Featured News 2013 Roommate Etiquette and Legal Obligations

Roommate Etiquette and Legal Obligations

Almost everyone has stories of a frustrating or inconsiderate roommate who doesn't clean up, always invites people over, or tends to ignore advice and suggestions to keep the apartment in good condition. While some roommates can be irksome, others can be downright illegal in the way that they treat you. When you enter into a rental agreement with others or even enter into the same oral rental agreement, then you and your roommates are legally regarded as cotenants. This means that you will need to adhere to joint and several liability. This responsibility is affixed to any rental agreement where two or more people sign the same lease or payment plan.

Cotenants are different from tenants with subtenants, and the law will see this as such. For example, if you allow you adult child to live with you as a subtenant, you will be held to a different standard than if your child was considered a cotenant with equal responsibility to pay the rent on the home. Also, subtenants may rent a sublet apartment that they rent from you and never signed the lease or rental agreement. Subtenants don't have the same responsibilities as cotenants do.

When roommates have entered into a financial agreement to pay the rent on an apartment, condo, or house, then they need to adhere to joint and several liability rules. The joint and several liability understanding declares that a landlord can demand the entire rent from one cotenant and all roommates must uphold their end of the payment bargain in order to keep things from getting complicated. A landlord does not have a legal obligation to collect rent from each individual cotenant in a unit, and can instead corner one tenant and demand the entire month's rent from him or her.

Also implied in the joint and several liability is the fact that even innocent cotenants will suffer if an irresponsible cotenant is unable to meet the agreements of the rental contract. For example, if one roommate is caught smoking marijuana within the apartment, the landlord has the right to evict all the roommates for his crime. This may not seem fair, but landlords assume that roommates are responsible to watch out for each other and collectively keep the standards of the rental agreement.

The best way to remain in your apartment is to choose good roommates. With responsible and reliable housemates that have a steady income and do not often act out of the ordinary or unpredictable, you may be able to avoid the tension that can build between the landlord and those in your apartment. Unfortunately, you do not have the legal right to evict or remove a roommate that has signed the lease or rental agreement until the lease expires unless that roommate is in direct violation of the terms of the rental contract. For example, if your roommate throws a rowdy party, or adopts a barking dog in violation of the contract, then you can encourage him or her to leave as the landlord will probably enforce eviction anyway.

Because roommates can end up ruining a rental agreement for everyone in their unit, it is very important to choose roommates carefully. Also, it is wise to create a roommate agreement that all cotenants can sign in order to be held to a specific standard. Rental agreements don't affect the joint and several liability of cotenants to the landlord, but it can help to diminish the amount of disagreements among roommates. These roommate agreements are not enforceable by the landlord and cannot impose the threat of eviction unless the roommate has done something in violation of the rental agreement.

Most of the time, rental agreements include provisions on how much rent each roommate should pay, who gets what bedroom, and how food will be share. As well, roommate agreements can discuss the noise levels in the apartment, and how disagreements should be handled. In addition, the agreement should discuss house guests and overnight guests and discuss who is responsible for what chores.

Create a roommate agreement and put it in writing so that you can refer back to it when necessary. If you want more information about rental agreements and roommates, then you need to discuss your situation with a real estate attorney. If your landlord has threatened you with eviction because of your roommate's activities, then you may want an attorney there to help you negotiate through your case and help mediate when it comes to the disagreements between cotenants.

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