More often than not, if you’re living in a big city and you’re still in the early stages of your career, you’ll probably share your rental with one or more roommates. And whether you’re moving in with friends or strangers, a roommate agreement will help you avoid conflict and make sure you’re all comfortable with your living arrangement.
Below you’ll find out what a roommate rental agreement is, why you need one, and what you should include in it. Once you know what’s right for you and your new housemate/s, you can also download and print a free roommate agreement template.
What Is a Roommate Rental Agreement?
A roommate agreement is a legally binding document that you and whomever you share your living space with will sign. It spells out how you will split bills, share items or food, use and maintain common areas and eventually move out.
A rental agreement between roommates is separate from the lease agreement and doesn’t include the landlord. Only you and the person or people you live with will negotiate the terms of the contract and sign it, and it’s not mandated by law to have one before you move in.
Why Do You Need a Roommate Agreement?
Even if you’re moving in with your best friend, things can turn sour once you share a living space. A roommate rental agreement is legally binding so that it can help with everyone’s comfort and safety. While a judge won’t order your roommate to take out the trash more often, all the financial aspects in the contract will hold up in a court of law, which means you can enforce the payment of the security deposit, rent, or utilities.
The non-legally binding aspects are also essential, however. By including key roles and responsibilities in the roommate rental agreement, you will all outline clear expectations, avoiding many unwelcome surprises that could arise if you don’t discuss specific rules and boundaries before moving in together.
What Should You Include in a Roommate Agreement?
A strong roommate agreement should consist of the most crucial financial arrangements between you and your housemate/s as well as house rules. There’s no one size fits all approach to drafting this type of contract, but here are some essentials to consider:
Who pays how much rent? When is rent due? Who makes the payment, and how? If you’re living with one roommate and your bedrooms are about the same size, you’ll probably split it evenly. But if one of you has a considerably larger room or someone is sleeping in a common area, you’ll probably want to divvy up the rent according to how much space each of you uses. At the same time, some landlords require late fees if you don’t pay your rent on time. In these scenarios, you’ll probably want the person who delayed the payment to cover the cost.
Who pays how much of the security deposit? Just as you might split the rent differently because of room size or location, you might pay different amounts for the security deposit. A common area will be damaged by more than the person who also uses it as a bedroom, for example. Or maybe one of you doesn’t use the kitchen or a home office.
Any roommate rental agreement should include a clause on utilities. If your new home’s rent doesn’t cover them, you need to establish who pays what and when. You can either split all the bills evenly each month, set up a rotating payment system, or set fixed shares for each of you based on how much you consume (approximately, of course).
Who lives in each bedroom? Besides establishing which of you gets what room, also consider how you use the living room, bathroom, kitchen, and any other common areas. If you have more than one bathroom, for example, you might want to each claim one for private use.
If your apartment comes with one or more parking spots, note who gets each one in the roommate rental agreement. At the same time, if you have to share a parking spot with multiple people, you might want to set up a rotation system or to offer it to one roommate who will cover a larger chunk of the rent.
Guests & parties
Are overnight guests allowed at any time? Are they allowed under specific circumstances, like if you discuss it before? While your preferences may seem natural to you, your roommates’ opinions might differ. At the same time, if you want to be consulted before your roommate throws a party or has a large number of guests over, the roommate rental agreement is the perfect method to flesh out these guidelines.
Will you share cleaning supplies or food? Can you borrow each other’s stuff, such as hair dryers or other devices? Maybe you want to purchase items for the house in a rotating system, or perhaps you want to split the costs evenly every month.
You don’t need to list every single chore an apartment entails in your roommate agreement, but a few basic rules will be beneficial to everyone. Household duties will likely change, and unpredictable problems will probably come up, so set up a weekly or monthly meeting in which you talk about coming tasks and who will handle them. When it comes to fixed responsibilities, you can outline a rotating system or clean together.
If one or more of you has a job, you’ll probably want to make sure everyone gets their rest and has time to unwind without any loud noises disturbing you. You can outline some rules regarding how loud the TV or music can be, in general, and set quiet hours during the night to ensure everyone is respectful of each other’s needs.
This clause can only apply to pet-friendly apartments. Are you allowed to have pets? If so, are there any restrictions regarding their size or species? Are certain breeds or species banned? Think it through carefully, as you may not want a pet now, but change your mind later. Or you might think you’ll love any pet your roommate might have, only to find out they’re too much to handle. Talk things over with everyone who will live with you and make sure to include the conclusion in the roommate rental agreement.
Finally, what happens if one of you wants to move out of the rental early? It might not happen, but it’s best to have a pre-set arrangement in case it does. The roommate agreement should include a clause outlining whether you need to give each other one or more months’ notice before moving out, as well as whether you need to assist the person who stays in finding a new roommate.
Printable Roommate Agreement Template
Finally, after you figured out what you and your roommate/s are comfortable with, download the roommate agreement template below, fill it in, and make sure everyone signs it. Alternatively, you can use LegalTemplate’s creator to generate one online for free.