Sharing an Apartment and the Responsibilities

It’s time to move again and this time, you'll be sharing your apartment with a new roommate. But before recklessly moving in with your best buddy from college, keep in mind that there are several items and issues that you and your roommate(s) will be jointly responsible for at the new place. Here are some of the things that you should consider, discuss, and get agreement upon before you settle on living together so that your old friendship doesn't turn sour.

Rental Expense – Depending on the unit that you are renting, the size of the rooms, number of bathrooms, parking spaces, etc., it may be fair for the rent to differ based on what each roommate receives. Because there is no standard way to split up the costs, the parties will just need to work out what is fair between them. For example, maybe you and your roommates can write down which room they prefer and what they think is a fair amount to pay. Then everyone can view those “bids” together and hopefully find an equilibrium that makes everyone happy. One person may also have to be responsible for paying the entire rent on time, meaning that the other roommates need to pay their rent on time to that individual. In other words, it's imperative to work out a good rent rate and rent payment plan so that your rent is never late or short.

Utilities, CATV, and Internet – There are also choices here and discussions on who orders the services and pays the bills. With CATV and the Internet, there may be some pricing and service options to consider. For example, if one person wants the premium package and the other just wants to use Netflix and Hulu, there may be a problem. Also, one person might not need home Internet service at all, or they might need their own Internet service due to work issues. Discussing these items early on will help alleviate issues once you move it. Remember that bills also need to be paid on time, so it might be best if one person is in charge of paying all the bills each month. His or her rent could be adjusted accordingly, or the other roommates could just pay that person back.

Pets and Animals – Pets can be another trying issue if one roommate has one and the other isn’t that excited about it. The pet owner needs to make sure to take care of all of the pet's needs, from feeding, to leaving water, to maybe vacuuming and picking up after their pet. After all, if you're the pet owner and move in with someone, it’s not fair to make your roommate responsible for ensuring your pet has acceptable living conditions. Conversely, if you are the type who is not a pet fan in the first place, you should really consider if living with another person’s pet is the right decision.

Cleaning, Laundry, and Garbage – Keeping the common areas clean, the sink clear of dirty dishes, and emptying the dishwasher are some of the most annoying issues for many cotenants. Add to that the chore of taking out the trash and the recycling bin and you’ve got plenty of room for problems! You might want to look at your soon-to-be roommate’s current living situation for a gauge on the cleanliness level you will experience when you live with him or her. If you are the ultra-clean type, make sure your other roommates understand and agree on keeping things as clean as you'd like. It might also help to have a maid come monthly to help keep everything tidy because people usually keep places cleaner for longer periods of time after routine maid cleanings. On the other hand, if your roommate is a stickler for cleanliness and you could care less and don't want to chip in for professional cleaning, you may want to reconsider moving in together.

Friends and Guests – Lastly, you want to set some boundaries for friends, guests, and significant others lounging around or staying over. If you don’t know your co-tenant’s habits that well, have a frank discussion with him or her about what is fair and your expectations. You don’t want to move in and find out you’re really going to be living with several other people instead of just the one or two with whom you signed a lease!

There are a lot of things to consider when co-tenanting, so it’s best to discuss them upfront. This way, everyone can agree and accept what is fair and reasonable.