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Getting a roommate is a great way to share costs and lower rent. But living with someone is not always easy, as these roommate horror stories illustrate.
One way you can limit problems is by creating a roommate agreement. This is a formal document that spells out living arrangements and responsibilities. It may sound odd to create a legal contract, but it is often a sensible idea. Here are three reasons why.
1. A lease is not good enough
A lease is an important document, but it's limited in its focus. A lease typically specifies legal obligations between a landlord and the tenants as a whole, focusing on rent collection and length of term. A roommate agreement, by contrast, is a document between tenants. It can cover issues a lease cannot, like how to split up utilities, how to pay for groceries, and whether someone can keep an overnight guest.
2. You can avoid miscommunication
By making a roommate agreement, you have a chance to make sure everyone is on the same page. It is a good time to bring up any personal preferences.
Here are a few important issues that should be discussed.
- How to split rent, utilities, groceries
- Level of cleanliness and required chores
- Policy for overnight guests
- Whether to allow smoking, firearms, etc.
- What happens if someone moves out
While it's impossible to specify every issue, discussing house rules early helps avoid surprises. And if a serious issue ever happens, you will at least have something written to help make your case.
Read on to see samples of roommate agreements.
3. Roommate agreements are easy to make
A roommate agreement is usually a two to four page document that everyone signs. So how do you make a roommate agreement? There are actually a lot of free example templates that you can modify. Many colleges offer sample roommate agreements on their website, knowing these templates will be useful to students.
Here are a few samples:
- Tenant Resource Center [pdf]
- Virginia Tech [link to Word doc]
- Berkeley [Word doc]
- University of Arkansas [pdf]
As you edit the file for your own situation, you may want to check out this great FAQ about roommate agreements at LawDepot.com, a do-it-yourself contract site. The FAQ offers some advice on topics to include and legal limitations. While roommate problems are inevitably bound to happen, a formal agreement can at least improve communication and offer you some legal protection against bad roommates.
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