So you have decided to move in with your best friend. It is an easy decision since you already know each other, you enjoy the same things and you get along great! But have you ever lived together? Negotiated bills together? Decided who gets the bigger room? What happens when one of you decides to leave before the lease is up? These things and many others can make or break a friendship. To keep your friendship intact, we recommend discussing some things before you agree to live together.
When roommates sign as co-tenants, they share equal responsibility. If one person falls behind on the rent, the others are responsible for coming up with the full amount, on schedule. If one of you breaks a lease clause, your property owner can start eviction proceedings against all of you. Most property owners would rather hold onto good tenants, but they have no legal mandate to do so.
You will find that the more you can anticipate possible problems from the start, the better prepared you'll be to handle disputes that do arise. First, try to choose compatible roommates. Then, before you move in, sit down with your roommates and create your own agreement covering major issues, such as:
- Rent. What is everyone's share? Who will write the rent check if the landlord will accept only one check?
- Space. Who will occupy which bedrooms?
- Household chores. Who's responsible for cleaning, and on what schedule?
- Food sharing. Will you be sharing food, shopping, and cooking responsibilities? How will you split the costs and work?
- Noise. When should stereos or TVs be turned off or down?
- Overnight guests. Is it okay for boyfriends/girlfriends/other friends to stay overnight? What about several nights in a row? Every night?
- Moving out. If one of you decides to move out, how much notice must be given? Must the departing tenant find an acceptable substitute?
It's best to put your agreements in writing. Spoken agreements are too easily forgotten or misinterpreted. It can be an excellent negotiation tool if you ever have a communication breakdown. And written lease financial agreements, indicating such things as how rent and utilities are to be shared, can be legally enforceable.
Be as specific as possible, especially on issues that are important to you. If dirty dishes in the sink drive you up the wall, write it down. If occasional guests are no problem, but you can't stand the thought of your roommate's (non-rent-paying) boyfriend hogging the bathroom every morning, make sure your agreement is clear on guests.
A great guide for things to consider can be found in the University Housing & New Student Programs Reference Guide, http://www.cwu.edu/housing/sites/cts.cwu.edu.housing/files/whattobring.pdf, pages 14 - 18.
Remember: Communication is the key and a little consideration goes a long way!