Lease Vs. Roommate Agreement
November 5, 2018 | Phil Aitken
Perhaps you are single and considering reducing living expenses by inviting a roommate to share your abode.  This proposition raises a myriad of questions in your mind and your most pressing is concern is wondering whether roomie's name will be on the lease, too?  Further questions regarding legal responsibilities and rent share also come into play.  At the ends of the day, one has to wonder whether any sort of roommate-to-roommate agreement, signed or otherwise, is legally binding.

The Aitken Home Team presents three tips for understanding some legal ramifications of roommates:

KNOW YOUR LEASE

The first thing to understand is that a roommate-to-roommate agreement does not a lease make.  In fact, such agreements have nothing to do with a lease.  Your lease is an agreement which exists between you and your landlord.  In the event that your roommate's name is also on the lease, you are both bound by the conditions of the contract and violation could result in legal penalization.  If you fail to pay rent on time, fail to maintain the property as outlined in the lease, choose to buy a dog when the lease states "no pets", you are then subject to financial fees, eviction and other such penalties.  This same legal process does not apply if your roommate signs a paper agreeing to take out the trash each week.  

Related: "9 Steps to Recouping Your Deposit"

KNOW YOUR AGREEMENT

Landlords and property management companies are in no way involved in roommate agreements, therefor they neither enforce nor punish failed agreements.  Roommate agreements are designed to outline financial as well as personal responsibilities and detail division of utilities, who cooks and when, chore responsibilities and guest policies.  Anything can be written into a roommate agreement, however the most important inclusions are: amount of rent to be paid, security deposit and division of utilities payments.  

Related: "The Affordability Factor"

THE TIES THAT BIND

Your lease agreement with the landlord or property management company is a legal documents and blessed be the ties that bind.  If your tenant breaks the roommate agreement, it's less likely that they will suffer consequences.  There are always special circumstances to consider and a judge might rule in your favor should your roomie necessitate a small claims court visit, but it's a stretch.  In addition, if your roommate loses employment or cannot come up with his or her half of the rent, you will likely not be able to sue for funds.  

People are complicated regardless of upbringing, so weight the roommate thing carefully.  We all have baggage and no one is perfect.  Sharing an apartment can challenge the saintliest of relationships there is always the risk of failure to pay.  Be sure you move in with someone would trust with your life and, if necessary, consult a lawyer to make sure you aren't getting in over your head.  

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For more information, contact The Aitken Home Team today!


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