It’s not a wise idea to share an apartment with someone without a roommate contract. That’s a common scenario that has led to many court battles and evictions. You can’t prevent all conflicts, but having an agreement in place helps. An oral agreement is difficult to prove, and a judge will be forced to decide who to believe. Even if the truth is on your side, a judge may believe your roommate. Here’s what you should include in a roommate contract:
1 – Rent Payment
Write out the dollar amount as well as the numeric value for the amount of rent that each person will pay, such as “Three Hundred Dollars, ($300). If there’s a mistake with the numeric value, the number written out will show the intent of the parties. It’s also good to include a statement saying how a change in rent owed to the landlord will affect the rent in the roommate contract. The most common way to solve this is to say that the rent change will be proportionate. For example if you and your roommate split the rent 50/50 and the rent increases by 100 dollars, then you would pay an additional $50.
2 – Security Deposit
Some roommates don’t require a deposit. Whatever you choose, it should be spelled out in the contract. If there is a deposit requirement, then state the amount. You should also include a statement which says that the damages that the landlord cites as reasons for withholding all or portions of the deposit will be deducted from whoever is responsible for the damage.
3 – Repairs
You and your roommate are responsible for repairs if either of you caused the damage. Your roommate contract should state that reasonable repairs should be made in a timely manner, and the person causing the damage should pay for it. That’s one way to avoid the security deposit issue as it relates to damages. It also protects each roommate from being left to face damages at the end of the lease because the other moved out without paying for repairs.
4 – Utilities
Sharing utilities with roommates is one of the most difficult aspects of a roommate relationship. Too often one roommate is forced to pay the other roommate’s share in order to keep the lights on. Screening the roommates before choosing one is important to avoid issues down the road, but it’s also important to include the terms of paying for utilities in the roommate contract. You should list every utility that’s paid for in the apartment, and write the amount due from each roommate, even if the amount is zero. You should also detail when each payment is be collected, by whom and whose name the utilities will be opened in.
5 – Term of the Agreement
Every roommate contract must come to an end, and you have to state when that is in the agreement. It’s so important that the agreement may not be enforceable without a definite term included in it. The length can coincide with the lease agreement with the landlord, or be shorter.
The rest of the roommate contract can include anything you want to address, such as a cleaning schedule or house rules. Nothing is too minor to include in a contract if it’s important to either one of you.