As a New York City renter, you are almost guaranteed to live with a roommate at one point or another. Fortunately, In New York City, you can generally get roommates without getting your landlord’s approval or going through the hassle of adding them to your lease, thanks to a law commonly called the New York State “Roommate Law.”
The Roommate Law applies not just to relatives but also non-relatives such as a boyfriend or girlfriend. Moreover, The Roommate Law applies to not only New York City but also the entire state. In any event, no matter the circumstances, it is always advisable to draft a roommate agreement when you allow additional occupants in your apartment, especially if you are the sole leaseholder.
Why Should You Sign a Roommate Agreement?
Imagine this scenario: You and your friends sign a one-year lease for the perfect Upper West Side 3-bedroom apartment in New York City, and for a couple of months, everything is going fantastic. Then suddenly “Roommate #1” informs you that she got a job offer in London and she has decided to take it. To make matters worse, “Roommate #2” decides (after finding out that Roommate #1 is moving), that she wants to move in with her boyfriend to save money because she is cash strapped. With over seven months left on your lease, your friends have left you in an awful financial position, because of course, they refuse or cannot help you out until you find replacements. Since each signatory to an apartment lease is responsible for the entire lease amount, and you still need a place to stay, you are now left scrambling to figure out how you will pay $4,000 per month alone or find new roommates quickly. Signing a contract called a roommate agreement would have protected your financial interest in the preceding situation.
What are Roommate Agreements?
Roommate Agreements are legally binding contracts that detail roommates’ financial obligations to the apartment and one another. If the terms of the agreement are violated, roommates can sue each other according to the agreement, in small-claims court, and sometimes housing court. Additionally, Roommate Agreements cover tedious issues such as who is responsible for what chores and how many nights a roommate can host their significant others, etc. Overall, most roommates sue each other for money.
Who Can Draft a Roommate Agreement?
Typically, you should hire an attorney to draft a Roommate Agreement. Some real estate brokers in New York City will risk their broker’s license and engage in the “unauthorized practice of law” by drafting roommate agreements. However, for your protection, pay an attorney a couple of hundred bucks to draft a roommate agreement for you. Just remember paying a lawyer $200- $400 now, could save you thousands of dollars later should you ever have to sue one of your roommates.
What is in a Roommate Agreement?
A solid Roommate Agreement should include the following:
- Basic information. The roommate agreement should include your name, the leaseholder’s name (if applicable), the landlord’s name, the apartment address, and the date the agreement is made.
- The Terms. The roommate agreement should indicate the termination date of the Roommate Agreement and/or under what circumstance the agreement can be terminated.
- The Existing Lease Agreement. The roommate agreement should refer to the existing Master Lease (i.e., the lease between the tenant and the landlord) and its expiration date. Additionally, it is advisable to indicate that the Roommate Agreement does not alter the Master Lease and that the agreement has been drafted to resolve any disputes amongst the roommates. Lastly, it is essential to indicate whether the apartment is free market or rent-stabilized, as this will affect how much a roommate can be charged.
- Areas of Occupancy. The roommate agreement should indicate whether this is a traditional roommate agreement (i.e., the roommates share the apartment equally) or if the occupancy by the roommate(s) is limited to just one room or a couple of rooms.
- Rent Information. The roommate agreement should indicate what the monthly rent will be when payment is due, and what forms of payment are acceptable.
- Security Deposit. If the leaseholder is taking a security deposit (which he/she should if he/she is the only signatory to the Master Lease), this information should be indicated in the Roommate Agreement. This should include details on when, if, and how the deposit will be returned, and under what circumstances that the leaseholder is entitled to keep the deposit.
- Utility Information. The roommate agreement should list out all utility payments and indicate what percentage each roommate will pay.
- House Rules. Although most people do not end up suing for violation of this part of their roommate agreement, this part of the agreement should not be overlooked. Overall, this is the opportunity to come to a meeting of the minds on the tedious things such as the rules for throwing parties, quiet hours, smoking, food, personal property, and guests.
- Duties and Responsibilities. This is the area where each occupant should agree on what household chores, they would be responsible for, etc.
- Termination of the Roommate Agreement. This critical section of the roommate agreement should indicate under what circumstances the leaseholder may terminate the contract (or vice versa). Common reasons for termination of a roommate agreement include failure to pay rent and the inability to maintain household duties.
Sample NYC Roommate Agreement Template
On [month/day], [year], Roommate #1 and Roommate #2, signed a lease agreement for the residential property at the address listed below. By entering into this roommate agreement, we intend to have our tenancy as roommates governed by this agreement.
This Roommate Agreement (the "Agreement") is made and entered into on July 01, 2019 (the "Effective Date"), by and between the following roommates:
"Name of roommate 1."
"Name of roommate 2."
The roommates may be referred to individually as a "Roommate" or collectively as the "Roommates."
WHEREAS, the Roommates are co-tenants at the premises located at _________________, _________________, New York _________________ (the "Premises").
WHEREAS, there is a lease agreement with the landlord, NEW YORK LANDLORD LLC (the "Landlord"), for the Premises, dated July 01, 2019 (the "Lease Agreement").
NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the above recitals and mutual promises and benefits contained herein, the Roommates agree as follows:
1. RENTAL AGREEMENT. All of the Roommates agree to be bound by all of the terms of the Lease Agreement.
2. TERM. Each of the Roommates will live on the Premises for the period set forth in the Rental Agreement, beginning on July 01, 2019, and ending on June 30, 2020. After the end of the lease, the Agreement shall continue on a month-to-month basis. If a Roommate decides to leave before the end of the Lease Agreement, the departing Roommate will be responsible under the Lease Agreement until the lease ends or a replacement roommate or subtenant is found.
The Landlord shall be notified by written 30 days advance notice of any change in Roommates so that proper arrangements can be made.
3. RENT. The total monthly rent for the Premises is $2,500.00. Each Roommate will pay the following amount(s):
ROOMMATE #1 $1,250.00
ROOMMATE #2 $1,250.00
Rent shall be payable by each Roommate on the 1st day of each month. The rent shall be paid in full to TENANT #1. Rent must be paid in the form (insert forms of payment accepted). TENANT #1 will be responsible for delivering the rent to the Landlord in an agreed-upon manner. The Roommates understand that they are jointly and severally liable for the full amount of the rent.
4. DEPOSIT. The total security deposit for the Premises is $2,500.00. Each Roommate will pay the following amount(s):
ROOMMATE #1 $1,250.00
ROOMMATE #2 $1,250.00
Each Roommate will receive their share of the deposit if and when the Landlord returns it at the end of the tenancy. Any deductions from the deposit will be shared by all Roommates in proportion to the amount of deposit paid. However, any damage caused by one of the Roommates will be paid only by that Roommate.
5. PETS. If pets are permitted under the Lease Agreement, each pet owner shall be responsible for all damages caused by their pet. This includes, but is not limited to, damage to the furniture, carpeting, doors, yard, garden, and any other household fixture.
6. UTILITIES. Each Roommate has been assigned the responsibility of paying a specific bill. This includes paying the bill in full on or before the due date. The utilities will be assigned as follows:
ROOMMATE #1 100% ELECTRIC
ROOMMATE #2 100% GAS
ROOMMATE #1 50% VERIZON
ROOMMATE #2 50% VERIZON
ROOMMATE #1 50% MONTHLY CLEANING SERVICE
ROOMMATE #2 50% MONTHLY CLEANING SERVICE
7. PERSONAL PROPERTY. All Roommates agree to refrain from borrowing another Roommate's personal property without prior approval. Exceptions to this provision should be clearly stated in writing, with the Roommates reserving the right to change their minds about the sharing of their items. Property that is borrowed will be used respectfully and returned in the same condition. If any damage is done to any personal property, the Roommate responsible for the damage will be held liable.
8. FOOD & KITCHEN USE. Food will be purchased by each roommate individually. Food may not be borrowed without the purchaser’s prior approval. Each roommate will clean up the kitchen after his/her use.
9. HOUSEHOLD DUTIES. All Roommates agree to share the responsibilities of cleaning and maintaining the common areas of the Premises ("common areas" means the entirety of the Premises other than the Roommate's private bedrooms). This includes dusting, vacuuming, emptying the trash, cleaning the bathrooms, yard work, doing the dishes, and any other household maintenance.
10. GUESTS. Each Roommate is responsible for the behavior of his or her guests. Guests shall not unreasonably disturb other Roommates. Guests must stay in the bedroom of the Roommate who invited them unless all other Roommates agree that the guest may stay in a shared area. Overnight guests shall be permitted, but no guest may stay for more than two consecutive days, not to exceed ten days in a month, without the permission of all other Roommates. New Roommates may move in only with the written permission of all other Roommates and the Landlord.
11. NEW ROOMMATES: New additional roommates may move in only with the written permission of all other Roommates and the Landlord.
12. SMOKING. Smoking is not allowed on the Premises.
13. ADDITIONAL TERMS. The Roommates hereby agree to the following additional terms:
"You may want to add additional terms. Some examples may include quiet hours or days on which guests and parties/loud noise."
14. GOVERNING LAW. This Agreement shall be construed in accordance with the State of New York.
15. ENTIRE AGREEMENT. This Agreement contains the entire agreement between the Roommates, and there are no other promises or conditions in any other agreement, whether oral or written, concerning the subject matter of this Agreement. This Agreement supersedes any written or oral agreements between the Roommates but has no effect on the Rental Agreement.
16. SEVERABILITY. If any provision of this Agreement is held to be invalid or unenforceable for any reason, the remaining provisions will continue to be valid and enforceable. If a court finds that any provision of this Agreement is invalid or unenforceable, but that by limiting such provision it would become valid and enforceable, then such provision will be deemed to be written, construed, and enforced as so limited.
17. AMENDMENT. This Agreement may be modified or amended in writing if the writing is signed by each Roommate.
18. WAIVER OF CONTRACTUAL RIGHTS. The failure of any Roommate to enforce any provision of this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver or limitation of that party's right to subsequently enforce and compel strict compliance with every provision of this Agreement.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Roommates have executed this Agreement in the manner prescribed by law as of the Effective Date.
ROOMMATE #1 Signature and Date
ROOMMATE #2 Signature and Date