With housing costs on the rise, renting with roommates is a more popular choice than ever—but having a roommate can pose long-term issues if disputes arise. Here, the landlord-tenant law attorneys at Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger, detail ways to mitigate legal problems when renting with roommates.
Create a Roommate Agreement
When living with a roommate, it is important to have strong communication and clear expectations. Discussing standards of cleanliness, noise levels, guests, shared spaces, chores and other aspects of living together is vital to the success of your renting experience. Often, major roommate disputes could be prevented by having clear expectations through a roommate agreement: a written agreement detailing all aspects of renting. All roommates should review and sign the roommate agreement.
A roommate agreement should include information about how rent, utilities and other expenses are paid and divided among roommates, who does which chores, how living spaces are to be used, house rules for guests, smoking, pets, how to handle major disputes and notice required for moving out. Be sure to also include any other issues you find important. Your roommate agreement must adhere to the rules of the landlord’s agreement signed by you and your roommates—putting a clause in your roommate agreement saying that a dog is allowed will not be legally binding if the landlord forbids pets, for example.
Settle Roommate Disputes
Even with a roommate agreement, disputes between roommates are not uncommon, and the best solution is quick and calm communication. Bring up problems as soon as they occur, and be specific about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For serious disputes, mediation can be a good option.
Dealing with Violations of the Lease
If one roommate violates the stipulations of the lease, it is possible for the landlord to evict all residents of the rental property. Serious problems with a roommate, especially ones where your safety is at risk, should be brought to the attention of the landlord immediately—explaining the situation quickly will better your chances of being able to stay, and having the roommate move out.
If a roommate is a physical threat to your safety, consider filing for a peace or protective order. In Maryland, a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault may be eligible to terminate a lease, provided the landlord is given 30 days notice and a copy of the court order.
Every roommate who signs the lease agreement is responsible for rent; however, if a roommate moves out before the lease is up, and refuses to pay rent, the remaining roommates are responsible for the entire cost of rent. If this happens, try resolving the issue first with the roommate. If they still refuse to pay their share, it is possible to sue them in small claims court.
How SLH Attorneys Can Help
A landlord and tenant law attorney can be an invaluable asset when structuring agreements with a roommate, or in preventing and resolving disputes. At Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger, we believe every renter deserves a safe, comfortable and fair housing environment. If you have roommate or landlord concerns, the dedicated attorneys at SLH are here to help. For more information, we urge you to contact us today.