Sharing an Apartment: Agreements for Roomies

You’ve got the perfect apartment but can’t afford the price. You’re tempted to go find a room-mate to share the costs but have heard some horror stories of “roomies” gone bad.

So what to do? First step is to start searching for that compatible roommate. But even if you find the “perfect” room-mate, don’t overlook setting up some agreements long before any actual moving begins.

What should be in an agreement?
Many times, people think of how to split the rent which is a good starting point, however it’s important to know that no matter what agreement is made between yourself and your room-mate that the landlord has the right to call upon either party for the full rent in the event that one party cannot or will not pay.

It’s not worth outlining the terms of an eviction in your agreement because as a general rule only landlords can enforce evictions.

What other points do you want to address in an agreement? Here are some items you might want to include:

Phone Expenses
Phone costs especially the use of long-distance calling and DSL for Internet access. Options can include blocking of long-distance calls, use of phone cards, installation of private lines or upfront deposits.

Food and Grocery Shopping Expenses
Food shopping, cooking and use of food need at least some discussion. Is food purchased for the enjoyment of all or only the buyer? What kinds of items might be shared or purchased solo? Who is responsible and how often for cleaning out the fridge or doing the dishes?

Guests and Visitors
Think about guests. While most folks think about the issue of overnight boyfriends or girlfriends, there are other types of situations to consider. When does a guest or the host become responsible for helping to pay with costs of food? Are family members welcome and if so, for how long?

And there is the issue of pets. You might not have a pet today but what if you find that perfect kitten on the doorstep or your room-mate comes home with an exotic bird or snake? Be prepared for the unexpected might be the best advice in this regard.

When it comes to making a room-mate agreement, don’t try to write something that would withstand review by the Supreme Court but instead do try to create a document which can serve as a general guideline and which can help create conversations today about the potential pitfalls of apartment sharing tomorrow.

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