommate are on the same page, it’s a great document to have to hand in any shared rental scenario. However, if you’ve never rented with a roommate before, it can be a struggle to know what your agreement should cover.
Let’s take a look at the essentials below.
Why is it Important to Have a Roommate Agreement?
Laying out the specific terms of how you will live together is always a good idea, regardless of whether you’re moving in with a friend or a family member or a complete stranger. The roommate agreement will allow you to reach a consensus on a number of important matters, such as who is responsible for which tasks, what house rules are in place, and what happens if one of you has to move out early.
While not legally binding, getting this down on paper before you move in will help you determine whether you and your future roommate(s) are a good fit, and it will clarify everyone’s expectations. This kind of transparency is a great start to a healthy, happy relationship.
Splitting the Costs
It’s important to get money matters out of the way and in writing before your lease starts. So if you already decided what’s the perfect apartment for you, deciding how much rent each roommate will pay is the next step. This can be as simple as an even split, but in some cases, it’s not so clear cut. For example, if one of you sleeps in an en-suite master bedroom and the other stays on a couch in the living room, you’ll need to figure out how much each is required to pay.
Besides the rent itself, think about utility bills (if they’re not included in your rent) and other services such as internet subscriptions. Often, everyone will pay the same amount, but again, this isn’t always the case. Additionally, figure out who will be responsible for ensuring the bills are actually paid each month, or whether you’ll take it in turns.
Finally, create a section that provides details concerning the security deposit. Work out how much each of you is required to pay, and put it in writing. This keeps a record, preventing arguments over who gets what when you get your deposit back.
Your roommate agreement should lay out all of your house rules in clear terms, ensuring everyone knows what is and isn’t allowed. This will typically involve discussion of guest policies and parties, giving you a chance to say what you’d be uncomfortable with before certain situations arise. A classic example is where one roommate gets into a relationship and their partner spends too much time in your home. Here’s the place to put restrictions and agree on what will work for everyone.
Parties and gatherings are another point to take note of. If you value your privacy, you probably wouldn’t be happy if your roommate has regular parties. Again, lay down your terms and ensure everyone is happy. Noise levels and quiet times can also be discussed here—these can be especially important if you have to be up early for work in the mornings.
Finally, make sure that everyone is crystal clear about cleaning. Outline everyone’s responsibilities and create a cleaning schedule. This will ensure that one of you doesn’t end up cleaning after the other, preventing tension and leading to a more enjoyable living experience.
Shared Spaces and Commodities
It’s also wise to discuss where the shared spaces are, what amenities you have access to, and how everyone can benefit from them. Write down what is and isn’t allowed in the shared spaces, such as smoking, guests or pets, and, if necessary, who has access to them and when. If there’s only one parking space, figure out who gets it, or whether you share it on a weekly/monthly basis.
Communal food and other commodities may also be included in the agreement. Even though most people buy their own stuff, shared commodities such as oil or salt may need to be discussed. Work out who is responsible for buying what to prevent one person from always buying things like toilet paper.
Your roommate agreement should detail all the things you want to prevent: dirty dishes piling up over several days, weekday parties, or lingering guests. It’s a chance to get down in writing the terms you agree to live by with your roommate, to ensure you’ll both be happy. It’s quick and easy to make your own online, so don’t rely on oral agreements, get it down on paper!