A roommate agreement is a contract between tenants living in the same home that outlines shared expenses and house rules.
Unlike a lease agreement, the landlord is not involved in a roommate agreement. By signing, tenants agree to one another that they will abide by the rules and pay their rent, utilities, and other expenses on time.
A roommate agreement is considered a legally binding document that can be used to enforce financial obligations (like if a roommate doesn’t pay rent), but it’s less likely that the other aspects of the agreement (such as chores) can be legally enforced.
Why Do I Need a Roommate Agreement?
Roommate agreements are essential in preventing disagreements among housemates whether you’re moving in with strangers or close friends.
Many universities require students living on campus to fill out a dorm roommate agreement because getting a set of roommate rules on paper in the beginning goes a long way in preventing disputes and keeping roommate relationships amicable.
If you’re moving in with friends, creating a written roommate agreement may feel unnecessary, but conflicts often arise because each person has unspoken expectations for how things should be done.
Try approaching your housemates with the intention of going the extra mile to make sure everything’s clear, and remember — your house rules can be as strict or flexible as you want them to be.
What Should a Roommate Agreement Include?
You should include the following in your roommate agreement:
1. Expense breakdown
Every roommate agreement needs a breakdown of each tenant’s contribution toward shared expenses including rent, security deposit, utilities, and shared supplies/groceries.
2. Shared and private rooms
Indicate which parts of the house are “common areas” and which rooms are private to one or more tenants.
3. Guests and parties
Roommates should unanimously decide in what situations having guests over needs prior approval from other roommates. Set limits on how frequently roommates can have visitors and set guidelines for parties and larger groups of guests.
If your lease allows, consider whether you’re okay with having a pet in the house, even if none of your housemates currently have plans to get one. Specify in writing what will happen if the pet owner is out of town or the pet causes any damage to the property.
For shared areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and living space, roommates should all contribute to regular maintenance and deep cleaning. We recommend creating a rotating schedule for daily, weekly, and monthly chores.
6. Quiet hours
It’s a good idea to clearly communicate each tenant’s schedule so roommates can be respectful of each other’s rest or study routines. If needed, designate quiet hours (for example, between 12 AM and 7 AM) where roommates agree to make little to no noise.
7. Early move-out
One of the biggest concerns of sharing a lease with roommates is what will happen if a roommate moves out before the lease period ends. Generally, if a tenant moves out early, they’re still required to pay their portion of the rent, but some leases allow a tenant to sublet their room or find someone to take over their spot on the lease.
Include any necessary guidelines for early move-out in your roommate agreement so tenants know exactly what options they have if their situation requires them to move out early.
8. Sharing/borrowing items
To prevent one of the most common disagreements among roommates, make sure everyone’s on the same page about if/when it’s acceptable to borrow another tenant’s things. Also, consider how these rules apply to shared items like cooking supplies.
9. Any other house rules agreed upon by roommates
It’s impossible to prepare for every situation, but you might want to think through potential argument-starters like the ideal temperature for the house, shared parking space, or shower times. If necessary, write down any extra stipulations after all roommates agree.
You may run into disagreements over situations not covered in your roommate agreement, so be prepared to add to the house rules in the future.
How to Write a Roommate Agreement
Writing a good roommate agreement is essential in preventing conflict among roommates.
Step 1: Download a free roommate agreement template
Download a roommate agreement form and have each house member fill in their information.
Step 2: Sit down with roommates and discuss house rules
Using the template as a guide, discuss the terms of your roommate agreement with your housemates. Don’t rush through, especially if there’s an issue not everyone can agree on. It’s better to pause and come back to it later than to set a rule that not all roommates are happy about.
Step 3: Complete and sign the document
Once housemates have agreed to all of the terms, sign and date the document together. Make sure you discuss how to communicate about issues in the future, and keep in mind, you can always revise the contract with another written agreement if needed.