How to Survive Your College Roommate


Last Updated October 11, 2022

What is a Roommate Agreement?

A Roommate Agreement is a written contract between roommates that outlines their rights and obligations while living together.

This agreement includes house rules, maintenance duties, restricted behaviors, and more. For a Roommate Agreement to be useful, everyone sharing the household must agree to it.

A Roommate Agreement is also known as a:

  • Roommate contract
  • Housemate agreement
  • Roommate living agreement
  • Contract between roommates

Why are Roommate Agreements important?

Living with roommates comes with challenges, whether in a house, apartment, or condo. People have different standards for things like cleaning and quiet hours, resulting in disagreements.

Creating a Roommate Agreement provides an opportunity to discuss financial responsibilities, house rules, and household duties. Also, it allows you to discuss how issues and disputes will be resolved should they arise.

The following situations can all benefit from Roommate Agreements:

  • You and your friend are moving in together
  • You are moving in with a less-known acquaintance
  • You’re renting a room in your home to someone
  • Your current roommate is subleasing their room to someone else
  • You move into a college dorm with a dormmate

No matter whether you and your roommate are signed to a month-to-month or fixed-term lease, it’s a good idea to outline expectations in writing to avoid future misunderstandings.

What is the difference between a Roommate Agreement and a Lease Agreement?

Although Roommate Agreements and Lease Agreements both relate to your living space, they do not involve the same parties or elements.

A Lease Agreement is a legal contract between a landlord and one or more tenants and is used to handle terms related to renting residential property.

On the other hand, a Roommate Agreement is a contract between roommates to divide and manage their responsibilities. The landlord is not a party to this agreement, even though their contact information may be listed in the contract.

If one roommate moves out and another remains in their rental unit, the remaining tenant may want to add a new roommate to the lease as a tenant and create a new Roommate Agreement.

What do I include in a Roommate Agreement?

Your Roommate Agreement’s terms should reflect your unique situation. Depending on what you and your roommate decide, your agreement will include some of the following information.

1. Information about the property, roommates, and original lease

Every Roommate Agreement should contain your names and the rental property’s address, including the street name or number, city, state, and ZIP code.

If there is an existing Residential Lease Agreement, include whether it ends on a fixed end date or automatically renews. In this case, also include the landlord’s name.

2. Term or length of the agreement

Your Roommate Agreement should specify an end date. In cases where there is a Lease Agreement, you may want the Roommate Agreement to end at the same time as the lease.

With the LawDepot template, you can also specify a fixed end date or fixed number of weeks, months, or years. Or, you can state that your Roommate Agreement automatically renews on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.

3. Rent responsibilities

An integral component of a Roommate Agreement is specifying rent responsibilities. Besides stating when and how often you and your roommate pay rent, your Roommate Agreement should also specify whether you will share the rent amount equally.

You may decide to split the rent equally or unequally, depending on your unique situation. Perhaps, your roommate has a larger bedroom, so they pay a larger portion of the rent.

Keep in mind, landlords usually want one rent payment. They don’t want to be bothered with multiple payments from co-tenants. Consider designating one roommate who collects the entire rent payment to give to the landlord.

Lastly, you may specify whether one roommate is responsible for organizing and keeping records of payment information.

4. Security deposit details

State whether the landlord is requiring a security deposit. Most importantly, specify how the security deposit will be shared between you and your roommate(s).

Generally, roommates split the security deposit at the beginning of a lease and get it back when they move out. But what if one roommate moves out before the lease is up? One common solution is to have the new roommate pay the departing roommate their share of the security deposit.

5. Responsibilities for utilities and household costs

It’s imperative that your Roommate Agreement state how utilities and household costs are divided amongst you and your roommate(s). Utilities and household costs may include any of the following expenses:

  • Gas
  • Water
  • Wifi
  • Electricity
  • Telephone
  • Trash removal
  • Television service
  • Yard maintenance

6. House rules, roommate duties, and restrictions

Since a Roommate Agreement is a contract between people sharing a living space, it should include some basic rules. Having some guidelines for everyone to follow clarifies expectations and reduces the chance of disagreements.

In our Roommate Agreement you can specify rules regarding any of the following subjects:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Illegal activities
  • Parties, gatherings, and celebrations
  • Quiet hours
  • Guests
  • Personal property

In addition to house rules, your Roommate Agreement should specify how parking, bedrooms, and household duties, such as cleaning and chores, are divided. It may also restrict certain things, such as having pets.

7. Rules for termination of tenancy

Lastly, your Roommate Agreement should include terms relating to terminating a tenancy. An agreement should answer the following questions:

  • Can a roommate terminate another roommate’s tenancy?
  • How much notice does a roommate have to give before leaving?
  • How many days after leaving does a roommate have to provide a forwarding address?
  • How much time should be given to the departed roommate before any abandoned property can be discarded?

What happens if a roommate moves out?

When a roommate moves out, remaining roommates may ask their landlord for their consent to sublease to a new roommate or to amend the lease to include a new tenant.

Upon finding a new roommate, it’s also a good idea to create and sign a new Roommate Agreement or create an Amending Agreement to modify your existing roommate contract.

Is a Roommate Agreement legally binding?

A Roommate Agreement is legally binding. However, things like the division of household chores are difficult to enforce in court.

On the other hand, a Roommate Agreement could be helpful if your roommate doesn’t fulfill their financial obligations and you take legal action against them.

For example, if a roommate fails to pay their share of the rent or refuses to cover costs related to the damage they caused, you may be able to use the Roommate Agreement to show that your roommate previously agreed to these terms in your contract.

Of course, expensive court costs usually keep people from taking legal action for petty disagreements and losses. That said, outlining expectations in a Roommate Agreement will help you avoid disputes in the first place.

Does a Roommate Agreement need to be notarized?

No, you do not need to notarize a Roommate Agreement. To ensure your document’s validity, you may choose to have someone witness it.

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