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Landlord Tenant Q&A

Owner, Principal Broker
Cornerstone Properties
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers and
National Conference Speaker

Q. I have a house that I rented to several single roommates. Their lease is coming up for renewal and I would like some advice. I currently have them all on one lease -should I change that to individual leases? Can I make one person responsible for the whole group? How do I handle it when the rent is paid late and some have paid their portion but not others? What else should I know about renting to single roommates versus a family?

A. Thank you for your question. It actually comes up more often than you think. Many singles try to make living affordable by sharing a home with others. As a professional Property Manager I always avoid the “boarding house” type of rental situations. In your case, the tenants signed a lease all together as a single unit. In other words, all are 100% responsible for the entire lease.

If one person is late with their portion, then the whole rent is late. As the Landlord or Property Manager, I wouldn’t even recognize nor even mention the word portion when dealing with multiple tenants. Again, if one is late, all are late, and if one person violates a lease term, they all do, etc.

I make it a habit at my company to mention this when I sign a lease with multiple tenants. I go so far as to tell them that if one of them leaves, the rest are still responsible for the entire rent. I would renew it the same. I would definitely avoid doing individual leases, if each person has their own lease, then they are only responsible for themselves so you would be making each individual responsible for only a portion of the rent, a portion of the deposit, a portion of the responsibility. In a situation like that if there is damage and each is only responsible for themselves and if all deny the damage who would you charge it to? It is much easier and more clear for each person to be 100% responsible.

I don’t believe you can legally (I’m not an attorney, so please seek your own legal advice) make one person responsible for the whole group. You can request that one tenant be the main “go to guy” for arranging repair appointments, getting questions answered, etc.

If you really wanted to rent single rooms it might work out for you if you are an individual owner managing only one property. However, there are more drawbacks than pluses I believe and many things to consider. Security deposit issues will pop up. Utilities are always a problem…who pays, whose name is it in, how are the utilities divided, what happens if one tenant puts in an A/C?

There seems to be more wear and tear as well with people coming and going. Who takes care of the yard? Who takes care of the cleaning of the common areas like the living room and the bathrooms? In order to make this kind of situation work, a lot of thought and planning would need to go into it.

Renting to a “group of roommates” or to a “family” is the same thing. Just think of your three or four single guys or gals as a family and you won’t go wrong because that’s the way the law sees them!

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