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What to Include in a Roommate Agreement

December 14, 2018

If you are planning to move into an apartment with a roommate, you might want to look into writing out a roommate agreement that establishes the ground rules for your new rental unit. This agreement will typically cover all of the duties and responsibilities that will be split between you and your roommate in your new living space. They are typically created after agreeing to your lease terms.

What is a roommate agreement

Unlike a lease agreement, a roommate rental agreement is not an official legal contract. However, it's still good protocol to draft up a roommate contract to start out the relationship. This will start your roommateship on a strong foot and will help each of you figure out what makes for a good roommate in each other's eyes. This will establish good faith and the general house rules that you will likely be following for at least the next year. A rental agreement between roommates is the start to healthy living situation.

Who needs a roommate agreement

It's a good idea for all new roommates to have a roommate agreement. However, this is especially helpful for moving in with somebody that you're not exactly close with. If you're living with a close friend or significant other, the conversation that you have when it's their turn to wash the piled up dishes are not nearly as awkward. With someone you aren't so close with, you may not know how to approach this discussion.

What to include in a roommate agreement

1. How Much Each Roommate Pays for RentThe most important thing that needs to be clarified here is how your rent is split up. If it’s an even split, that's not so difficult. This might be a more complex question depending on the living arrangements. If you are living with four different roommates and one sleeps on the couch while another lives in a master bedroom, things can get messy. Be sure to figure out these terms in the beginning to avoid any future confusion, and clearly lay out the rent amount for each person.  Also, determine which tenant will be in charge of making the rent payments.

2. Who Pays Utilities and How to Split Bills
It's pretty typical for roommates to split the utility bill evenly, but if you want to get more detailed this is the place to do it. Figure out how you are going divvy up the bill and establish who will be responsible for actually paying it. The tenant in charge of these bills can also be responsible for paying the internet and cable bills to keep things consistent.

3. How Much Security Deposit Each Roommate PaidThe terms for your security deposit are usually laid out in your lease agreement. However, you might consider splitting the security deposit by something like room size. This section is also a good place to keep note of how much each roommate paid towards the security deposit. Doing so will help in the future figuring out who gets what when you (hopefully) get your deposit back. This section is also a good place to establish what happens if one roommate has to leave the apartment early.

4. Guest Policies for the House
Your lease may have some information regarding overnight guests policies, but clear up any other points of discussion here. If you are uncomfortable with your roommate's boyfriend or girlfriend staying the night often, you should establish some house rules. Consider both overnight guests and long-term guests.

5. Cleaning Responsibilities
Outlining cleaning responsibilities early on is very important. Figuring out a cleaning schedule will make living with your roommate a much more pleasant experience. Obviously going on a case-by-case plan is the easy choice, but tension could rise if one roommate is slacking on the household chores. Develop a solution or schedule to clean up common areas like the dining room or living room.

6.  Guidelines Around Noise Level
If you cherish your sleep or simply need to get up early every day for work, consider establishing some guidelines for quiet times throughout the week.

7. Who Gets to Use the Parking Spot
If you and your roommate both have cars, hopefully you have access to two parking spaces. If only one parking spot is available, there are going to be some tough discussions. Whoever gets the parking spot might be paying more while the other roommate is relegated to street parking. You can also come up with a schedule where roommate A gets the spot one week, and roommate B gets the spot the next week. Spell out the terms of any decision around parking in your roommate agreement so there is no confusion down the road.

8. What Food is Communal vs. Individual
Most people just buy and eat their own food. If you plan on sharing everything, you might need to figure out arrangements for a grocery shopping schedule. If you plan to only share a few things, make sure to spell this out.

Although a written agreement isn’t completely necessary, it is a helpful practice to establish the ground rules. This ensures that you and your roommate have a solid understanding of responsibilities and how to be respectful of one another. What did you include in your roommate rental agreement? Tweet us @ApartmentList.

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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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