According to a Pew Research Center study from 2018, 20% of households are shared households, up from 17% in 2007. The arrangement of “doubling up,” or even tripling up, is surging across the U.S. But how? Not only are people living with friends, strangers, or classmates — but people living in multigenerational households are also rising, too, as many millennials have moved in with parents. Residents are choosing to live together versus alone for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s for economic or other lifestyle preferences, there’s no doubt entering into a rental agreement with a roommate at some point is inevitable — nearly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have roommates!
So how should you ensure harmony among a living space that may be shared with different kinds of people? A contractual roommate agreement is the best way to minimize discord in a shared living space. Of course, conflicts are bound to come up, but a contract is a great way to lay out ground rules and expectations beforehand so there is mutual understanding between one another. Essentially, a written roommate agreement is a set of terms and conditions created for you and your roommate or roommates living together to sign.
It’s best to keep the terms for your living agreement short and concise, but there are some non-negotiables you should include. Here are a few common terms roommates typically outline:
Keeping a cleaning schedule for the common, shared areas
Cleaning is one of the top frustrations among roommates because of how different peoples’ habits are. How often should you clean? Is one roommate messier than the other? A clear understanding of how the living space should look should be included in the agreement.
Setting aside quiet time hours
A high noise level coupled with partying can be another frustration if not dealt with before the move-in date. An agreement on acceptable noisiness and a curfew should be included in the contract.
Boundaries when guests stay over
Nothing is worse than having people you don’t know in your living space without notice from your roommate. Respecting each other’s boundaries includes when guests are permitted to come over.
How bills will be handled each month
Figure out who will be responsible for setting up the transfer to the landlord.
Privacy is a big deal, and even if you are friends with your roommate, boundaries and clear expectations should be laid out about each person’s personal preferences.
How bills will be split
Will one roommate be paying more than the other? Will the bills be evenly split? How will utilities be split? These are some questions you will need to go over with your roommate before you come to an agreement in writing.
Who will handle the security deposit
Before you move in, landlords typically require a security deposit to ensure
Agreement on pets (if the landlord permits it)
This is a huge one! Some people may be allergic to certain animals. If one roommate wants to bring their pet, they should ask permission and include it in the roommate agreement.
Laying out your schedules in a calendar
Knowing each other’s schedules may help you coordinate your cleaning schedules and also be the deciding factor for when you’ll have designated quiet times.
Expectations on how food is shared
Some roommates will share all their food, while others will only want to share certain items. Come up with what works best for both!
How the thermostat will be handled
Should you turn the AC on? What about the heat? And if you do turn them on, how long will it run? Depending on each person’s budget, there should be an agreed-upon time limit for each thermostat setting.
Setting a time constraint around a moving out notice
Sometimes a living situation just won’t work out. For that reason, it’s good to have a contingency in place within the written agreement for how much time they need to give you before they plan to move out.
Include the property address
The date the lease begins and ends
Each person is responsible for any damages they caused in the duration of the lease
Signatures of each occupant and the date
Yes. A roommate agreement is legally binding and should include the legal names of the co-tenants included on the lease and the primary tenant. This means that a breach of the contract can result in an eviction of the tenant violating a term.
However, if a roommate is violating a term in the agreement such as cleaning, it’s likely you can’t take that before a judge. A judge will likely only take certain matters of the case into consideration, usually pertaining to rent unpaid.