1. Are you employed?
It is important to know that your roommate can meet their financial responsibilities to you and your landlord. For most rentals, if one roommate cannot pay rent, other roommates may be held accountable. When signing a Lease Agreement with a landlord, each roommate may be required to meet income requirements, and provide proof. If you are subletting a room in your rental, you may want to ask for proof of employment and income, just like a landlord typically requires. After all, when you sublet, you become a landlord.
2. Can you provide a credit report?
A credit report is a great way to see a potential roommate's financial standing and how responsible they are with payments. Past evictions, defaulted loans, and delinquent credit card debts can be signs that your potential roommate may not be financially reliable. A roommate or subletter with good credit may be able to take over your lease if you decide to leave.
3. Can you provide references?
References allow you to verify a person's background. Try to ask for references of past roommates so you can get a better sense of what kind of roommate they are. Prior landlord references can be helpful as well. Be aware, however, that you may want to confirm the identity of references. If you do not know your potential roommate, and you are offering a sublet, you may want to ask for a completed Rental Application. A background check can also provide valuable information about someone you do not know.
4. Do you have any pets?
If you have a pet, you may want to make sure that they get along with any potential roommates, especially if they also have a pet. On the other hand, if you are allergic to furry animals or the lease forbids pets, you may want to make sure that your roommate does not have a dog or cat. Even if you are pet-friendly, you may still want to ask any potential pet-owning roommate to complete a Pet Application.
5. Can you contribute to the security deposit?
This is certainly something to work out in advance. If you are subletting a room to a roommate, you may want to ask a lawyer about your obligations when collecting a security deposit. The laws about security deposits vary from state-to-state, and sometimes from city-to-city. When someone pays a security deposit, they may be more inclined to keep the place tidy since they share responsibility for any damages.
6. How much can you pay for rent and utilities?
Your definition of fair may be entirely different from their definition. Outlining responsibilities for rent and utilities as well as detailing rights to your shared spaces can prevent issues from the outset. It can help to have a signed written agreement explaining each person's responsibilities before you move in together, or allow someone to move into your home.
7. How do you want to handle apartment maintenance or other costs?
While landlords may cover most of the big ticket costs, there are day-to-day costs that can often be overlooked. Sharing the cost of items like garbage bags and dish soap, essential services like cleaning, or basic foodstuffs like condiments and spices, can be a difficult conversation. Although it can feel nitpicky, these minor costs can be the cause of major tensions over time. These types of costs are ongoing, so it is smart to talk about this before moving in with anyone. It can be helpful to create a household budget that each roommate contributes to on a monthly basis.
8. How long of a lease do you want?
Being on the same page about how long you plan to live in a rental when signing a Lease Agreement with a roommate is important. If you are subletting a room in your rental, you may want to clearly state in your written agreement when the sublease ends to avoid confusion. They may want to stay for a year, but you may only have a vacancy for one month. In areas with strong protections for renters, it can be helpful to talk to a lawyer to understand your obligations when subleasing.
9. Do you smoke?
If you are not a smoker and disdain the smell of cigarette smoke, you may not want to live with a smoker at all. If you do not mind, you may still want to set some ground rules.
10. How often will you have overnight guests?
Overnight guests can cause tensions and conflict between roommates. It is all too common for a roommate's significant other to turn into an unofficial roommate. Setting rules and boundaries at the outset can help resolve potential conflicts that can arise when guests overstay their welcome, or are causing problems.
11. Do you clean up after yourself?
Everyone has different cleaning styles. Some people clean up immediately after they make a mess, some may do it throughout the week, while others only clean once a week. Whatever you prefer, a schedule or plan can help keep the household in order. It can be a good idea to agree to a contingency plan to split the costs of a cleaning service in case the schedule is not followed. The cost may be incentive enough to keep both you and your roommate on the cleaning schedule.
12. Who gets which room?
If you are subletting a room in your rental, this may not even be a question. If you are leasing a unit with a roommate, however, this question can be a bit tricky. It may depend on the price of your respective rent payments. Typically, whoever pays more gets the bigger, or nicer, room. If the rooms are similar in size and features, you may want to agree to switch rooms every six months.
13. Do you work from home or run a small business from home?
Many people use their home to run their small businesses, or as a home office. Remote work, or running a business out of a home, can often lead to increased utility costs. It can also be limiting if you or your roommate require privacy or limited background noise for calls or video conferences.
14. What is your regular schedule?
It may be a good or bad thing if your schedules are complete opposites. You can both have your own space at your own time, but it may also limit what you can do if your roommate expects peace and quiet while you are awake. If you work the nightshift and sleep from 8am to 4pm daily, while your roommate works from home making calls from 9am to 5pm daily, it can be a problem.
15. Will you sign this Roommate Agreement?
A Roommate Agreement, or a Co-Tenancy Agreement, outlines everything you agree upon and makes living with roommates much easier. Having a signed, written agreement that outlines everyone's rights and responsibilities, particularly who is financially responsible for what, can prevent problems from the start. Also, a Roommate Agreement can include clear instructions on how to resolve disputes. If your potential roommate does not want to sign a Roommate Agreement, you may want to reconsider whether you want to share a living space with them.
If you have questions about moving in with a roommate, or subletting a room in your rental, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.