These days it’s common for even the hardest working young professionals to have roommates well into their careers as a way to save money. So maintaining a peaceful coexistence in your shared living space couldn’t be more important. Whether you’re best friends or strangers, getting along with your roommate on the most basic level is a necessity — and that involves some ground rules and mutual agreements. You have a contract with your landlord — why not with your housemates too? Here’s why you should sign a roommate agreement, according to the experts.
There are a number of reasons why signing a roommate agreement is the first thing you should do when you move in with a new roommate. Just like signing a lease with your landlord, licensed real estate salesperson Alex Mecum of DSA Realty says that a roommate agreement is a good way to safeguard yourself from any problems down the road, especially when dealing with finances. For example: Is there only person responsible for paying the entire rent? Then you should definitely consider signing a roommate agreement.
“It’s ultimately most important what your landlord will acknowledge. The landlord’s only legal responsibility is to the leaseholder, so if only one roommate is the sole leaseholder, I’d recommend drawing up an agreement,” says Mecum. “You want to protect both parties, so the ‘leaseholder’ or ‘tenant’ roommate knows the ‘occupant’ roommate won’t bail on rent, and the occupant knows the leaseholder won’t kick him out of the apartment.”
Create Your Own Roommate Agreement
Aside from financial matters, a roommate agreement clarifies day-to-day stuff that can ultimately make or break a roommate relationship if both parties aren’t on the same page. For example, how do you both feel about overnight guests? Who’s in charge of handling utilities? What about household chores? (Trust us: A roommate agreement could be the difference in an empty kitchen sink or this catastrophe.) Here are some tips to getting started:
Draw Up the Terms
Sit down with your roommate over coffee or a glass of wine and draw up your own unique contract. Open up about past issues with roommates that you’d like to avoid this time around, and list any and all your deal-breakers up front. If you want to be super thorough, Nolo offers a great list of points to cover while drawing up your roommate agreement and a sample agreement you can follow.
Print a Standard Agreement Off the Internet
If you aren’t sure where to start or would rather just take a more formal approach, websites like The Law Depot can walk you through preparing a professional agreement. Answer a few questions, fill out the necessary info, and you’re good to go. If it’s in your budget, you could consider consulting with attorney directly, though it is a costly option.
Get it Notarized
Once the contract is drawn, have all parties sign and get it notarized to make it official. It’s important to note that notarizing a document does not indicate its legality. Ultimately it’s an agreement made in good faith.
“A roommate agreement is only binding as far as both parties agree to it,” Mecum says. “It’s about writing out terms that make sense for you and communicating clearly with your roommate.”
A roommate agreement is the best way to avoid a messy split and enjoy the perks of having a roommate. In addition to saving money, the right roommate can introduce you to a new culture you may have otherwise not had the opportunity to experience. Even better, it could be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. It’s all about starting out on the right foot and holding up your end of the deal. In the game of rentals, it’s always better to be safe than sorry — even when it comes to deciding how to split toilet paper costs.