Renting With Roommates – Part II

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on January 3, 2007 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Even when the best of friends agree share an apartment or house, there is bound to be a falling out i.e. agreements or disagreements arise, when a roommate plays the music too loud, or doesn’t wash the dishes when it is his / her turn to do it, or is habitually late in paying his / her share of the rent, or has a bunch of people staying overnight almost every day, or leaves dirty, smelly clothes lying around, even on the dining table. The situation can turn quite ugly, when one has a roommate, who simply drives one nuts, and can lead to an argument as to who should move out of the rental unit.

While, any informal agreements that roommates chalk out, on how to split the rent, or who gets which bedroom, including sharing of chores, do not bind a landlord to them, nor do landlords have any power to enforce them.

To avoid any unpleasantness, it is wise to anticipate possible problems right from the beginning, and choose roommates, who are not only compatible, but are open to sensibly resolving any disputes that may arise. Before, moving in or signing a rental agreement, it is wise for future roommates to sit down and create their own agreement that covers major issues that may crop up, as a result of shared accommodation, such as:

  1. Rent: Decide on everyone’s share of the rent, as well as, who will be responsible for making out the rental cheque. That, is because, landlords prefer to receive only one rental cheque, unless, agreed otherwise.
  2. Space: Avoid any squabbles over bedrooms by deciding the issue, before signing any rental lease or agreement or moving in.
  3. Household chores: Draw up a cleaning schedule, and spilt the household chores amongst all roommates.
  4. Food Costs: Similarly, split food costs, including grocery shopping, and cooking responsibilities, as well.
  5. Noise: Decide on permissible noise levels for music systems and TVs.
  6. Overnight guests: Come to an agreement over, whether boyfriends or girlfriends can stay over every night?
  7. Moving out: If, a roommate wants to move out, notice period to be given should be decided on, including whether a departing roomie is responsible for finding a suitable replacement.

Everything should be put down in writing and signed by all roommates to avoid any unpleasantness later on. Be as specific as possible, especially on important issues, whether it is dirty dishes in the sink, or if it’s a roommate’s (non-rent-paying) boyfriend / girlfriend taking over the bathroom each morning. While, not a legally binding agreement, if taken to court, a judge may not order a roommate to carry out his / her share of the household chores, however, he / she will enforce financial agreements, such as how rent is to be shared.

At this point, it is well to remember that one cannot terminate the tenancy of one’s roommate by filing an eviction suit. That is permissible only, when one has sublet a portion of the rental accommodation, and is a sub-lessee landlord, or sub-landlord. However, there is another exception, when rentals are governed by certain rent control statutes, such as, those prevalent in San Francisco. According to a Californian rent control stature, a landlord can designate a ‘master tenant’, usually, a long-term tenant who is there first, to perform many of a landlord’s functions. Master tenants have the right to select, as well as, evict co-tenants.

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