Landlord Tenant Q&A

PRIMROSE K. LEONG-NAKAMOTO (RA),
RMP, CRS, GRI, ABR
Property Manager,
Nakamoto Realty, LLC.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I have a good job and good credit. I take good care of the unit I rent. If I take care and pay the rent on time, why does it matter if I have a roommate?

A. You are very lucky to be holding onto your job, as well as have a good credit rating. Many have lost their jobs and finding one is not easy considering the current economy, cutbacks, and general unsteadiness in the marketplace. One of the ramifications of unemployment in today’s economy is its effect on people’s credit-worthiness. As a result, many property managers or owners would love to have someone like you renting their home or unit. Additionally, when a tenant cares for their unit as you do, it helps the owners keep their expenses down and allows them to prepare to do upgrades in the near future. A tenant who cares for their unit also brings value to the community, building, or home.

Unfortunately, a good job, good credit, and caring for your unit, does not supersede the responsibilities that are outlined in the lease agreement. A lease agreement is a binding contract which stipulates various duties between two parties, i.e., the conditions, length of lease, lease payment amounts, house rules, and who is living in the unit. It would make a huge difference knowing up front if you were bringing in a roommate. For instance, if you’re living in a building with an association of apartment owners, it may be required for all occupants to be registered with the association for security and/or access purposes. Additionally, if there was a problem or emergency on the premises, the association would notify the owner, property manager, and all tenants on the lease for their own safety.

Another reason for all parties to be identified on the lease is legal responsibility. A good example would concern the security deposit at the end of the lease or an inspection that uncovered damages during the lease. The liability rests with the tenant on the lease even if he or she may not have actually damaged the unit. You would want the right person paying for it if it wasn’t your responsibility in the first place. There may be other circumstances that involve renters’ insurance in which responsibility may be diluted or worse, denied, if something were to happen on the premises, making the identity of all the parties or tenants necessary relative to there being enough coverage on the policy.

And yet another more practical reason for identifying all the tenants in a unit is in cases where utilities are included. If a landlord bases his water and electricity inclusions on one person, and then two additional people move in, the increased usage will negatively impact the landlord.

In the end, it is always best to do the right thing and inform the landlord that you would like to add a roommate onto the lease. This way both parties have an understanding of what’s to come, and if there are any changes due to the additional occupants, all parties are aware and in agreement.

Answers to questions in Landlord Tenant Q&A are provided by members of the Oahu Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), an organization that supports the professional and ethical practices of rental home management through networking, education, and certification. The Oahu Chapter, founded in 2004, has become the largest in the nation with 166 registered members. Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column by Realtors address individual cases and should not be construed as interpretations of the law. For specific information on Hawaii State Law, go to http://hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/land-lord_tenant or contact an attorney.

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