You have probably had roommates before, and found that something just didn’t work out the way you wanted. Many times, verbal agreements established don’t clearly communicate all of the aspects of being a roommate. You can easily leave yourself exposed to nasty disputes if you don’t sign something in writing beforehand.
Try doing things the right way, and use our easy to understand Roommate Agreement template to establish the house ground rules, before things get too complicated. Know that the most commonly used terms and conditions are included here, written by experts on legal contracts, especially for rental agreements.
You’ll need to do all of the proper research and homework first, but this template will give you a head-start and a good framework. You should always consult a lawyer though before finalizing any contracts.
For many people, a Roommate agreement is the first contract they ever enter into, although it’s less common for a signed contract on paper. It’s a little more effort, but when you write down your expectations, it can be much easier to deal with issues down the road. Many people enter into the contract as a roommate as a verbal agreement.
When you first sit down and talk to your potential roommates, they may have established a set of guidelines or rules, such as when everyone’s schedules are, how much rent costs, and who needs to pay the utility bills. In a simple world where everyone is good friends and nothing unexpected happens, this can be a great way to go. For everyone else, it’s almost always better to get things in writing.
An agreement or contract is a promise. In the case of a roommate contract, it is a little different than most, because material promises are not always exchanged between the parties. When there is no money exchanged, can the contract still be valid? Of course, it can. Promises exchanged on either side are seen just as materially valid as money, on the side of the law. Do check, however, with your local legal jurisdictions. County, state law, homeowners associations, or even municipal ordinances may stipulate that particular terms are in effect or other terms are nullified. This means that although you make an agreement for something in writing within this binding contract, it must also be legal for it to be enforceable in court.
A roommate agreement primarily talks about the rights, responsibilities, and expectations for both parties. It serves as a way to organize all of the notifications, disclosures, and issue-resolution procedures so that they can easily be referenced in one place. If one party disagrees, parties may agree to change some terms, so that everything is reasonable and balanced as it should be.
For each section, just like an expository essay, you need to speak about the 5 W’s: who, what, where, when, and why. If a clause in the agreement doesn’t answer most of these questions, it might not be necessary, or it might not have the legal effect that is desired. Consider this when writing your agreements. In addition, your roommate agreement may be underneath or subject to another agreement, such as a rental or lease agreement, which may be subject to yet another agreement (in the case of subletting).
In other agreements, there might be exclusions to pets, guests, or even roommates. Just because you make a legal contract with someone to become your roommate doesn’t make it legal. If it is prohibited by another contract, you still can’t do it.
Out of the many types of common contracts, the contract for roommate agreements are quite simple. We have included provisions for payment, term, guests, pets, security deposits, schedules, food sharing, and more. If any conflicts arise, the Agreement has a structure in which parties must (if signed) follow first, before bringing any legal action against other parties.
With all of the complexities above, you might be dissuaded from entering into such a binding accord. Don’t! Having a contract such as this one limits your liabilities, and helps to filter out bad roommates from good ones. Because all of your preferences are listed and itemized, anyone who would not be a good fit as your roommate will be filtered out, as they won’t be willing to sign your agreement.
One of the easiest ways to accidentally run into a dispute is to accept an agreement without talking about all of the relevant issues. If your roommate’s idea of normal quiet hours are 5 am-10 am, and they like to party all other hours, or if they believe that all food should be shared (because they prefer cheaper items) unlike yourself, they will not sign an agreement which legally binds them to your schedule and your preferences.
If you have an agreement that says your roommate is responsible for the living room upkeep, but your guest accidentally punches a hole in the wall one day before moving out, and the landlord charges a security deposit fee, who needs to pay for it? It is always best to include all of these terms before you get into such a sticky situation, so it is always clear who needs to do what, and when.
If this is your first contract, you will learn about contingencies, disclosures, notices, and conditions. These are common legal terms, which basically say if this then that, talking usually about who, what, and when. A legal agreement such as this is always contingent on terms in another legal agreement, such as a rental contract. For example, in the case that the rental agreement stipulates that the security deposit shall be returned no more than 14 days after the lease expiry date, the roommate agreement can not stipulate that the security deposit be returned no more than 13 days after the lease expiry date. The two terms are contradictory, and the lease contract will supersede.
If you’re not sure about what terms may contradict or overlap, this is a good time to go back and read your lease, sublet, sublease, or rental agreement again. If you’re planning on living at another prospective roommate’s premises, ask them if you can read the rental agreement, so that you know what is expected legally from the tenant.
Check over everything a few times and make sure it’s reasonable. If you are presenting the agreement to a potential roommate, try presenting it a couple of times before you do it for real. Just like a PowerPoint presentation, the delivery is everything, and you may need to really practice it so as not to overwhelm your prospective roommate before handing them a stack of paper. Good luck, and keep in mind that we recommend consulting a lawyer before entering into any contracts.