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All You Need to Know About a Roommate Agreement

All You Need to Know About a Roommate Agreement

When you’re just starting out on your own money can be tight, especially when it comes to living in cities. That’s why many people opt to live with roommates in order to share costs. It can be a great way to save some money on living expenses, but it can also be fraught with peril due to the ups and downs of interpersonal relationships. If you choose to live with a roommate here are some things you need to know before signing a lease when it comes to a roommate agreement.

What is a Roommate Agreement?

A roommate agreement is basically a written document that puts down the responsibilities of each roommate. It is often made without the landlord present.  This can range from financial responsibilities to personal ones. It often outlines how rent and utilities are to be divided, but it can also be modified to include chores, food sharing, quiet times, and the policy on guests.

The three biggest things included in the roommate agreement are rent, security deposit, and utilities. These financial items are critical to any agreement.

Is a Roommate Agreement Legally Binding?

The answer to this can be tricky. A lease with a landlord is legally binding from beginning to end. If there is legal action against a tenant that broke a roommate agreement a judge will likely only hold them responsible for certain items. For example: If the roommate moves out early because they had to take a job elsewhere, leaving you to pay all rent and utilities, the court may order the roommate to pay you back in full.

The court likely won’t get involved if some of the more personal terms are violated like playing the TV too loud. Another important factor is if the roommate files for bankruptcy or has no money. If they don’t have any funds it is unlikely you will be able to collect on any judgment.

Always Do Your Homework

The phrase “caveat emptor”, or “buyer beware” is important before agreeing to live with a roommate. Be sure that it is someone you know and trust if it is at all possible. That makes the entire rental experience much more enjoyable for all parties involved. If you are meeting someone for the first time be sure to do your homework and find out more about them. In this day and age of the internet and social media you can learn a lot about a person before living with them.

In the event you do have to go to small claims court for failure to pay rent and utilities a roommate agreement can be a handy tool in your favor. It can help you get the share of the bills the other party agree to pay, but it is by no means a guarantee. By getting to know the person and trusting them you can make sure you have a much better experience, and it will end up as a much better experience for the second party as well, because they likely need a roommate too!

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Tips for Living with a Roommate for the First Time

Tips for Living with a Roommate for the First TimeLiving with a roommate can be an eye-opening experience, especially if you’re accustomed to living in on your own. Yet, even if you roomed with a brother or sister, living with a complete stranger is a totally different experience. Conflicts can arise for, seemingly, arbitrary reasons. Sometimes unexamined habits, such as eating food in a certain area or leaving dirty dishes in the sink, may cause tension. A vital piece of advice: maintain open lines of communication and set clear expectations with your roommate from the very start. The following are a few boundaries you’ll want to discuss from the start to establish a shared understanding and maintain peace and harmony with your roommate.

Personal and public stuff.

This has to be clear: which stuff that you have in common areas are okay for common use and which stuff is only yours to use. Do you share your laptop and your books? What about pots and pans, utensils, knives? What about your shampoo and conditioner? Be clear about what you’re okay with sharing, and also have a clear understanding of what your roommate is willing to share with you.

Visiting hours.

Your apartment community may have their own timeline for this, but your roommate and you should also set expectations with respect to your own apartment.

Noise

Some like television, while others avoid it. Nevertheless, it’ll likely be on at some point, so make an arrangement as to what volume level is reasonable for the TV to be set at. Also, discuss music volume. Maybe certain times of the day are better than others.

Housekeeping schedule.

Make an arrangement on the everyday household tasks that will need to be completed, and set a schedule: Who deals with cleaning the floor, putting out the trash, loading and unloading the dishwasher? Will you take turns buying groceries? The significant thing is to be fair.

Lights out.

Different work and school schedules mean that you and your roommate might need to sleep or wake up at different times. Discuss expectations about when you both expect your sleeping, working, and studying schedules to be.

Bill payment.

Since you may have to pay for some bills such as water, electricity, in addition to cable and internet, be clear on how you’ll be sharing the responsibilities for the bills and use of these utilities. Also take notice of the items you’ll have to continually purchase. Have an agreement on how you’ll buy and use your bathroom and kitchen supplies and also food. You might want to buy your own or share the costs.

The best step toward living cohesively with a roommate is to set clear expectations and follow through on them. These expectations not only give you an idea as to what you have rights to in the apartment but also what you are responsible for. Follow the suggestions above and be flexible as new situations and issues arise.