Establish basic ground rules with this roommate agreement
Sharing an apartment or house can be a smart move. Not only does it allow you to share costs, but you also share responsibilities that can make life easier. But living with other people can also be tough. If you and your roommate discuss important issues up front, you can avoid trouble. Develop a roommate contract before the boxes are unpacked and avoid bigger problems later.
Lease, rent and security deposits
The lease, rent, and security deposit are critical to discuss. For starters:
- Determine whose name will be on the lease. A lease is a legally binding document that outlines the terms of rental.
- Collect a security deposit from each roommate with a clear understanding of the circumstances that will forfeit a deposit. For example, if a roommate decides to move out before the lease expires, will the security deposit be withheld?
Renters insurance generally covers your personal property, but does not cover personal property owned by your roommates. That's why it's important to discuss renters insurance coverage before moving in. Ideally, you and your roommates will each have a policy with enough coverage to protect your stuff. That way, if something happens, you'll each be covered. You may also want to discuss umbrella insurance for renters, which helps protect you if a claim against you exceeds the coverage of your renters insurance policy.
Utilities: who pays what?
Establish how you will pay for utilities. Some roomies choose to split utility bills equally, while others enter into arrangements that rotate monthly bills. Keep in mind that if the bill is in your name, you are legally required to pay it. Decide how and when your roommates will chip in for gas, electricity and water. Failure to pay bills in a timely manner can impact your credit score, so work together and stay on top of it.
Food is a regular expense, so establish a grocery policy. Whether or not you share food, make sure you are on the same page. Some roommates take turns making weekly grocery runs and split the costs, while others prefer to stock the fridge independently.
Determine your policy on guests. Nothing can come between roommates faster than a boyfriend or girlfriend who overstays their welcome. An extended family member that crashes in your living room can also be problematic. Establish how many guests each roommate can have and for how long, and determine how often someone can stay over before he or she needs to contribute to food and rent.
Is smoking prohibited in the home? And what about parties? If you want to limit late night celebrations to the weekends, be sure all roommates are in agreement. Talk about weekly chores, like cleaning the bathroom, emptying the dishwasher and taking out the trash and decide who will do what. Outlining basic living norms will ensure harmonious habitation.
If you are going to have pets, there's a lot to figure out. You obviously have to abide by the provisions of your lease, since most rentals have specific rules regarding pets. Aside from that, you need to identify who will feed and take care of the pet. You should also talk about additional costs related to the pet, like food and trips to the veterinarian. Decide up front who will pay for these when they are required.
Some rentals provide only one spot per unit, so decide if you are going to use a first-come, first-served system, or implement a rotation schedule.
You can build your own customized roommate agreement, or you can use our handy template. It might be a little awkward to discuss some of these issues, but you'll be glad you did!