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Roommate Release Agreement basics

A Roommate Agreement can help maintain the peace between co-inhabitants and clearly outlines everyone's financial obligations. Whether you are choosing to live with someone you just met or with someone you have known a long time, it is smart to put together a good list of house rules and clearly defined expectations.

Use the Roommate Release Agreement document if:

  • You're moving in with a roommate.
  • A new roommate is moving in with you.
  • Your university requires you to have one for on-campus or off-campus housing.

Living with roommates is no longer just for college students, many people are choosing to live together to control expenses especially in areas where the rents are high and vacancies low. No matter the situation, a well-thought out Roommate Agreement can help keep relations civil, the home clean and comfortable, and mutual financial obligations met.

Other names for this document: Roommate Agreement Form, Roommate Contract

Co-living, doubled-up households and living with roommates is becoming increasingly common especially in areas with high rents. A Rental Agreement is a good way to keep relationships running smoothly and the property maintained. These contracts can cover more than just financial agreements. You can also use them to define cleaning expectations, noise restrictions, guest rules and more.

Basic items to include in all Roommate Agreements

All Roommate Contracts should include:

  • Address of the property to be shared
  • Contact information for all parties, including landlord
  • Dates the contract begins and ends
  • Rent amounts and due dates

What financial obligations can be included?

The financial part of the Roommate Agreement is for many, the most important portion of the agreement. In this section, rent and security deposit obligations are covered as well as other bills such as utilities, internet and insurance.


There are many ways to decide how much rent each person pays. Some choose to divide rent evenly, others may agree upon different rent rates based on room size, or if a homeowner is adding roommates, they may choose to take on a larger portion of their own mortgage. You'll also want to include what happens if someone moves out early.

Security deposit

Most landlords require a security deposit before people can move in. In most cases, roommates divide this obligation evenly. However, if pet deposits are involved, most often the pet owner will be required to pay the pet deposit portion. If a roommate wants to move out early, it will have to be decided how the deposit refund, if due, will be handled.


While most agree to divide utility costs equally, they can be managed in different ways. First thing to decide is whose name the utilities will be in, or if they will be divided, for example one roommate can put the power in their name, while another the internet, and so on. The advantage to putting different names on the utilities is that if one is not paid, the utility company can seek payment from that person directly. Plus, it removes the burden from one person being responsible for all the bills.


Many landlords require renters' insurance. This type of insurance is generally low priced, but still an item to discuss. Most insurance companies will allow more than one name on the policy to potentially cover everyone's obligation in one bill.

Groceries and household items

How food is managed varies greatly. Some roommates choose to keep their food entirely separate in personal cupboards. Other agree upon shopping lists and share everything. No matter how you choose to define how you share (or do not share) groceries it should be discussed and noted in the agreement. The expense of household items such as toilet paper and cleaning products is often shared, but you can make any type of agreement you choose.

Other topics to consider adding to your Roommate Agreement

Since this is a personal agreement between you and your roommates, you can include anything you want. This portion of the Roommate Contract helps ensure everyone gets along and the residence is properly maintained. These are often referred to as house rules.

Cleaning and maintenance

Some may choose to define who does what and on which days. But, most will benefit from being more flexible. At the minimum, general expectations should be communicated, such as keeping your personal areas tidy and contributing to keeping common areas clean. Some even choose to share the cost of hiring a cleaning company to handle routine cleaning needs.


Often parking is limited. You may decide that one person pays more rent to have access to the best parking spot. Or, you could decide to create a parking schedule.

Guests and parties

Most people do not want to live in a "party house" all the time. And sometimes, roommates may routinely have overnight guests who outstay their welcome. Its best if you and your roommates can decide in advance how many guests can visit at once, how long guests can stay, and how often overnight guests can stay.

Alcohol and more

No matter what is "legal" in your state, you can still decide together what is allowed in the house. Most landlords nowadays will not allow smoking in the residence at all, so likely that is already covered. Alcohol may be an issue if minors will be living in the home or visit often. Or some simply do not want certain substances in the home regardless of their legal status. It is a good topic to cover in advance.

Quiet times and noise

Often roommates are on different work or school schedules and may require quiet time for study or sleep. You may choose to limit volumes on projected sound and define hours that the house should be kept quiet.

Heating and cooling

Heating and cooling your home can be expensive if not managed well and some roommates may disagree on comfortable temperatures. You'll benefit from setting an agreeable thermostat schedule to keep energy bills reasonable and temperatures within a suitable range.

Other special considerations

Things not included in standard agreements that may be important to some include things such as health concerns, emotional triggers, interior design and personal property. For example, if someone in the home suffers from severe allergies you may include guidelines about restricting certain allergens. You could also include rules about personal property that roommates do not want to share such as expensive music gear, sports equipment or electronics.

Are Roommate Agreements legally binding?

In most cases, the financial part of the Roommate Contract can be enforced through the courts if necessary. But the house rules are often not legally enforceable. If a roommate doesn't pay their portion of the rent or moves out with rent owed, other roommates can take that matter to the courts or mediator. However, even if house rules are not enforceable, it is still beneficial for everyone to make them.

How is a Roommate Agreement different than a Lease Agreement?

A Lease Agreement is between tenants and the landlord or property manager. A Roommate Agreement is between the people who choose to live together. While the Roommate Agreement may discuss rent and utilities, they often include additional information that is not included in the Lease Agreement.

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