Your rent is steep and you want to alleviate the financial burden by letting someone sleep in the guest room or a corner of the living room. One of your roomies suddenly bailed or moved on to an exciting job opportunity in another state. Your or your roommate’s significant other is moving in (a big step!). Whatever the reason, you’re taking another big step—adding a roommate to the lease. What factors should you consider when doing so? How much might your landlord raise the rent? This article gives a brief overview of the options available when adding a roommate to the lease.
Unlike many legal issues, adding a roommate to your lease is actually a somewhat sensible process. The first thing to do is consult with your landlord to seek approval for the new addition to your apartment. Adding a roommate to the lease (rather than just having another person live in the apartment in a sort of subletting arrangement) will be preferable for your landlord because the lease will give your new roommate a legal responsibility to pay rent and respect the apartment. If the new roomie is just a substitute for a departing tenant, you’ll probably have little trouble getting the roommate approved. The process will probably involve a standard rental application and credit history approval, as well as switching the names on the lease. Some landlords may also require a lease extension when bringing on someone new.
If you’re not just replacing a roommate but actually adding to the total number of residents in the apartment, you may have other issues to consider. Depending on your location, local housing codes have provisions allowing landlords to raise rent by a certain percentage annually when adding a roommate and creating a new lease. Your landlord may also be able to increase your monthly payments by any amount he or she deems appropriate. If you think the cost of living is being artificially augmented, consult with your local tenants’ rights council or a lawyer to see what the landlord is legally allowed to do. Until you sign the lease, the new price of rent is negotiable—so don’t set pen to paper until you can accept the accompanying financial burden.
Even simply swapping one roommate for another might make you susceptible to a rent increase. You’ll most likely need to sign a new lease agreement altogether, which your landlord might draw up to reflect an increase in rent since the time you initially signed your lease. Even if your name is on the new lease, the addition of a different roommate may open up an opportunity for your landlord to raise your rent—within reason. Again, consult local resources to see what rights your landlord has as far as increasing the cost of living in your unit. Once you sign a new lease, though, you’re bound to pay the amount specified in it, so do your research and negotiating first and your signing second.
When you have your landlord’s approval of your new roommate’s completed application, the landlord will write up a new lease agreement with the appropriately adjusted rent and correct names. You and your new roommate(s) and any former roommates will to sign the new lease and everything will be—or should be—smooth sailing.
That’s the ideal situation, though. You might run into situations ranging from not getting approval for your roommate to having the price of rent raised so much that your eyes pop out of your head. If something comes up in the process of adding a new roommate to your lease, don’t panic. Remain level-headed and do what you can to work things out. If your landlord is hesitant to approve your new boyfriend’s rental application, don’t scream obscenities or stop paying rent. Look for the reason why your landlord objects to the new tenant, and propose possible solutions. If your boyfriend doesn’t have a job or a good credit rating, tell the landlord you’ll be covering for him financially as necessary (this may help get the boyfriend on the lease, but whether it’s a good idea in other respects depends on your relationship with the boyfriend!).
All things considered, adding a roommate to your lease shouldn’t be a difficult process. It may cost a bit, but the presence of another rent-payer should be able to offset the rent increase and actually save you money. As long as you’ve done your homework beforehand and know whether you can get along with the new roommate, everything should work out well. Now you’ll just need to figure out what to do to address issues that arise with your new roomie being messy, loud, or otherwise less than ideal to live with.