A roommate agreement is similar to a lease agreement, but it has nothing to do with your landlord. It’s a contract outlining the rules you and your roommate agree to follow to maintain a comfortable and harmonious living environment. Think of it as a formal list of house rules.
This document may include everything from the amount of rent and utilities your roomie is responsible for to a schedule for using the kitchen and laundry facilities, quiet hours, how you wish to communicate about issues that may arise, and more. You can customize the document to fit your needs.
You don’t always need a roommate agreement, but it never hurts to have one. If you’re living with someone you met recently, this document may be more detailed than if you’re living with a friend who is already familiar with your lifestyle and personal boundaries.
Ideally, your roommate agreement is a collaborative document that you and your roomie create together based on your needs and expectations.
Outline the amount of rent to be paid, the date the rent is due, and the preferred payment method.
Dividing the rent isn’t always as straightforward as an even split. If one of you has a larger bedroom, an ensuite, or some other massive perk that the other doesn’t, it might make sense for one of you to pay more. Ensure your roommate agreement outlines how much each of you must pay.
Next, establish whether you’ll pay the landlord individually or combine your resources to make a lump sum payment.
Outline the procedure for paying the security deposit and the amount each of you is responsible for paying. If one of you pays more rent than the other, will they pay a proportionate amount of the security deposit? Also include an explanation of when and how the security deposit will be returned when your roommate moves out.
Whether your roommate is on the original lease or not, you should still outline some sort of protocol around moving out on the roommate agreement. Ideally, if you have a shared lease, your roomie will stay until the end of the tenancy agreement, but if they move out early, how will the two of you handle it?
Is your roommate responsible for finding a replacement tenant, or is it up to you? Will it be a joint effort? How much notice do you need them to provide? When and how will you return the security deposit? Ensure you’re both clear on the steps you need to take.
One of the benefits of having a roommate is having someone to split expenses with, but this can become a nightmare if you don’t articulate exactly how it will work.
Detail each monthly bill (water, electricity, internet, etc.) and determine how best to split them up. Since some of these bills may fluctuate monthly, it may be helpful to list the percentage each of you will pay, rather than a fixed number. Will some be in your name and others in your roomie’s name? Will you be responsible for all of them?
Don’t forget to list specific payment procedures. Will one of you transfer money to the other to cover their share? Will you simply tack your roomie’s share of the bills onto the amount they owe in rent each month?
Consult with your roommate to establish a payment protocol that works for both of you.
There’s nothing worse than having your sleep disrupted. Instead of risking the need for angry confrontations in the kitchen over loud music, establish boundaries for noise. Make sure you outline your expectations when it comes to quiet time. This rule could apply to noise before or after a specific time during the week or extend to the weekends.
In some cases, you may wish to establish boundaries around the use of appliances too. For instance, maybe you stipulate that nobody will run the dishwasher or washing machine after midnight. Your home should be somewhere you can both rest and relax, so make sure your roommate agreement sets clear boundaries.
If you don’t outline rules regarding guests and significant others, you might begin to feel like you have multiple roommates. Even if your roommate doesn’t have a significant other at the moment, it’s wise to establish these rules ahead of time, so you don’t have awkward confrontations down the road.
Your roommate agreement should cover how often each of you is permitted to host overnight guests and how long said guests may stay.
You may even include rules to follow while guests are over. One common practice, especially if you don’t know your roommate’s friends very well, is that guests should not be left alone in the home.
If your roomie is a friend of yours and you already know their social circle, your rules may be much more basic.
Cleaning and chores
Creating a plan for handling cleaning and chores is an essential part of maintaining a harmonious household.
There are infinite ways you could split up the responsibilities. Each of you could be responsible for maintaining certain areas. You could agree to do a weekly blitz together; perhaps you take turns doing the weekly clean or pool your resources and hire a cleaning service.
Whatever the solution is, make sure you are both on the same page. Then, create some sort of accountability system, so there’s never any question about whether either of you is holding up your end of the agreement.
Bathroom, kitchen, appliances schedule
Depending on your living arrangement, it might make sense to outline expectations regarding the use of shared parts of the home.
For instance, if you have to leave for work at 7 am, and your roommate doesn’t have to go until 9, maybe you stipulate that they wait to shower until after you have. That way, you never have to harbor resentment toward your roomie for unwittingly usurping your morning shower.
Creating rules around the use of the shared bathroom, kitchen, and laundry facilities ensures you each have access to the facilities you need when you need them. These types of rules may seem tedious to develop, but they will give each of you peace of mind.
Food sharing and organization
Establishing rules around food storage and sharing is another fantastic way to avoid unnecessary conflicts with your roomie.
If the two of you enjoy preparing meals together, it may make sense to share food and the grocery shopping responsibilities.
However, sharing food might not make sense if one of you eats at the office frequently, has a different schedule, or has specific dietary restrictions. If you’re not going to share, make sure you establish an effective food organization system so that neither of you has to worry about reaching for the milk only to find it gone.
Even if your rental is pet-friendly, your household may not be. If you or your roomie is pet-averse, it’s best to be clear about your expectations from the beginning. That way, neither of you will come home to find an unexpected furry roommate!
If you or your roommate has (or is considering adopting) a pet, the roommate agreement should outline the expectations regarding pet care. Who will be responsible for feeding and cleaning up after the pet? How will issues be handled? What should you do in an emergency? In the instance of pet-related damage, how will it be documented and repaired?
Don’t forget to discuss rules the pet must follow within the home. Will the pet be restricted to certain areas? Which parts of the house are off-limits?
Additionally, if there are any animals or breeds that either of you is uncomfortable with, list them on the roommate agreement. After all, adopting a cat is a totally different story than bringing home a pet snake!
If you or your roommate have severe food allergies or environmental allergies, it’s worth addressing them on the roommate agreement. It could be a matter of agreeing to refrain from bringing products containing nuts into your home or something more minor like avoiding scented candles. Either way, it affects your quality of life and should be addressed ahead of time to avoid unnecessary conflicts.
Roommate disputes are a common occurrence, but many of them could be avoided with clear communication. This is why it’s so crucial to develop a formal roommate agreement that you and your roomie will follow.
Even if you’re living with a close friend, it’s still a good idea to outline your boundaries and expectations to avoid unnecessary conflicts. Simple things like running the dishwasher too late at night or neglecting to clean the bathroom eat away at even the strongest friendships over time.
The suggestions above are just the beginning when it comes to what you could include in your roommate agreement. Tailor the document to fit your lifestyle and your relationship with your roommate. If you’re living with a stranger, the document may be much more robust than if you’re sharing a rental with a long-time friend.
For a quick checklist to make sure you’ve got everything, see our roommate agreement checklist.