As the economic recovery slogs on, tenants continue to double- or triple-up in rental units. In many cases, landlords are not aware of roommate situations; in others, property managers approve one roommate, only to find out he moved out months ago and has been replaced by two others.
Tenants often think that once they sign a lease, they can have anyone they want move in to help pay the rent. For many reasons, this is a bad idea. First, landlords alone get to decide who lives in their properties. Second, tenants don’t always make the best choices in roommates. Third, it’s potentially dangerous to have unknown people living in your apartment building or single family rental house.
That’s why most landlords insist that everyone living in a unit must apply and be on the lease. The property owner may then conduct thorough tenant screening, check credit reports and verify employment and income.
Tenants may think it’s easier to just have a friend move in and hope the landlord doesn’t notice. But it’s actually better for tenants if the new roommate is vetted and approved. Who wants to find out a month or two into the new living arrangement that their roomie is actually unemployed, has poor credit or has a felony record?
Smart landlords will stipulate in the lease that no roommates are allowed without the permission of the owner, and that all residents of a unit must be on the lease. To facilitate good roommate relationships and establish legal responsibilities, you might want to provide tenants with a Roommate Agreement for all to sign and keep with the lease.
- Include language that each tenant/roommate is liable for all terms of the lease or rental agreement. Have your attorney review it before providing to your tenants.
- Include things like the lease term, start date and lease renewal procedures.
- Have a place for each roommate’s name, Social Security Number, and emergency contact.
- List some roommate rules, stating which share of the rent and security deposit each is liable for, which rooms are designated shared and private, and how damages will be handled.
- State the procedure for paying utilities: who gathers the funds and pays the bills, when the bills are due and consequences for late payments.
- Cover parking, garbage and recycling, and other details.
- Determine how guests will be handled, where they may stay and for how long.
- Include guidelines for quiet hours, pets, cleaning, food and other details.
Putting agreements in black and white can go a long way to reducing tension and improving relationships between roommates. And helping your tenants have better roommate relationships can only be a good thing for you as a landlord or property manager.
This article was written by Teresa and originally published on tenantscreeningblog