Whether you’re subletting your New York City apartment or looking for college roommates, it’s always good to know what you’re getting into. Even if you know the person, unexpected issues may arise when you start living together. To save a lot of headaches, it’s best to learn as much about each other as you can.
Below you will find essential questions to ask a potential roommate. Also, should you find someone you can live with, you might also want to consider a roommate agreement. We give you the rundown, read on.
Table of Contents
- What’s your definition of clean?
- Do you like to smoke or drink in the house?
- What’s your daily schedule?
- Do you like to have friends over often?
- Do you have references?
- What’s your romantic situation?
- Do you have any pets?
- What do you want in a roommate?
- What is a roommate agreement?
- Is a roommate agreement legally binding?
- How to create an agreement
- A roommate agreement will typically include:
- Sample Roommate Agreement
What’s your definition of clean?
Standards of cleanliness are one of the most significant areas of conflict for roommates. Some people wash the dishes immediately after use while others wait until the sink is overflowing. Some consider sweeping every other day normal; others don’t even know how to operate a vacuum. Instead of asking them how clean they are, find out what their habits are. It’s always best to find someone in the same cleaning boat as yourself.
Do you like to smoke or drink in the house?
This is so important if you have strong feelings against certain substances. If your lease forbids smoking indoors, then that’s a deal-breaker there. Whatever your habits are, you’ll want to be on the same wave-length as your roommate.
What’s your daily schedule?
Beyond just knowing if their a ‘night-owl’ or ‘morning-person,’ it’s good to know what a ‘typical’ weekday or weekend is for them. If they need nap-time during the day or like to practice kickboxing every night before bed, this is something you’ll want to know.
Do you like to have friends over often?
If you’re studying for the bar or working a full-time job, it may be better to know what kind of house you’ll be coming back to each night. If they plan on inviting a lot of friends over every week and turning the place into a party central, then it may not work out.
Do you have references?
You wouldn’t accept a job applicants word on how good they are, nor should you with a roommate. Ask for referrals from former roommates or work colleagues. Two or three should be enough.
What’s your romantic situation?
If they’re in a relationship, then there’s a chance you could be signing on for a third roommate. If it’s a serious relationship, then expect lots of sleepovers. There’s also the potential of feeling like a third wheel in your own home.
Do you have any pets?
Many New York buildings have pet restrictions to find out what you’ll be dealing with. Also, just because they don’t have a pet now doesn’t mean they won’t rescue one and bring it home one day. If you have any allergies, make this clear.
What do you want in a roommate?
You’re both going to be looking for someone you can get along with, so establish what it is your each looking for. Use this moment to work out any conflicts or difficulties you may encounter living together.
Key Points and Agreement Considerations
With rent so high in NYC, it’s no surprise that many people take on roommates as a way to mitigate costs. It’s widespread in NYC, but if you’re taking cues from watching Friends on what it’s like to have roommates, then you could be in for a rude awakening whether you’re living with someone known to you or a stranger there’s bound to be some conflict at some point or another.
Maybe they have a habit of cooking in the nude; perhaps they like to host parties for a local punk rock band, perhaps they have an unfortunate habit of not paying the rent on time. Fortunately, there is a proactive way to avoid at least some of the drama that having a roommate entails — a roommate agreement.
What is a roommate agreement?
Unlike a lease agreement, a roommate agreement is an unofficial contract between the tenants occupying a unit. It can be as formal or informal as you want. Verbal roommate agreements are commonly used, but there’s always a chance for misunderstanding. As such, a written agreement will be much better as a way to establish ground rules for the apartment. The roommate agreement will usually cover all the duties and responsibilities of the tenants. The property owner or landlord will often not be a part of it unless they also reside in the apartment with the tenants.
If you’re living with your landlord, then a residential rental agreement will be more appropriate. With a written roommate agreement, all household members can thoroughly examine the terms and conditions and anticipate future problems that may arise. This provides an excellent safeguard against any issues, especially with regard to finances. It’s also beneficial in establishing ground rules if you’re living with someone that you’re not close with.
Discussions about whose turn it is to clean the dishes will be a lot less awkward if you have a written agreement beforehand. Keeping to the roommate agreement will ensure a suitable living situation for both parties throughout the lease term.
Is a roommate agreement legally binding?
Any financial obligations listing in the agreement is enforceable by law. Meaning that if your roommate doesn’t pay their end, then you can sue them. But regardless of that, the rental agreement on the apartment is still binding. That’s despite whatever issues you and your roommate might be having. In the landlord’s eyes, their only legal responsibility is to the tenant that signed the lease.
