If you’ve lived with roommates before, you know that while it can be a lot of fun, it can also be very stressful.

The various differences between how people live day-to-day can cause tension between roommates, especially when rules are not addressed before you move in together or issues are not handled properly when they first occur.

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 clause indicating so in your Roommate Agreement. That way, no one can claim that another agreement was made regarding rent and bills, and there is no confusion when it comes time to pay 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 love it; some of us hate it.

However, even roommates who don’t mind having the occasional person over should clarify some points about guests, 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 days can a roommate’s guest stay overnight
  • If roommates need to ask the rest of the household before having a guest in the home

Some might think guests in the home can be managed case-by-case, but, without rules in place for roommates to abide by, 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 to stock the fridge. The same goes for hygienic products like toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner. It may not seem like anything at first, but the cost adds up.

More than money, the roommate’s guest may become a problem due to things such as 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 (the contract you and your co-tenants signed with your landlord before moving in) may have a clause that addresses smoking, such as if smoking is allowed indoors or not.

That said, regardless if smoking is prohibited indoors according to your Lease Agreement, you should still have a clause dealing with smoking in your Roommate Agreement, even if it simply mimics the terms in your lease.

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, but you should still discuss it and include a clause in your agreement to:

  • Ensure there are rules in place if a roommate starts smoking in the future or a new roommate who is a smoker 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, but things like smoke drifting into people’s rooms or the buildup of cigarette butts 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 noise, these kinds of nuisances can easily cause problems between roommates. This is why it is a good idea for roommates to create their own set of rules pertaining to noise, 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 from weekdays to weekends.

From watching a movie with surround sound to practicing the electric guitar, quiet hours prevent roommates from being too loud during the times when most of the household is asleep and should always be considered 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, which can put you in danger, especially if this person 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. But, because most Lease Agreements allow landlords to evict tenants over engaging in illegal activity in the unit, it can be a serious problem.

Overall, ensuring all the members of your household are following the laws can be difficult, which 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.

Do you know of any other important clauses to add to a Roommate Agreement? Let us know in the comments.

Posted by Ashley Camarneiro

Ashley is an experienced researcher and writer with an interest in real estate, contract, and family law. Before starting at LawDepot in the summer of 2017, Ashley worked as a legal assistant in the corporate and family law sector.