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Rental Report: Tips for Signing the Lease

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

So you’ve searched and interviewed potential roommates, and you’ve finally found someone you think fits the bill. There are still a few things to work out.

The Lease – In Virginia, anyone over the age of 18 will need to apply and qualify for any rental, and all roommates will be named on the lease. This makes you jointly and severally liable, meaning no matter what, all parties named on the lease are financially responsible. Regardless of whether or not you both live there for the full term. So if your roommate bails, you are still 100% responsible for the apartment. Likewise, if you take off, you are absolutely still responsible for the remainder of the rent payments.

Roommate Agreement – It is a good idea to draft some sort of roommate agreement. While you certainly don’t need to be as detailed as Sheldon, it might be good to know if your roommate does expect a ride to work every day, or if they expect to split their bi-weekly Costco expenses with you. Hammer out the important details as to how you will split utilities, and who is responsible for making the payments. Does the other party want proof of payment?

The last thing that you want is to come home to no lights, or an eviction notice on the door when you paid your portion of the bills. Is rent split evenly, or did one of you say they will pay more for the bigger bedroom? Get that in writing. What about buying essential supplies like toilet paper and cleaning supplies? What about chores? You don’t necessarily have to have full details here, but note some general expectations on cleanliness. You may also want to cover expectations on pets and guests.

Useful Tools – Luckily, the daily business of roommate life is pretty simple these days. A few apps can make your arrangement a smooth operation. Check out Homeslice, which is basically a project management tool for roommates. There is a Whiteboard that is basically the app dashboard showing all the messages, chores, supplies and bills due. Once your roommate posts that you owe $27.05 for the electric, you can head over to Venmo to pay them your portion.

Be sure to not to get clever on your payment description, save your emojis for happy hour and late night pizza, and actually post what you are paying for so you have a record. Lastly, you can use something like Cozy for your rent payment. It is free, everyone can submit their portion of the payment and send over one payment to your landlord.

While some of this might seem a bit dry, it is important to treat a roommate relationship as a business, as that is exactly what it is. You are making a financial commitment to someone, and you want to make sure the business side is handled, so you can then move forward to enjoying life, and perhaps making a lifelong friend.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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