Those monthly payments will still have to be made even if one roommate fails to contribute their share. A legal principle is known as joint, and several liabilities hold that all tenants are equally responsible for the rental amount listed in the lease. This means that if one roommate doesn’t pay their share, the landlord can demand the entire share from any tenant mentioned in the lease agreement.
How to create an agreement
Drawing up the terms of a roommate agreement is relatively simple and should be done once the lease agreement is signed. Sit down with your roommate over a coffee or beer and hash out the details of the contract. It’s best if you’re both open about past issues you’ve had with roommates and are upfront about any deal-breakers. Below you will find a roommate agreement according to Article 7: Landlord and Tenant.
A roommate agreement will typically include:
- The date of the agreement
- The name of each roommate
- The address of the property
- The details of the lease agreement that one or more roommates signed
- The landlord’s name and contact information
- The total security deposit paid
- The total rent amount and frequency of payments
- How expenses (rent, utilities, food, subscriptions, etc.) is to be divided up
- How the household is to be managed such as rules, duties, and restrictions
- Information on how one roommate can terminate their tenancy if needed
Once you’ve got the agreement written up, have all parties sign it and get it notarized. How well a roommate agreement works will ultimately be decided by those signing it. If you both make it in good faith, then it will lay the foundation for a cordial relationship. Who knows it may even blossom into a lifelong friendship?
Sample Roommate Agreement
In Accordance, with State Laws Located in Article 7: Landlord and Tenant This roommate contract is provided for the mutual benefit of roommates and does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal help, you must contact an attorney.
Section 1. The Parties & Property
Date: __________________ New Tenant: __________________ hereinafter referred to as the “New Tenant” Landlord/Principal: __________________ hereinafter referred to as “Landlord/Principal”. Current Co-Tenant(s): __________________, __________________, Property: ____________________________________(address). This agreement is to last for the same term as our lease agreement, which runs from ____________ [start date] to ____________ [end date].
- New Tenant understands that they are entering into a legally binding agreement that is enforceable by and between the other roommates and the Landlord/Principal Tenant.
- If the owner of the property is not living in the shared residence, I understand that this agreement is not enforceable concerning its owner, and will not protect me against any claims that the owner may have against myself or my roommates under our roommate contract.
Section 2. Security Deposit
- The security deposit for the rental premises is ________________ Dollars ($________________) totaling ________________ Dollars ($________________) including all the roommates combined deposits.
- The New Tenant agrees to accept responsibility for damages, which my pet(s), my guests, or that are the cause and will reimburse the other roommate(s) for the part of their security deposit withheld for these damages.
Section 3. Rent
- The total rent according to the lease agreement is ________________ Dollars ($________________) per month. The New Tenant agrees to pay ________________ Dollars ($________________) per month on or before the due date set forth in the lease agreement.
- All payments will be made to __________________________.
- The New Tenant understands that the owner of the property can evict all of the tenants if the landlord does not receive the rental payments in full and on time each month.
Section 4. Utilities
- Utilities; The New Tenant agrees to pay 1/____ for the following utilities; _________________
- New Tenant agrees to pay 1/____ of the following services; _________________
- The New Tenant agrees to place the following utilities in their name_______and to ensure that monthly payments are collected and made by all co-tenants in full and on time.
- The New Tenant agrees to pay as follows for any additional utilities or services; _________________
- Section 5. Move-Out
If for any reason, the New Tenant moves out of the rental premises before the lease has concluded, they realize that it is their responsibility to find a replacement tenant. The New Tenant is to take reasonable steps to find a replacement roommate who is acceptable to the present roommates. If one of the roommates moves out, the New Tenant understands that it the Landlord/Principal Tenant’s responsibility to take reasonable steps to find a replacement tenant. The New Tenant understands that it is in the best interests of all roommates to replace any departing tenants.
Section 6. Additional Agreements
Attached is a description of further agreements; are incorporated into this contract, including food/shopping arrangements; cleaning responsibilities; privacy; parking; sharing of personal items; noise/study times; smoking/drinking; parties and entertaining; overnight guests; pets, etc.
Section 7. Governing Law
This Lease shall be governed by and construed following the laws of the State of New York.
Section 8. Authorization
The roommates have executed this agreement on this ___ day of ________, 20____.
Roommate/Landlord’s Signature __________ Printed Name _______________
New Roommate’s Signature ______________Printed Name _______________
Co-Roommate’s Signature _______________Printed Name _______________