Tips to Keep in Mind When Renting to Roommates

By Kaitlin Hurtado on December 30, 2022

As a property manager, you are going to experience a wide variety of leasing situations. Some units will be rented to a single tenant or family, while other units may be rented to roommate tenants. When renting to roommates, there are different things you want to keep in mind as it can lead to situations you may not expect with a single tenant or family. If you find yourself renting to roommates, keep reading for tips you should keep in mind as best practices.

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Ensure that roommates are jointly liable on the lease

When renting to multiple roommates that are often unrelated to one another, you want to make sure that all tenants are aware that they are jointly liable for honoring the lease agreement. The lease agreement itself should state that all tenants are “jointly and severally liable.” While they are multiple individuals on the lease, they are basically renting as a single unit. They are equally responsible for honoring the leasing agreement, from paying rent on time and in full to avoiding property damages to the best of their ability.

When all roommates are jointly liable, you can better protect yourself and the property when things go wrong. For example, if one roommate is late on rent payments or damages the property, all the tenants are liable for solving the issue, whether it be paying the rent in full or paying out for the property damages.

Screen all tenants as you would in a typical situation

Screening tenants is critical in making sure you are protecting yourself and your property by renting to quality tenants. When renting to roommates, make sure to carry out your usual screening process for each and every unit as they are all jointly liable if they end up signing the lease. Don’t let anything fall through the cracks.

For example, if you are screening four individuals for a unit, but find that three of them have excellent rental history and credit scores while one has some red flags, don’t let the three good findings overshadow the one with red flags. Make sure that each tenant is weighed equally and don’t ignore red flags that can lead to issues down the line.

Have all roommates sign the lease 

When renting to roommates, make sure that all tenants are on the lease – especially when there is turnover during the leasing period. One thing you can do is to make sure that your lease agreement makes it clear that subleasing is not allowed as subtenants are often not added on the lease and aren’t liable for honoring it – they aren’t going to be held accountable for missing or late rent and property damages.

Roommate situations can change fairly quickly, so if one roommate moves and another is expected to move in to replace them, make sure the lease is reflecting any changes to the living situation. Screen any replacement tenants prior to them signing any lease, treating the situation like you would with any prospective tenant.

If the new roommate has been screened, you will need to create a new lease agreement to reflect the new tenants along with the existing tenants. By doing so, you are making sure that all roommates continue to be jointly liable even as the roommate situation may change over time.

Ask for one payment for rent

When renting to roommates, the easiest thing for them may be to make separate payments as they have an agreement on how they individually split up rent and utilities. However, this may be a hassle for you as you keep track of the individual payments, especially if they don’t all come in at the same time.

To make the process simple, ask for rent in one payment to make it easier to track every month. If this is an absolute must for you, make sure your lease agreement outlines that one payment is required so there are no arguments down the line.

Appoint one point of contact

Depending on the situation, getting into contact with all tenants may be a bit of work. When signing the lease, ask if the roommates can appoint one person as the point of contact for the unit should any issues arise. Of course, any tenants have the right to bring up any concerns and questions they have, but having one fixed point of contact makes it easier to get conversations started and convey any announcements that are needed.

Renting to roommates may seem like more work, but it is often unavoidable depending on the market you are renting to. It is also important to remember to follow your local laws when renting to roommates, as some laws limit the number of unrelated people that can live in a single rental unit. With these tips in mind, you can make sure that renting to roommates is as efficient as possible for both you and your property.

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