A roommate agreement is made between two or more people who intend to use the same accommodation. A roommate contract establishes the ground rules for the common residents of the apartment. The duties and responsibilities of each roommate will be clearly laid out so that there are no disputes later on.
This agreement is normally drafted after the new entrants in the accommodation have already agreed to the lease terms. The roommates need to agree mutually on all the terms and conditions mentioned in the agreement. If there are any changes or amendments to the agreement, then there should be provisions for the same. These agreements ensure there is complete clarity on every aspect of living under the same roof for all the roommates.
Though all the clauses in a roommate agreement are not enforceable in a court of law, especially the non-financial aspect, yet it is advisable to draft such an agreement to avoid possible disputes with your roommate.
Who Takes the Roommate Agreement – People Involved
A roommate agreement is required when there are two or more people sharing an accommodation to reduce the cost per head. While there are savings for the roommates, there are certain responsibilities and apartment expenses that come up when people share an accommodation. The roommate agreement is signed after the lease agreement.
Purpose of the Roommate Agreement – Why Do You Need It?
A roommate agreement is required so that two or more individuals who want to share the same accommodation can lay down the responsibilities that each will have. When two or more roommates are looking for a single room for rent, a roommate agreement is advisable.
It is very difficult to assess a roommate, no matter how well or little you know them. They will have their preferences and dislikes, so it is better to discuss the responsibilities they are comfortable taking up apart from sharing the financial expenses like rent and utility costs. No roommate should be overburdened with responsibilities ideally and all this should be clearly documented in the roommate agreement. A detailed schedule of responsibilities is made and any exceptions to be made to the schedule for any special occasions are also included to provide the required flexibility.
These agreements state the duties and obligations of each tenant. The tenant is also aware of his or her financial obligations each month which include rent and utilities apart from their personal responsibilities as a co-tenant such as cleaning of bathrooms or ensuring that noise levels don’t cross a certain limit. A roommate agreement ensures that the possibility of disputes between the parties is reduced.
Contents of the Roommate Agreement – Inclusions
A roommate agreement should include the names of the parties to the agreement.
Apart from these the room rental agreement should also incorporate:
- The effective date of the agreement: The date on which the agreement is being entered into
- The rent payable by each roommate: Splitting the rent evenly might prove difficult when one is getting to sleep on a bed while the other has to use a couch. The tenant making the final payment also needs to be finalized.
- Payment of utilities: The responsibilities of the roommates with regard to payment of utilities including the share of each roommate. The utility list should be well detailed with all the utilities included. This will ensure each roommate knows how much to pay.
- Security Deposit: The security deposit payable by each roommate which could be based on the size of the room. This will be helpful when the roommate leaves as they know how much they will get.
- Guest policies for the house: You need to take into account overnight guests and long-term guests.
- Cleaning and other responsibilities: Whether it is cleaning the room based on a schedule or keeping the noise level to the minimum, it must be mentioned in the agreement
- Car parking: A proper understanding with regard to parking of cars if there are fewer parking spaces compared to cars
- Food: If food arrangements are also being shared, the agreement should clearly lay down the grocery responsibilities of each roommate.
- Revocation: The events which lead to revocation of the agreement should be mentioned.
How to Draft a Roommate Agreement
While drafting a roommate agreement, the following points need to be kept in mind:
- Parties to the agreement: The names of the parties to the agreement and the relationship between them
- Rent: The share of each roommate with respect to the total rent payable and the basis for the same. It is also important to state the name of the tenant who will be making the payment to the landlord.
- Security Deposit: The security deposit payable by each roommate and the basis for the same. The tenants will understand the logic when they are refunded the deposit.
- Payment of utility bills: The utilities which are to be shared must be clearly mentioned in the agreement. The tenant who will pay the final utility bill should be decided here.
- Sharing of living space: The share of each roommate with respect to the bedroom and common spaces like the living room to be mentioned
- Premature departure: If a roommate wants to leave before the due date of termination of the contract, there should be a clause for this
- Guest policies of the House: The decision to allow overnight guests and the duration of their stay need to be approved by all tenants.
When it comes to negotiating strategies with regard to roommate agreement, it is important to find out what is the basis of division of costs and responsibilities. Before signing the roommate agreement, ensure that you are not being entrusted with a responsibility that you are not comfortable with or paying more than your share of expenses.
Benefits and Drawbacks of the Roommate Agreement
Here are some of the benefits of having a roommate agreement:
- When it comes to sharing of responsibilities, there is no dispute between the roommates as they have signed the roommate agreement where all the individual duties and responsibilities have been clearly defined. Before signing the agreement, the responsibilities have been clearly mentioned and assigned on the basis of mutual consent. The same is true with regard to sharing the rental as well as the utilities. The basis of sharing has been agreed upon and then the agreement has been signed.
- In case of dispute with regarding to non-payment of financial dues, the tenant can be taken to court. As the tenant has understood the terms and conditions regarding payment of rent or utilities, refusal to pay will result in legal action and eviction in extreme cases.
- If there is a violation of the agreement by any of the parties, then the agreement can be declared null and void
The drawbacks of having a roommate agreement are as follows:
- When any of the roommates refuse to discharge their non-financial responsibilities like clearing out the garbage, they cannot be taken to court. Even though the roommate agreed to undertake a certain responsibility, these situations can happen
What Happens in Case of Violation
When there is a violation of a clause in a roommate agreement, it is important to understand that certain clauses are enforceable by law while others are not.
The roommate agreement contains clauses which relate to financial responsibilities as well as non-financial responsibilities and basis of sharing the expenses for the same.
The financial responsibilities include the share of rental of each roommate, how the bill for utilities will be divided and the security deposit that each roommate needs to pay.
The clauses that deal with non-financial responsibilities would include the guest policies for the house, cleaning responsibilities and the rules regarding the noise level in the apartment(1)
When it comes to paying the share of rental, security deposit or utilities, the tenant can be taken to court for non-payment of dues in case of default.
However, when it comes to non-financial responsibilities like taking out the garbage or cleaning the room, these cannot be enforceable in a court of law. Therefore, it is important that when drafting a roommate agreement, there should be a mutual understanding between the roommates and the tasks should be chosen voluntarily by the roommates. This will ensure that both financial and non-financial obligations are carried out without problems.
A roommate agreement is important when you are sharing an apartment with one or more people. The reason for this is very simple, when you are sharing a room with others, the question of sharing of responsibilities occur.
Responsibilities would include payment of rent and utilities as well as cleaning the apartment. The agreement clearly states the basis of division of these responsibilities so that there is no dispute regarding this in the future(2).
While default in the financial responsibilities can result in a tenant being taken to court, the same is not possible for non-financial responsibilities. Even if we take this into account, this agreement helps to keep disagreements to a minimum and results in an amicable living environment.
So, if you are planning to share your room with other tenants, this agreement is advisable.