Choosing Your Roommate: Legal Guide for College Students

If you’ve never had to share your room with a sibling, then a roommate might sound like an exciting adventure. However, great friendships have been ruined during the course of a six-month lease, and strangers who room together have been known to exact revenge for the smallest of infringements. Be careful when selecting your first roommate, and know the laws that govern roomies.

Choosing Your Roommate: Are You Compatible?

Just because you enjoy hitting the town with someone on a Friday night doesn’t mean that you’d enjoy living together. Quirks, idiosyncrasies and differences of opinion can make a roommate situation unbearable. Does he or she smoke? Drink? Is one of you messy and the other neat? Some people just aren’t compatible as roommates, so talk about those factors and be honest.

Choosing Your Roommate: Would You Loan Him/Her Rent?

If one of you can’t come up with the rent money, then the other will have to put it up, or risk eviction. Even if you’re splitting the bills 50/50, things happen. Be sure that you would feel comfortable loaning rent to the person with whom you hope to live. If not, find someone else.

Choosing Your Roommate: Do You Trust Him/Her?

You go back home to visit your parents for the weekend, and while you’re gone, your roommate throws a wild party which results in a visit from the local police. When your landlord catches wind of the ordeal, he can evict both of you, even though you had nothing to do with the party. It is your responsibility to choose a roommate you trust alone in your apartment.

Choosing Your Roommate: Did Your Parents Cosign?

Because college students rarely have sufficient credit to obtain an apartment lease, parents are often asked to cosign on behalf of their children. In the case of roommates, both sets of parents should cosign so that your parents don’t wind up paying for your roommate’s mistakes, and vice versa.

Choosing Your Roommate: Who Moved My Cheese?

It isn’t just a famous book, but a question that might come out of your dear roomie’s mouth. Learning each other’s hang-ups about food, clothing and electronics can make your living situation much more pleasant.

Choosing Your Roommate: What About Girlfriends?

Your roommate’s girlfriend might be nice, but if she stays over at the apartment too often, she could get you both evicted for allowing an unauthorized occupant to stay in your apartment. Have a long talk with your roommate about overnight guests, and set rules for how often and how long a girlfriend or boyfriend can stay.

Choosing Your Roommate: Do You Have a Bill-Paying System?

Usually, one roommate will write a check for electricity, water, telephone and other bills, while the other roommate will simply pay the first. Make sure, however, that you always get the money before you write a check for any bill, or you might end up fronting a loan.

Choosing Your Roommate: Do You Have an Agreement?

Your lease agreement is between roommates and their landlord, but what about an agreement between roommates? Prepare a contract that states exactly how bills are divided and includes any rules you have set for yourselves. This way, if disputes ever occur, you have proof that an agreement was made. This is especially true of male/female roommates.

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