So what exactly is a roommate agreement? It’s not the lease agreement itself and actually doesn’t involve your landlord at all. A roommate agreement outlines the conditions of living between – you guessed it, roommate. It should include such terms as the responsibility of each tenant, who will pay for which utility, agreed-upon house rules, etc. The purpose of having such a contract is to help make living with another person peaceful, cooperative, and to offer protection from issues that might arise later in tenancy.

Terms in a roommate agreement

An effective roommate agreement should include all terms delineating what is expected from each resident, as well as certain formalities to help make such a contract binding on all parties. Here are some recommended clauses characteristic of a good roommate agreement:

Date of the agreement and the address of the rental property
Names of all roommates
Details of the rental agreement that a roommate has entered into with the landlord
How the rent is to be divided among the roommates
Living space: Which room belongs to whom and how common areas are to be used
Utilities: Who will pay for which utility. For example, if there are two roommates A and B, they can decide that A will pay for TV while B will pay for the internet, or that the bills will be split in half and paid by both.
Security deposit paid to the landlord
Monthly rent to be paid, including time and mode of payment
House rules: What conduct is acceptable in the house and any restrictions. For example, this clause may require that other roommates be notified if a roommate is bringing a guest who will stay overnight or could prescribe the rules for having parties in the apartment.
Sharing of personal items: Sharing a household does not necessarily mean that roommates have to share their personal belongings. Food is often a point of conflict between roommates who did not intend to give away their last slice of pizza, cake, etc. Perhaps you agree upon a labeling system or state that only certain kinds of things are meant to be shared.

Moving out early: If a roommate moves out earlier than the time stated in the lease agreement, explain how that issue will be handled.
Rules relating to chores: Who will take out the trash? Who is in charge of vacuuming? Are there shared bathrooms to consider? Is the chore list static or dynamic? If it is dynamic, how often will the responsibilities change? These are all things to think about.

Legal requirements to keep in mind

The terms relating to finances are legally binding. A roommate can sue another roommate if he fails to pay the rent/bills for which he is responsible under the agreement. However, terms such as house rules and any rules relating to chores may not be legally binding. Nevertheless, you still want to have those points explained in your agreement to make each party aware of the expectations of a tenancy.

When drafting a roommate agreement, tenants must ensure that none of the provisions violate any law. All tenants must agree to the terms and no party can force another to sign the contract. To be on the correct side of the law, drafters should include a clause prohibiting illegal activity in the apartment. Tenants must sign with their legal names and avoid using nicknames. It is also advisable to sign the agreement in the presence of a notary. Following these guidelines will help enforce the document in court should the need arise.