Choosing the Right Roommate

by | May 6, 2011 | Renting 101 | 0 comments

Having a good roommate is important when you choose to live with someone. The Austin Tenants’ Council provides some tips and ideas in choosing and finding a roommate to suit your needs.


Many tenants do not realize the importance of careful roommate selection. Just because someone seems like a nice person on a social level, it doesn’t necessarily mean he will make a good roommate. A good roommate must be trustworthy. When two or more people sign a lease, they assume important personal and financial responsibilities to the landlord and to each other.

Roommate conflicts can make living together an intolerable situation. Nothing is worse than having to deal with the daily grind of life only to return home to a constant, raging battle. Roommate conflicts arise for many reasons, but primarily they come either from misunderstandings or poor roommate selection.

Everyone has expectations about how a household should run and how people should conduct themselves. From person to person, these expectations are often very different. Therefore, it is important that roommates have compatible lifestyles. Lifestyle issues such as how noisy or quiet roommates are expected to be, sleeping schedules, cleanliness, drinking, smoking, parties, overnight guests, pets, etc. can create intense conflict. Frequently, roommates begin as friends and leave as adversaries because they simply are not compatible. Careful consideration and clear expectations are essential before deciding to live with someone.

Before agreeing to live with a roommate, decide how to deal with the household issues. Someone will have to pay rent and utility bills and then divide them among the other roommates. What constitutes an equitable split in the bills should be decided before the lease is signed. If one roommate wants cable and the other doesn’t watch TV, splitting the bill in half may not be reasonable. Housekeeping habits are sources of conflict if not clarified in the beginning. Common areas such as a living room or common bathroom will need to be cleaned. For some roommates, cleaning once a week is essential, and for others, two weeks or more will pass before they will even notice a problem.

A roommate contract which specifically describes the rights and responsibilities of all roommates can be invaluable in clarifying these issues. Rental contracts are generally only between the tenant(s) and the landlord. Most leases do not address roommates’ responsibilities to each other. A roommate contract can define rights and responsibilities so that disputes are less likely to occur and easier to settle when they do. Furthermore, this kind of contract can define the financial responsibilities roommates have to each other.

When roommates sign a lease together, they are jointly and individually liable for the lease. In other words, if one roommate breaks the lease, all tenants are in breach of the lease. If the total rent is not paid in full by the due date, the landlord only cares that the rent was not paid in full and can evict all tenants. If a lease is broken, it will likely be reported on all tenants’ rental and credit records and the landlord can pursue any one or all of the tenants for the debts. Remember, roommate problems are not the landlord’s problem and do not provide the right to get out of a lease.

If problems occur between roommates during the lease term and one stops paying rent or moves out, a roommate contract will help the remaining tenants hold the other accountable. The Austin Tenants’ Council provides a free Renting Together Contract

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