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How to Write a Room Rental Agreement for the Perfect Roommate

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Perhaps you need to supplement your income and don’t want to pick up a time-consuming side hustle. Or maybe you are moving to pursue a new job and need to sublease your room in a shared apartment to someone else. Whatever the reason you are considering renting out a room, a room rental agreement is a must to protect both you and your tenant, just like a typical residential lease agreement.

In this article, you will find:

What Is a Room Rental Agreement?

A room rental agreement is an agreement between you and the person to whom you are renting a room. It outlines the rules and responsibilities of both you and your tenant.

When you’re both a housemate and the landlord, the person you are renting to is only renting the room they will stay in, and the rest of the dwelling is considered common space. Once signed, a room rental agreement is a legally binding document that protects both you and your tenant. 

A room rental agreement is not the same as a sublease agreement. For more information about subleasing, which has its own set of rules, check out this subleasing guide for landlords and tenants. 

chart illustrating who signs a room rental agreement

How is a Room Rental Agreement Different From a Traditional Lease or a Roommate Agreement?

The term “room rental agreement” often gets confused with the terms “traditional lease” and “roommate agreement.”

Both a room rental agreement and a traditional lease are legally binding contracts between a tenant and the person from whom they are renting. However, they are slightly different.

A room rental agreement:

  • Covers a single room in a larger dwelling, while a traditional lease covers an entire unit
  • Is between a renter and a landlord who is also a housemate, while a traditional lease is between a renter and a landlord who does not reside in the unit being rented
  • Is for a shorter term (month-to-month or week-to-week), while a traditional lease typically lasts for six months or a year

Meanwhile, a roommate agreement:

  • is signed by all tenants living in the dwelling and not the landlord
  • covers topics not related to the lease, such as sharing the cost of communal items (e.g., toilet paper, communal groceries, cleaning supplies, etc.), cleaning, quiet hours, temperature settings, etc.

When is a Room Rental Agreement Needed?

A room rental agreement is needed when a person rents out a private room to a tenant or a primary tenant subleases their room to a third party. 

Any time you rent a room to someone else, a room rental agreement helps the landlord feel more secure in knowing that the tenant will take good care of the room itself. It also helps the tenant feel better about who they are renting from since the responsibilities of the landlord are clearly laid out.

What Are the Consequences of Not Having a Room Rental Agreement?

While a room rental agreement is not legally required, the benefits of having one far outweigh the consequences of not having one in place.

Without a room rental agreement, you open yourself up to a variety of consequences. One consequence of not having a room rental agreement includes lost income from missing rent or a vacant apartment, and the financial consequences of property damages and mental anguish caused by conflict between you and your tenant.

You aren’t the only one protected by the room rental agreement. Without a room rental agreement, a tenant can face unexpected fees and rent increases, unwanted inspections, and mental anguish from conflict with you.

What Happens If Someone Breaks the Room Rental Agreement?

In a perfect world, the room rental agreement prevents issues between you and your tenant. However, sometimes your tenant may break the terms of the agreement. Instead of putting up with their behavior,  you do have the right to evict them as long as you follow the rules established by state law. However, eviction is an expensive process, which is why rental agreements and tenant screening are so important.

Generally, the process involves:

  1. Giving your tenant official notice to vacate the property and how to resolve the situation if they wish to remain
  2. Filing an eviction case against the tenant in the local housing court
  3. Sending summons and complaint to the tenant
  4. Attending the court hearing
  5. Obtaining re-possession of the property

If the person renting the room leaves unexpectedly without following the procedures outlined in the room rental agreement, you can file a claim in small claims court to recover their financial obligations, such as an early move-out fee or the rent due for the remainder of the room rental agreement term.

graphic illustrating how to find the perfect roommate

How to Write a Room Rental Agreement

If you aren’t sure what your state requires, it’s best to consult your local housing laws. While room rental agreement requirements can vary by state, they all include the same essential terms.

The Most Important Terms To Include

Regardless of the situation, all room rental agreements should include the following terms to ensure all parties are protected.

