My Roommate’s Not on the Lease: 5 Tips to Avoid Getting Caught

in Roommates on by

While you might assume that you have the option to decide who shares your apartment, your landlord sees it differently. Any roommate that you want to move in is expected to go through the same tenant application process you did, complete with signing a lease. In fact, your lease probably says something about the fact that if you move someone in without the landlord’s consent, you may be evicted.

If you can get your roommate on the lease, that’s your best option. Todd Stofka, a landlord in Pennsylvania, is generally willing to consider adding roommates to a lease, especially if the current tenant has been a good tenant. He says, “If I decided to entertain the idea, I will interview the new tenant and pull a credit, eviction and criminal record on them.” He typically will also rewrite the lease and may raise the rent, considering that there will be more wear and tear on the unit.

But Stofka has said no, even though that makes people unhappy. If a prospective roommate has bad credit or would otherwise not make a good tenant, a landlord may not want him on the lease. Sneaking in a roommate who isn’t on the lease can be a problem. Stofka says that it’s easy to see when someone is living in an apartment when he/she isn’t supposed to be: “Walk through. Look in the fridge, look in the closet (how many sets of clothes), and look at the shoes. It’s pretty simple.”

While it isn’t recommended, some tenants still choose to have a roommate move in without getting on the lease. There are a few things you can do to keep the situation under control:

  1. Make sure that you trust your new roommate. You won’t have any recourse if he or she moves out without paying rent or causes another problem — and such a situation can escalate very quickly if the landlord finds out.
  2. Don’t copy the key. Many apartment keys are marked ‘Do Not Copy’ or have proprietary copying systems, which means that a copied key can get you into big trouble.
  3. Don’t plan a big move-in date. Most apartment managers keep an eye on anyone moving lots of boxes in and out and will quickly figure out if someone new is moving in.
  4. Don’t receive mail for anyone other than the tenant with the lease. Whether it’s a question of signing for a package or someone trying to confirm that an addressee actually lives in the building, an apartment manager will quickly realize that anyone getting mail at a particular address lives there.
  5. Be aware that most landlords are quick to find out if someone is staying in the building and isn’t supposed to be. Even something as simple as a count of cars in the parking lot can clue a landlord in to your arrangement.

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