There are problems aplenty between landlords and renters, but imagine the problems you would have if you shared the rent with a roommate or two?
More people means more possibility for problems. Okay, who are we kidding, even among the best of friends there will be problems. However, a lot can be prevented if you follow these do’s and don’t of co-renting.
- Make sure your roommates are responsible with their money. This is probably the most important part of roommate hunting. You may not have the same interests, but at least you’ll know that you won’t get stuck with their portion of the rent.
- Try to find roommates with the same lifestyle, if you can. Although this isn’t key, it will impact how much you like your roommates and how long you will or won’t be staying in the same place. You don’t want to end up resenting your roommate because they are a slob or like to party more than you do.
- Decide how to split the rent before signing the lease. If the bedrooms and amenities are pretty much equal, then it’s easiest to split the rent equally. However, if they are not equal, you’ll want to make sure that a roommate with a small bedroom and shared access to a hall bath is not paying the same rate as the roommate with the master suite. To avoid bias, it can be helpful to assign a rent value to each room and then assign rooms based on financial capability. If you would like more ideas about how to split the rent see the usnews.com article, “The Best Ways to Split Rent with Roommates.”
- Designate one person to pay the bills. Assign a responsible roommate to be in charge of the utility, internet, cable, and renter’s insurance bills. They can collect money from the other roommates and make sure the bills are paid on time. As it is a big responsibility that will take time and effort, consider offering some sort of compensation (perhaps a small discount.)
- Create a roommate contract. Although it may not be legally binding, creating a roommate contract can help set some ground rules and prevent problems from happening. Be as specific as possible. You might want to include in the contract what is expected from each roommate in regards to chores, food policy, payment specifics, guests, overnight guests, quiet hours, shower times, moving notice, etc. You want as few surprises as possible, so discuss everything that might cause problems. There may still be problems at times, but at least this way everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected.
- Jump into a lease with people you don’t know. Not only do you know if you can get along with them, but you also don’t know if they are responsible. Renting is serious business and can have a big effect on your credit, so don’t take this lightly.
- Pay your portion of the bills before seeing the actual bill. Don’t just take your roommates word for it, look at the bill to make sure that you are paying your equal share of the bill. Roommates have been known to scam their roommates by not splitting the bill evenly.
- Go to your landlord to solve problems between you and your roommates. Your landlord is not your parent or your mediator. If you have a problem, you have to sort it out between yourselves. Even if your roommate doesn’t pay their portion of the rent.
- Forget that everyone is responsible for the entire rent amount. If one of your roommates decides to flake out and stop paying rent, the landlord must still be paid the entire amount, otherwise he will have grounds to evict. When you co-sign a lease everyone is responsible for the entirety of the rent.
There can be dire circumstances if you get stuck with some lousy roommates. Sometimes all you can do is try to get out of your lease and move on. Take your time, and look for responsible roommates that you get along with—renting is hard enough without all the extra drama.