  • Names of All Parties: Everyone involved should be listed — the landlord, other tenants in the space, and the renter. If more than one person moves into the room, all adults should be listed.
  • Property Details: Identify the address of the rental property and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, which room(s) is being rented and all common areas. Clearly identify the private and common areas of the property.
    • Terms of the Room Rental Agreement: If the room is being rented for a specific time frame, identify a specific start and end date. If the room is being rented month-to-month or week-to-week, include the start date and notice obligation. Also, delineate the process for vacating the premises before the end of the room rental agreement term.
    • Rent: List the specific amount the tenant is expected to pay and how often (weekly or monthly). Also state whether any prorating of the first month’s rent will occur and if prepayment of rent is allowed.
  • Rent Payment Instructions: The method of payment (virtual payment, check, cash) must be specified, as well as the due dates for payment.
  • Penalty for Late Rent: Clearly explain the penalty for late payments. If there won’t be a late penalty, explicitly state that to avoid potential miscommunications later.
  • Security Deposits and Other Fees: Identify whether or not a security deposit is required. If it is, state the amount, the requirements and procedure for its return at the end of the lease, which should all be based on security deposit state laws.
  • Renters Insurance: Clearly state whether the tenant must have renters insurance as part of their lease and any relevant provisions.
  • Monthly Bills: Explain which monthly bills the tenant is expected to contribute to, such as gas, water, electricity, or internet, and the amount they are responsible for and the procedure for paying them. 
  • Owner’s Entry: Identify the policy on the owner or landlord’s entry to the room for inspections. Clearly state the frequency of inspections and identify the notice period (usually 48 hours).
  • Signatures: All tenants and the landlord must sign and date the room rental agreement in order for it to be legally binding.

To make things easier on you, we’ve provided a free printable room rental agreement template! Download it for free today.

Download a Room Rental Agreement Form

Our form is in a pdf format, and easy to print and fill out. 

Before You Rent a Room in Your Unit

Before advertising a room for rent in your dwelling, there are a few extra steps you need to take before you can start looking for a roommate.

First, and most importantly, find out if your local zoning laws allow you to rent a room. Finding the perfect roommate takes time, and you don’t want to go through the entire process only to find out you aren’t allowed to rent the room. You’ll also want to explore whether your local laws require a property inspection, permit, or license for rentals. 

Once you know whether or not you can legally rent a room, a big question to consider is whether you want to provide furniture for your tenant. In some cases, like for month-to-month leases or for younger renters like college students, this can be a big draw for renters. This will help you decide how much stuff you want your tenant to bring, especially if storage options are limited.

When you have answered those questions, it’s time to find a tenant.

Tips for finding the perfect roommate

5 Tips on How to Find a Roommate

Finding the perfect roommate can be challenging, especially since the stakes are high. Fortunately, following a few simple steps can save you the headache of a bad roommate.

Step 1: Consider What You Want in a Roommate

Before you start looking for a tenant, it’s essential to consider the type of person you want to rent your room. Typically, someone renting a room is a single person, whether they are a student, a young professional just starting their career or a business person who travels to the area frequently and needs a place to stay. However, sometimes a couple may rent a room.

Once you know whether you want to rent to an individual or a couple, you need to consider what the ideal tenant looks like to you. Consider the best roommates you’ve ever had, as well as the worst. Are there any deal-breakers you have? For example, if messiness bothers you, prioritize finding someone neat. 

Step 2: Consider What Type of Landlord You Want to Be

Think carefully about what you want to be like as a landlord so when you interview your potential tenant, you can describe what they can expect from you. Understanding your role will also help you start drafting your room rental agreement.

Step 3: Start Looking 

Once you are ready, let friends and family know you are looking to rent out a room. The sooner you start this step, the more time you have to decide. You don’t want to end up with a roommate you don’t really like because you need someone to pay the rent.

While it may be tempting to rent to a friend or family member, that can lead to problems. What you look for in a friend isn’t always what makes a great roommate, and vice versa. However, they are excellent resources for finding potential roommates since they know you and the person looking to rent from you. 

You should also advertise online and provide as many details about the space itself. Describe the room, the property’s location and any amenities it comes with, like a parking space. Also, include what you are looking for in an ideal roommate, but stick to personality characteristics like “neat” or “dependable” to avoid potentially discriminatory statements. 

You can also provide details about yourself that might impact someone’s decision to live with you, like if you work nights. 

Step 4: Interview Potential Candidates

After people have had time to apply, it’s time to interview your potential candidates in person. This part can get a little awkward since you don’t know each other yet, but the more questions you ask, the better you’ll see if they will make a great roommate or not.

Some questions to ask include:

  • What is your lifestyle like?
  • What is your daily routine?
  • What are your weekends usually like?
  • What are your cleaning habits?
  • What is your work schedule?
  • Why are you looking for a new place to live?
  • What are your interests?

Step 5: Screen Your Tenant

After the interview, you should still screen the potential roommate which typically includes: 

  • Running a credit history report.
  • Running a criminal background check on them.
  • Making sure their employment history matches what they’ve told you and that they’ve had recent paystubs.

Once you identify potential candidates who fit your screening criteria, you can narrow down the list even further.

Step 6: Inform the Roommate and Meet to Fill Out the Room Rental Agreement

As soon as you’ve made a decision, let the lucky new tenant know and meet with them to go over the room rental agreement together. Sign the agreement before they move in or when they move in.

Renting out a room doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time-consuming. Use our template for drafting a room rental agreement, then list your rental so you can find your perfect roommate today.

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