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Leasing Made Simple

Exploring Options for Roommates

Last Updated: October 10, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • When renting with roommates, tenants can choose between signing a joint lease, where they are jointly liable, or individual leases, where they are responsible only for their own tenancy.
  • Sublease Agreements offer flexibility but also entail potential complications when subletting a property.
  • Creating a Roommate Agreement is crucial to define rights and responsibilities among roommates.
  • Are you looking to rent? Now might be the perfect time to search for a new place.
    A recent United States Census Bureau report states the national rental vacancy rate is at a favorable 6.4 percent. However, as the price of rent continues to be high, you might also consider finding a roommate to help you cover the payments.
    This article will discuss the types of leases available to you and your roommates, a contract for agreeable living, and a few extra tips to help you find a great roommate.

    How many tenants are allowed to live together?

    The number of tenants allowed to live in a rental property is based on state housing laws. However, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recommends up to two tenants per bedroom.
    So, for example, if there are two bedrooms in an apartment, you can have up to four people living in the apartment.

    Does every roommate have to sign the lease?

    Landlords usually ask each roommate to sign the lease unless they are a subtenant or an occupant. However, only the tenants on the lease are liable for any damages to the suite.
    Allowing roommates to stay on the property without the landlord’s permission could also be grounds for eviction. The best way to keep your landlord’s trust is by honoring the lease and being honest about who lives in the rental suite.
    If a roommate’s name isn’t on the lease, you should discuss the possibility of subleasing, which we will cover in a bit.

    What are the leasing options for multiple tenants?

    There are two leasing structures for you and your roommates. You can either sign a joint lease together or each sign an individual lease.

    Sign a joint lease

    When you sign a joint lease, you and your roommates' names are on the same lease. Usually, your rent payments are combined, but you should ask your landlord how they prefer to receive payments.
    To decide if co-signing a lease is right for you, consider the benefits and drawbacks that may apply.
    Pros Cons
    In a joint tenancy, each tenant has a direct relationship with the landlord. This means you can request repairs or discuss altering the lease . You and your roommates will become jointly and severally liable for rent payments. If one roommate leaves without telling anyone, the others are still responsible for paying the total rent amount.

    Each tenant has equal rights and responsibilities regarding the lease.

    If you act independently, you are still considered responsible along with your roommates. The same rule applies to property damage.

    It is possible for everyone on the lease to face eviction because of one person.
    If you want to ensure you're only held accountable for your actions, you might sign an individual lease instead.

    Sign individual leases

    When you sign an individual lease, you have your own bedroom but share common areas such as the kitchen, living room, and storage unit. You are responsible for your own tenancy and pay your rent separately.
    This is common for people unfamiliar with each other, such as college roommates.
    Pros Cons
    You don’t have to worry about your roommate’s ability to pay their portion of the rent or other expenses. You may not get a say in who you live with, as the landlord screens candidates and decides who will reside on the premises.
    You are not liable for lease violations by other tenants, whether causing major damage or breaking the lease. You may pay a higher monthly rent due to the added risk for the landlord since they cannot pursue you for missed payments or damages caused by your roommate.
    There are advantages and disadvantages to signing a lease individually or jointly. That’s why discussing your needs with your roommates is essential. In any case, you can document the decisions that you make in a Roommate Agreement.

    In a joint lease, you and your roommates both have your names on the lease and share equal responsibility for damages and rent. In an individual lease, you are only responsible for your tenancy.

    Sign a Roommate Agreement

    A Roommate Agreement is a written contract that roommates create to list their rights and responsibilities when living together. This document covers everything from security deposit details and rent payments to ground rules for pet ownership and overnight guests.
    Your agreement can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. Use LawDepot’s Roommate Agreement questionnaire to create your custom document. We’ll walk you through the contract, so you can be sure to include anything relevant to your household.
    Of course, there are always positive and negative factors to think about before entering into a Roommate Agreement.
    Pros Cons
    A written and signed contract will ensure that you and your fellow tenants are on the same page. This means less time spent on disputes about the dishes and more on your hobbies or interests. Roommate Agreements can only hold sway in court for things like rent, security deposits, and other payment divisions. You can’t enforce rules about household chores in court .
    If executed correctly, Roommate Agreements are legally binding and can be held admissible in a court of law regarding payment and fees.
    Though Roommate Agreements are legally binding, you might want to sign a contract more relevant to a landlord-tenant relationship. Signing a Sublease Agreement could be your best bet if this is the case.

    What is a sublease?

    A Sublease Agreement is a type of lease between two different kinds of tenants: the master tenant and the subtenant.
    Only the master tenant’s name is on the original lease, and they act as a sublandlord (rather than a roommate) towards the subtenant. The subtenant doesn't have their name on the original lease but instead needs to sign a Sublease Agreement.
    Remember, there are different pros and cons to signing a Sublease Agreement, depending on whether you’re the subtenant or the sublandlord.
    If you’re a subtenant, weigh the following impacts.
    Pros Cons
    You may have a more flexible rental arrangement than a traditional fixed-term lease, which locks you in for a specific period. You can move out with little notice. If you're subletting a room in a house, you may not exercise control over whom you live with, how to divide rent, or how to share common space.
    If the sublandlord has a written agreement with you, they must provide you with proper notice before asking you to leave. You are still subject to the master lease or the lease that the sublandlord signed with their landlord. If the sublandlord is evicted, for example, then you can be evicted as well.
    Sublandlords, on the other hand, will have other considerations.
    Pros Cons
    You can choose who you live with and have greater control over household management. Sublandlords usually collect rent from subtenants to make one monthly payment to the landlord. If a subtenant cannot pay rent, you will have to come up with the money, as you’re still responsible for paying rent in full.
    You can evict subtenants as long as you provide written notice. As the master tenant, you are also liable for the rental property's state and any damages caused by subtenants.
    To learn about some real-life subletting experiences, read LawDepot’s To Sublease or Not to Sublease.

    In a Sublease Agreement, one tenant has their name on the lease. They are the sublandlord and are in direct communication with the landlord. The subtenants do not have their names on the lease and give rent to the sublandlord instead.

    Helpful tips for finding the right roommates or tenants

    Finding good roommates or tenants is essential because it helps create a happy and trouble-free living situation for everyone involved.
    Here are three quick tips to help you in your search for the perfect roommate or tenants:
    1. Put out an ad: You can post your ad on social media using Facebook Marketplace or on Reddit through your local subreddit. You can also use websites like Craigslist , Roomi , RoomieMatch , and SpareRoom , or through your alum network if you are a college or university graduate.
    2. Conduct a background check: You can check their references and ask questions about their character and experiences renting or working with them.
    3. Ask if they have any pets or are planning to: This can affect the amount of money that must be paid on the security deposit, and some landlords implement other fees, such as pet rent. You might also have preferences about whether or not you want to live with pets.
    For more helpful tips on finding the right tenant or roommate, check out our article How to Find and Vet Tenants.
    Usually, the landlord has the final say on whether you have your own lease, share it with others, or have subtenants. It's great to have the freedom to decide who you want to live with or enjoy limited responsibilities. That’s why it's always a good idea to explore your options beforehand, so you can find the perfect rental arrangement that suits you best.
    Are you moving in with roommates?
    Create Your Custom Roommate Agreement
    LawDepot's Roommate Agreement helps you and your roommates outline your obligations while living together. You can add details about rent, chores, guests, and more.