Should my roommate be named on the lease? | Roost
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Should my roommate be named on the lease?

If you are thinking about getting a roommate, you may also want to think about adding them to the lease.

Getting a roommate can help you save money and get ahead of your debt. It is a smart way to “house hack” your way into a better financial position. While it may seem like a stressor or unnecessary to add a new roommate to your lease, there is a downside to not having them on the lease. Should my roommate be named on the lease? The short answer is yes.

Can I sublease my apartment?

The first step towards adding a roommate to your lease is to find your original lease and read through it to see if it allows you to have a roommate or sublessee. Your lease should list who is allowed to live in your home and whether you can sublease.  

Look for a paragraph in your lease agreement specifying this option that lets you rent a portion or your entire unit to another renter.  You’ll see that the paragraph will also say that you are still on the hook for everything and all details of the master lease agreement still apply. Most apartment leases do not allow for sublease.  Your landlord wants each person living in the unit to be named on the lease and legally accountable. 

If the lease is unclear or doesn’t allow you to have a roommate, talk to your landlord or property manager about adding a roommate. Your property manager may ask you to sign a new lease alongside your new roommate, or they may simply add the roommate to your existing lease.  

Roost Tip! Check out your Virginia renters rights. Some states or municipalities may limit how much a landlord can charge extra for roommates. Rent controlled properties may also have unique rules. Most restrictions only apply to adult roommates, not your minor children.

Should I add a roommate without telling my landlord?

You may be tempted to avoid the hassle of officially adding a roommate to your lease. Perhaps you are afraid your rent will go up or that your new roommate wouldn’t be able to qualify for the lease. Whatever the reason, you should carefully consider the consequences.

You are named on the lease and ultimately responsible for satisfying the requirements of the lease. For example, if your unsigned roommate causes problems, you are responsible. If they put a hole in the wall, disturb the other tenants, don’t pay their part of the rent, or park in the wrong place, you are responsible. Do you want to take on that responsibility? Or worse yet, what if they do something to cause you to be evicted? Even if your roommate is your best friend and you think everything will be great, things can go sideways rather quickly. So you need to carefully decide whether you want to accept being responsible for your roommate’s actions.

You should carefully weigh the consequences of “sneaking” a roommate in without telling your landlord. Just the simple act of moving them in may be cause for eviction if you violate.

Roost Tip! In 2020, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the US was $1900. That means you can save over $800 per month by getting a roommate. You can save for a house down payment by saving a portion of that $800 every month. In fact, you can save $30K in five years by only putting $500 per month aside.

How to add a new roommate to your lease

If you decide that it is best to add your potential new roommate to your existing lease, there are few steps to take to “make it legal.”

  1. Review your current lease and talk to your landlord. If your landlord approves, they will provide you with the items you need to move forward, such as a rental application for your potential roommate to complete.
  2. Sign a new lease. Your landlord will require you and your roommate to sign an updated or new lease.
  3. Your roommate may also be required to go through a credit and background check — especially if your income alone does not cover the income requirement (usually 2.5-3x rent). 
  4. Pay the security deposit and any increase in rent required.  Your landlord may raise your security deposit if you add a new tenant to the lease. And, some properties require a small increase for additional roommates (eg., an extra $100 or so per roommate).
  5. Add your roommate to the property offered renters insurance or have them buy their own renters insurance coverage. Login to your renters insurance account and add your new roommate. 
  6. Together, draft a roommate agreement. The housemate agreement should include how you plan to split mutual bills and house rules.

How long can a guest stay before they are considered “living there?”

How long a guest can stay before being considered a tenant or a violation of your lease should be defined in your lease. Review your lease to find out how you are supposed to manage long guest stays. A friend or family member who stays with you a couple of days is usually not a big deal. However, if they plan to stay longer, you may need to inform your landlord. Many leases may restrict guest stays to less than two weeks and may require you to notify the landlord if you expect to host a long-term guest. You are also responsible for making sure your guest follows lease rules such as noise ordinances, approved parking and smoking restrictions.

If your guest intends to stay long term, you may have to go through the process of adding them to your lease.

If I am a roommate, not on the lease, what are my tenant rights?

If you moved into a rental with someone and didn’t sign a lease or perhaps moved into someone else’s home without a rental agreement, you may be wondering what your rights are as a tenant.

Provided that you signed a lease with the landlord, you have the same rights as any other tenant. However, if you are not on the lease things, get more complicated. In general, if you are not on the original lease you are subject to the person who is on the lease. They, in a sense, act as your landlord. They would be the one responsible for requesting repairs, paying rent, and maintaining the lease requirements. They may also be the one to evict you or ask you to move out.
Since your roommate is acting as your landlord, you may have some protections. However, laws vary greatly between states, counties, cities and buildings. Check out your Virginia renters rights laws to better understand which tenant’s rights may apply to your situation.

A quick note! Our goal is to gather and share info that’s up-to-date and helps you make great decisions as a renter. That said, the information you get directly from a provider could be a little different. Make sure to review their terms and conditions directly; and, if you see anything here that needs to be updated, please let us know! Advertising disclosure
Last Updated: January 11th, 2021