If you’ve lived with roommates before, you know that it can be a lot of fun. However, it can also be very stressful.
In addition to disagreements, simple differences in day-to-day living can cause tension between roommates. You and a roommate may experience this tension if you don’t outline clear expectations and rules before you move in together.
In this post, we go over five clauses that you should include in your Roommate Agreement (sometimes called a roommate contract) to ensure you and your roommates have a positive experience living together.
1. Determine How Rent and Utilities Should Be Divided
Many roommates choose to pay for their costs equally, but some decide to divide their rent and bills unequally. For instance, if:
- Two roommates, such as a couple, stay in one room
- Only one roommate benefits from a certain utility, such as cable TV
- One or more occupants have access to areas of the home that other occupants cannot access (such a living room or laundry room)
If you and your roommates decide to have unequal rent or utility payments, you should include that in your roommate contract to avoid issues in the future.
However, even if you and your roommates decide to divide rent and utility payments equally, you should still have a relevant clause in your Roommate Agreement. Then there should be minimal confusion when it comes time to paying your landlord and utility providers.
2. Include Rules Regarding Guests
We all have our own opinions about having guests in our home. Some of us may enjoy having people over while others may prioritize their alone time.
However, even roommates who don’t mind having the occasional person over should ask each other certain questions, such as:
- How many guests per roommate can come over at one time?
- What is considered an informal gathering versus a party (and if parties are allowed)?
- Can roommates have guests stay overnight and, if so, where will they sleep?
- How many consecutive evenings can a roommate’s guest stay overnight?
- Should each roommate ask the rest of the household before having a guest in the home?
Some roommates might think guests in the home can be managed case-by-case. However, without rules in place, a situation with a guest can quickly get out of hand.
For example, imagine a roommate’s boyfriend or girlfriend stays over every night for two weeks. They’ve likely consumed some food, which is a problem if everyone pitches in money for groceries. The same goes for hygienic products like toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner. It may not seem like anything at first, but the costs add up.
More than money, the roommate’s guest may become a problem due to things such as loss of privacy or space.
For example, a roommate’s guest might disrupt another roommate’s ability to get ready for work. If this disruption occurs frequently, it could cause unnecessary conflict in the household.
3. Clarify Where Roommates Can Smoke
Keep in mind, your Lease Agreement may have a clause that addresses smoking, such as if smoking is allowed indoors or not.
However, regardless if your landlord or building permits smoking indoors, include a clause regarding smoking in your Roommate Agreement. Even if the clause simply mimics the terms in your lease, including it in your Roommate Agreement can reinforce the expectations of each roommate.
In a Roommate Agreement, a clause about smoking should go into more detail than the clause in your lease and cover whether smoking is allowed on the premises and, if so, where.
For instance, if the Lease Agreement permits smoking indoors, can roommates smoke in the living room or their bedrooms? Alternatively, if smoking is only allowed outside, can people smoke on the balcony, porch, or in the backyard?
Sometimes roommates decide not to include this clause because everyone in the house is a nonsmoker. However, you should still discuss it and include a clause in your agreement. Including this clause can:
- Ensure there are rules in place if a roommate starts smoking in the future or a new roommate moves in
- Restrict guests who are smokers from smoking in inappropriate areas
Dictating where your roommates can smoke, especially outside, can feel like you are going a little overboard. However, smoke drifting into people’s rooms or a buildup of cigarette butts on a patio can become irritating. These irritations can cause arguments in the household and lead to a difficult living situation.
4. Define Quiet Hours
Although your town or city may have their own laws regarding quiet hours, it is a good idea to outline rules pertaining to noise. A noisy roommate (or worse—two noisy roommates) can easily cause problems. Consider establishing guidelines such as defining the household’s “quiet hours,” and include them in their Roommate Agreement.
Quiet hours refer to a period of time (usually at night) where individuals must be as quiet as possible in order to respect the other occupants in the home.
It can vary between households but should have a start time (e.g. 10 p.m.) and an end time (e.g. 7 a.m.) and can differ on weekdays and weekends.
From watching a movie with surround sound to practicing the electric guitar, quiet hours prevent roommates from disrupting each other’s sleep. It is always a good idea to define quiet hours before roommates move in together.
5. Prohibit Illegal Activity
When choosing a roommate, people don’t typically pick someone who engages in criminal activities.
However, sometimes no matter how much vetting you do, you can end up moving in with the wrong person. Certain individuals and their lifestyles can even put you in danger. This can be true if your roommate brings trouble into the home or interacts with other people who engage in unlawful activity.
In some situations, though, roommates might downplay the extent of a roommate’s illegal activity and ignore it, thinking it’s not a big deal. However, because most Lease Agreements allow landlords to evict tenants over engaging in illegal activity in the unit, it can be a serious problem.
Overall, it can be difficult to ensure all the members of your household are following the law. This is why it is always a good idea to include a clause about illegal activity in your Roommate Agreement.
Signing Your Roommate Agreement
A living situation can quickly turn sour if household rules aren’t addressed between roommates, and there are certain rules in a household, such as ones regarding rent and bill payments, guests, smoking, noise, and illegal activity, that shouldn’t be open for interpretation.
Including clauses that clarify rules in your Roommate Agreement minimizes conflict between roommates, ensures that everyone in the house understands what is expected of them, and helps roommates maintain a positive living experience.