Roommate Harmony: Creating a Shared Living Lease Agreement

Students need accommodation, and landlords need occupants who pay their rent on time and keep a tidy home. Sometimes these ideals get lost in the excitement of moving away from home. Creating a balanced but effective lease agreement is the only way to keep everyone happy.

Student tenants laughing together

Do your homework

Knowledge is power. No matter what it is in life, knowing more about a subject will help you make a more educated decision. Here are some suggestions for water-tight agreements that promote roommate harmony for USC student housing off campus.

Your US location will determine the rules and regulations when it comes to renting out rooms. In Philly, for example, you can only rent to up to three unrelated tenants — the push here is for family rental.

So check out all the rules and regulations before you submit your property to the rental listings. Once you know who you rent to and the guidelines in your state, it is time to set some rental rules and guidelines that tell your tenants what you expect and when you wish for it.

Equally, tenants will want to know that you are maintaining your end of the rental bargain, maintaining the property, and adhering to your legal responsibilities, such as installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms — but we will get to that later in this article.

Understanding landlord responsibilities

As a landlord, it’s your job to ensure your rental property is fit for purpose, properly and legally maintained, clean, and habitable with working facilities (heating, lighting, and sanitation).

The property must be secure; your obligation is to provide adequate front and back door and window locks so tenants can insure their goods, furniture, and personal items against break-ins.

Finally, market your property honestly; only say it has a dishwasher or parking space if it does. Be truthful – it is better to underpromise and over-perform than over-promise and have disappointed and unhappy tenants.

Tenants’ responsibilities explained

Tenants are usually jointly and severally liable for the property they rent, meaning they take joint responsibility for the following:

  • Indoor and outdoor maintenance — rubbish removal outside the property.
  • To pay the rent in a prompt and mutually agreed fashion.
  • Complying with rules about pets and guests and respecting the neighbors.
  • Keep to tenant maximum occupancy limits.
  • Maintaining the property to the standard presented to them at the commencement of the lease term without betterment.
  • Respecting lease termination notices and move-out agreements.

How to rent to roommates and sleep at night

  1. Take references and check their validity – professional screening companies can do this for you.
  2. Ensure all tenants are listed on the lease to avoid squatters or sitting tenants.
  3. Accept one rental payment only – don’t accept rent in dribs and drabs.
  4. Refrain from subletting or allowing your tenants to sublet.
  5. Appoint a roommate chairperson – so you only deal with one person.
  6. Create a group on WhatsApp or email for each property you rent to create a paper trail.

Successful roommate screening

Professional reference checkers review a tenant’s details with a fine-tooth comb. It’s well worth using this professional service for peace of mind. Also, some insurers will only allow landlords to take non-payment of rent or eviction insurance with professional screening.

If you choose to DIY, know it takes a lot of work – get a copy of the respective tenant’s passport, national insurance details, IRS card, and any other information you need to check thoroughly.

Successful screening is the most critical part of the rental process – it’s vital to your property management routine to get this right. The rest should be easy.

Listing all tenants on the lease agreement

If a tenant is not on the lease, you cannot evict them. It is as simple as that. It is also about ensuring all tenants take responsibility for the property.

Being a roommate is transient; you will likely need to update the tenancy agreement frequently during the term. Only let a new tenant into the property with an addendum or new agreement.

Remain within the law; it saves time and expense later if problems during the tenancy mean you must take your property back and evict your tenants.

Get all your rent in one go

Photo by Luis Tosta on Unsplash

Stay away from tenant payment issues; ask for one monthly payment. That way, if someone is short on cash, it is their responsibility to resolve that, and not yours. Plus, from a legal standpoint, accepting a lesser amount might start a precedent you regret.

Subletting is fatal

Avoid subletting. Landlords must conduct regular inspections to ensure their tenants are not subletting. Add a clause in the tenancy agreement that prohibits explicitly subletting. That way, everyone is clear on that point.

Appoint a chairperson for roommate contact purposes

If you want to avoid dealing with someone’s parent, appoint a chair and clarify that you will only deal with the chairperson. Use dedicated and reliable means of communication so that no time is wasted sorting out issues or collecting the rent.


Many young adults think about property sharing, especially if they do not make a particularly good living. Property sharing has pros and cons, just like anything else in life. It is a great way to cut monthly costs. We advise you to carefully consider the factors above before making your choice to make sure that you, your roommates, and your landlord are all on the same page.