What should roommates agree to in writing, beyond the lease?
April 4, 2012 7:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving into an apartment with a new roommate and want to draw up a basic agreement (beyond our lease) covering our division of responsibilities and expectations in case one of us wants to move out. What should such a document cover?

The roommate and I know each other and have a shared group of friends, so I'm not expecting anything awful, but I want to be prepared for worst-case scenarios. The obvious thing is to include how the rent/utilities are to be divided (since the lease says that we are jointly and separately liable for the full amount) and what the financial responsibilities would be if one of us wanted to move out before the lease is up. But what else should we plan out and agree on (in writing) beforehand?
posted by philosophygeek to Human Relations (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking as a former roommate to many...

I would suggest having a policy for overnight visitors...or if not a policy, at least come to an understanding with your fellow roommates about the difference between "vistor" and "new roommate". One of you might have a SO that stays over on occasion...then more often than not...then she/he's there ALL THE FREAKING TIME and why is he/she not paying rent, again?

Make it clear that everyone must be on board if pets are brought into the living situation. Doesn't matter if it's "Person A's Dog", if they're living in the house with you, everyone has to deal with it.

Other things: discuss how it is best for the two of you to communicate. A white-board on the back of the door, post-it notes on bedroom doors, text messages for you modern kids, etc.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:52 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Add something about the security deposit. Keep it at a 50/50 split for payment and reimbursement (if any) regardless of what damage is done at the end of the lease. Getting into arguments later about who is responsible for the carpet spill doesn't do anyone any good.

On preview, I would keep the agreement strictly for financial issues that may need to be brought up in court if someone breaks the agreement. Communication issues need to be written down and agreed upon but that could be saved for another document.
posted by JJ86 at 7:55 AM on April 4, 2012

I've always used the NYS subletter form as a guideline after a particularly horrid roommate experiance where we didn't have any rules established on day 1.

Things that usually are contentious:
baseline cleaning standard: is hiring a maid what is necessary to keep peace? who buys supplies and when? (see the million+1 ask me's about a neat freak living with a slob)

overnight guests: How long they can stay (ie is the bf/gf staying over 4 nights a week? is your brother visiting for a week and crashing on the couch?).

Who deals with the landlord? do both people need to be in the loop on everything?

Food sharing/storage space allocation. (particularly relevant in a small apartment)
posted by larthegreat at 7:59 AM on April 4, 2012

Hmm, I think most of the things can be resolved through communication without making it official in writing.

However, everything that has to do with money and notice periods should be in writing.
-What happens if someone moves out early - are they supposed to find a replacement? Is the one staying looking for a new roommate? I think it makes sense to agree on that beforehand since you said you are separately liable for the full amount.
-Regarding inet/landline/cable: who is taking care of it/ paying. What happens if this person moves out early?
-If you have and share appliances: how do you deal if something breaks/needs repairs.

Keep the communication lines open and (from my experience) everything else should be fine.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:16 AM on April 4, 2012

it's easier to make sure the place is clean if you have a set day for cleaning and everyone has to participate, just rotate duties. that's what my college roommate and i did when we had a dead-weight third roommate who never cleaned otherwise.

also with my last roommate i wish we'd set clear rules about kitchen trash and recycling. im pretty sure she and her boyfriend would just fill up the trash and recycling and patiently wait for me to take it out even though they produced a lot more of both than i did, i just happened to be the least lazy person in the house. if i asked they'd be like "oh it's not full yet so i didn't take it."

agreeing with the above about setting rules for overnight visitors. when i moved in with my last roommate she said she'd occasionally be over at her boyfriends and he'd occasionally be over at our place. instead he was always at our place because it was nicer and cleaner at our house. he also did his laundry at our place. i was still paying half of rent and utilities.

i just moved out to live alone and have to say i am kind of sort of loving it even though it is more expensive. in my view be super clear about everything upfront and account for the possibility of what will be done in writing if your roommate turns out not to have been accurate in what they'd told you when you were discussing living together.... in my roommate days i think i got taken advantage a lot because people would tell me one thing than do another and i wasn't confrontational enough to call them on it (would have seemed petty to call my roommate out on using up all my dryer sheets and not fessing up to it, for example)
posted by raw sugar at 2:46 PM on April 4, 2012

The roommate and I know each other and have a shared group of friends, so I'm not expecting anything awful

See- here is the thing. "awful" is different to just about everybody. It's a really really really good idea to figure out ahead of time what would be awful to you or to your new roommate. I've lived with tons of roommates- some of them very easy and some of them very very difficult.

Having a one agreement for the money stuff and different one for the basic household expectations might be in order- and I would definitely create that document with your roommate. You might not see any reason why putting your empty soda cans in the sink for a week would bother them- and they might have no idea you expect weekly vacuuming.

I lived with one girl who left ice cream to rot in her room for weeks, and another girl who would become irate if I didn't bleach the walls of the living room twice a week (you know- "my turn"). Both of those situations would have been a lot easier if we had talked about what KIND of cleaning we expect- and what we should do if someone falls short of the expectations.

I would say on top of the above talk about how long is too long for guests and who cleans what, a good solid very very specific conversation about behavioral expectations and how to best deal with misunderstandings would be worth while. Also, silly things like what to do if you have to borrow milk from the other person, or how long it's ok to leave your hobbies out in the living room.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:42 PM on April 4, 2012

What happens w/r/t the security deposit if there is damage to the apartment that will necessitate that deposit being used for repairs?

I would also include something about what happens if one of you wants the other to move out, and the other doesn't want to. Whether it's a cash payment or a certain grace period, or whatever you decide up front will make it more fair for the person asked to vacate -- or, you could try an agreement (probably not legally binding, but I don't know whether any of this is, and it sounds like this is meant to be informal) that if the arrangement isn't working and the other is acting in good faith, the person with the grievance should have the responsibility to go. Or require a coin flip. Having some sort of plan of action in place could make the transition smoother if tensions are running high.
posted by Mchelly at 12:14 AM on April 5, 2012

« Older Folders in one place please?   |   What to do with all these emotions Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.