If you’re just starting out on your own, chances are you’re sharing your living space with someone else. Whether it’s a blind pairing or two or more friends sharing a pad, living with roommates instead of Mom and Dad can be an exciting adventure.
The Problem With Roommates
The problem is that everyone’s a little different. Some people are raised in messier homes than others. Some people manage themselves and their things more carefully than others, and some people have a more relaxed attitude than others regarding what is “their” space. You’ll never truly know a person well until you’ve lived with them for a while, and too many roommates learn the hard way about someone they thought they knew well.
Conflicts among roommates can be draining and stressful, and can be expensive. These conflicts vary widely from situation to situation but most often cover the following areas:
- Personal property disputes
- Payment of bills
- Noise levels
If all of you signed the lease, getting rid of a problematic roommate without breaking your lease can be difficult and depends on your local laws. Landlords are notoriously reluctant to get involved in roommate disputes, and usually will only do so if the property is being damaged or other tenants file complaints about you. Furthermore, most often all co-tenants will be held “jointly and severally” responsible for payment of all amounts due, meaning that they don’t care who pays it, but you’re all in trouble if it doesn’t get paid.
Enter the Co-Tenancy Agreement
A co-tenancy agreement is a written agreement signed by all roommates in the house. It discusses division of chores, cleanliness expectations, house rules, who is responsible for paying bills, and more. RocketLawyer offers a free co-tenancy agreement form online, but such agreements usually discuss these items:
- Division of household chores and how often they are to be done
- Where personal property is to be kept
- Is smoking / drinking allowed in the space?
- House rules on guests
- Noise policies and quiet hours
- Who is responsible for paying bills and when that person is to be paid by other residents
- Use of common property and other people’s property (e.g. can everyone drink that milk or does it belong to someone?)
- How violations of the agreement are to be handled and consequences for violating the agreement
A co-tenancy agreement allows roommates to resolve disputes by referring to the written agreement, and if properly executed and documented, gives roommates legal recourse in dealing with a problematic roommate.
Who Should Sign It?
Everybody who is a legal occupant of the space should sign it. Guests don’t need to, but typically the resident that brought them in is responsible for their presence and their behavior. All residents should discuss the terms and agree on them, then set it down in writing and sign it.
A Final Word
If you don’t know a prospective roommate, or don’t know them well, you should absolutely execute a co-tenancy agreement with them prior to moving in together. Even if you know someone well, you should consider one. Just in case.