Q. I am a single person with a good job but limited income which does not always put me in a position to rent the type of apartment I would like to have. The lease on my current rental, which is small and not convenient to either my workplace or shopping, will expire at the end of the year. I want to rent a larger, better located apartment but probably don’t have sufficient income to qualify. So I am hoping to share with a roommate and have a few candidates in mind. What do I need to consider in terms of qualifications for a good roommate. How can I protect myself from liability for the entire rent and damages should the individual suddenly leave without notice? Can I ask for a deposit or some portion of the deposit I will have to place as the primary renter? Should the other individual be signatory to the lease? I would appreciate any advice you can provide.
A. As a professional property manager, my practice is to require Rental Applications and Credit Reports for all prospective tenants and I would advise you to do the same. Provide the prospective roommate or roommates with your credit report and do not make a commitment until you receive theirs. If they are not willing or able to provide this information, then move on to someone else. If one tenant is bad, I will not rent to anyone in the “group.” Failure to supply a credit report is a good indication that the individual has bad credit — you don’t want to go there. If a property manager has confirmed that you have good credit and is willing to rent to you but not to the prospective roommate — pay attention. Don’t try to change that individual into a “good tenant” who will pay you in a timely manner.
In addition to good credit, another criterion for choosing a roommate would be similar social habits. If you are someone who likes to stay home at night and read you will not be happy with a roommate who likes to party every night.
Assuming you choose a roommate or roommates, it is very important that the Security Deposit be divided equally among all to ensure that everyone has an interest in keeping the home in good condition — do not “help out” a friend by covering their share of the Security Deposit. If they can’t afford the Security Deposit, you don’t want them as a roommate.
Do not sublet a room in your apartment. Ask that the landlord put anyone you plan to share the premises with on the Rental Agreement. Then it will mean that both the landlord and/or management company and you will be going after a roommate who doesn’t pay their share of the rent. If you sublet and the individual doesn’t pay — it will be entirely your responsibility to collect.
All roommates should always be listed on the Rental Agreement –there should never be any “secret” roommates. You are asking for eviction if you allow any unauthorized people to live in the home.
To answer your last question, I recommend that all adult individuals occupying the premises sign the lease…then all are equally obligated and responsible for rent payments and move-out condition. – Becky D. Gustafson
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