Roommates and leases

Everyone knows that a bad roommate/roommates can make your life living hell. I have had my share of good and bad roommates. Some of my roommates have become life long friends while others I could care less about. As a variable in a computer program, a roommate has a certain lifetime. Mostly, it is the duration of the lease. If you have roommates of the later type you are bound by this written contract and the lease expiry date becomes the most important day of your life. You wait anxiously for this day and when it arrives you celebrate it as if its new year’s eve.

Now, if you are a student , your apartment is more like a revolving door. There is always someone moving in or out of it. In such a “high churn” environment, the existence of a lease is nothing more than a nuisance. The incoming roommates, especially if they are about to graduate, make every effort  to bypass this written contract. They insist on “verbal” lease as it is the most convenient option for them. In some situations, when an immediate roommate vacancy needs to be filled and/or incoming (graduating) roommates are so called “good friends”, such verbal leases are constructed as it is a “win-win” situation for both participating parties at that moment.  This “win-win” situation quickly turns into “win-lose” situation for existing roommates when the new roommates move out  without sufficient notice or suitable replacement. Remember, the people not on the lease are not legally liable for the rent. They are only morally liable and when it comes to money morality tends to take a back seat.

According to my observation and experience, this situation arises more often than not in the ‘student’ environments. So, How do you avoid them?  Here are some steps

a) Always insist that anyone staying in your apartment have to be on lease.

b) Make anyone moving out legally liable for rent for the remaining duration of the lease.  If he/she is not in agreement, initiate a legal action through the leasing office.

c)   A “roommate replacement” is an acceptable solution as long as following conditions are met,

  • The existing roommates are comfortable with the new replacement roommate.
  • The new roommate agrees to be on the lease.

d) If you are the one moving out and you find an acceptable replacement roommate, make sure that ,

  • The replacement roommate signs the lease as soon as possible.
  • Collect deposit (if any) from him/her.