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10 Reasons Why A Roommate Contract Is Crucial

Originally posted on October 28, 2016 10:58 am
Updated on February 09, 2017 2:38 pm

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Photo by Thomas E. Hilton (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The cost of rent isn’t declining anytime soon, especially not in big cities such as New York City or L.A. One can say that having a roommate has now advanced from being a pleasantry to a necessity. While having a roommate might be cost efficient, and enjoyable for some, there’s no such thing as a perfect roommate. As problems tend to arise when you need to share your space with others, here are 10 reasons why a roommate contract is essential to ensure a functional relationship with your roommates.

1. To Address “Quiet Hours”

One of the biggest issues when it comes to having a roommate is making sure personalities match or compromises are made. One of you might love to stay up late listening to music or partying, while the other prioritizes beauty sleep over anything else.  When sharing a living space it’s important to have set rules when it comes to quiet hours during the week and weekend. You might end up sharing an apartment with a student or someone working full time. Either way, people’s needs for tranquility varies. Lock down “quiet hours” to avoid a full on confrontation from your roommates.

2. Making a Cleaning and Chore Schedule

Keeping a clean apartment or home is also paramount for a successful roommate living arrangement. Problem is, not everyone always pulls their weight when it comes to cleaning and chores. Let’s be honest, how often do you have to purchase toilet paper because no one else does it? To combat this, it’s important you make it clear in the roommate agreement which duties and chores are left to which person. If you don’t get it in writing and include it in the contract, it is likely that a lazy roommate will slack on their duties.

3. Rules For What is Shared and What Isn’t

Just because you’re living with someone it doesn’t mean you should be sharing everything. While you might not want to share your food (my leftovers are my leftovers!) there are things you will need to share, like storage space, living space, fridge space, etc. A roommate contract makes it easier to clarify right away what’s shared and what’s not. Furthermore, it will help you avoid becoming the weird roommate that freaks out whenever someone uses your side of the fridge for food. 

4. Rules About Bringing People Home/Overnight Guests

While it is “technically” your home, it is also the home of someone else. You might not have a problem with bringing people over and having overnight guests, but they might. It’s important for both of you to be comfortable with what goes on in the house. Find a balance to avoid a “new roommate” that never leaves.

5. How Rent/Bills Are Split and Paid

Rent and bills. Two of the major reasons you end up having a roommate in the first place. Are you guys on the same page when it comes to splitting up the rent and the bills? Does one of you have a bigger room and you should therefore automatically pay more in rent? Do you share streaming services such as Netflix or HBO? Avoid paying for it all. Put it on paper who pays what and when.  

6. What Happens If Someone Decides to Move Out

One of the most annoying things about renting and living with a roommate is when they decide to, or have to, move out before the lease or rent agreement is up. This will leave you covering all the bills and their portion of the rent as well, basically doubling how much you will have to pay. A stipulation should be included in a roommate contract that covers what will happen in this scenario. There is no standard here, so the stipulation could be anything that both tenants agree on.

7. Security Decisions

Everybody wants to be safe and ensure that their things are safe as well. When it comes to safety, different people have different levels of comfort. Some people are okay with their doors being unlocked at all times to allow for easy coming and going for tenants and visitors, while others would prefer the doors are always locked for the highest level of security possible. Work out something that works for both of you and doesn’t leave anyone uncomfortable.

8. What About Pets?

Pets can be a wonderful addition to any home. While most people like having a furry friend greet them when they get home, it’s not a selling point for everyone. If one of your roommates doesn’t like animals, you may not be able to bring or buy a pet for the apartment or house. In order to avoid confusion and problems, the choices about whether a pet is allowed or not should be made as soon as you meet your roommate and come up with a potential contract.

9. Rules About Borrowing Belongings

While we have already covered shared space, there’s the issue of borrowing. Your roommates might have certain things you would like to borrow at some point, such as TVs, video game systems, tools, even clothes. For some, this might be OK. For others, absolutely not. Before you just go and use something of your roommate’s without asking, make sure they are okay with it. Having a clause that says you will replace whatever you’ve borrowed if it breaks, or if it’s been misplaced, might be beneficial for you all.

10. Steps for Resolving Arguments

There are a few sure things in life: death, taxes, and the fact that roommates will argue with each other. Things can’t always be smooth sailing and arguments will come up (even if they have been covered earlier in the roommate contract). So when these arguments do arise, you and your roommate should have some solid, general, and concrete steps to take in any argument. This will help ensure that arguments get solved and don’t get out of hand.

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