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Can my partner live with me without being on the lease?

There are no laws against partners living together when one is not on the lease. However, many leases require that you notify and secure your landlord's approval if someone stays in your rental for longer than a given period, usually about two weeks.

Be aware that your landlord may require you to sign a new Lease Agreement or a Lease Amendment listing the two of you as cotenants. In doing so, the landlord may raise your rent based on the theory that more people living in the rental unit will cause more wear and tear than one person living alone.

In some places, you may have the legal right to live with your partner even if one of you is not on the lease, regardless of whether your landlord approves. In New York, for example, you have the right to share your apartment with another adult who isn't related to you—along with that person's dependent children—as long as you live in a private, non-rent-controlled building and are the only person on the lease. In this case, New York state law requires you to notify your landlord of the names of the people living with you within 30 days of the day they move in, but the landlord cannot raise your rent based on that fact.

Is a Roommate Agreement legally binding?

Roommate Agreement is a legally binding contract between you and your roommate that lists the conditions on which you agree to live together in your rental unit. No matter how close you are to your roommate—even if they are your best friend or significant other—it's smart to agree about the details of how you want to live together and write them down ahead of time.

Nobody plans to have conflict, but a written agreement can make disagreements much easier to resolve when they arise. Leaving things to chance creates ample opportunity for miscommunication and hurt feelings. Use a Pre-Rental Checklist to make sure you're being deliberate about moving in together.

What items to include in a Roommate Agreement?

All Roommate Agreements should cover the following:

  • Money. Who pays for what, and when? Rent is the biggest expense of sharing your rental unit. But utilities such as electricity, gas, water, internet, and TV subscriptions are often separate expenses that benefit both roommates. So don't forget to consider those expenses in the agreement as well as food, household items, cleaning supplies, and child or pet care.
  • Cleaning duties. Who will do what, and when? Make a list of the chores that must be regularly performed—doing the dishes, cleaning out the fridge, scrubbing the shower, sweeping, vacuuming, taking out the trash, etc.—as well as the frequency with which they should be performed. Then, split them up between you and your roommate or set a schedule to rotate duties.
  • Food. Will food items be owned in common or by each roommate? If separately, where will each roommate keep their food? Will each roommate be responsible for their own cooking, or will roommates take turns cooking for each other?
  • Noise. Consider implementing quiet hours to accommodate each roommate's schedule.

Roommates who are also significant others may face several additional issues, even if they are not married. These can be covered in a Cohabitation Agreement, which should address the following:

  • Property and income. Who owns what, and who will take jointly owned property if a split happens? Each partner usually retains ownership of the things they owned before moving in together. You should also consider whether the two of you will maintain separate bank accounts or open a joint one.
  • Release for services. Significant others may provide thousands of hours of labor in the form of cooking, cleaning, and emotional support during the time in which they live together. A Cohabitation Agreement can release both partners from financial responsibility for those hours if things become hostile down the road.

Can I amend my Roommate Agreement?

Like all contracts, Roommate Agreements and Cohabitation Agreements may be amended, or changed, with the consent of the people involved. It can be helpful to consider updating these agreements annually to reflect any changes that may happen over time.

To make a change, you and your roommate or significant other can start a new agreement or simply make a Contract Amendment that shows the new terms. Then, the amendment or new agreement needs to be signed. After it is signed, make a copy, and store the amendment with your copy of the original agreement.

What can I do if my roommate does not comply with the Roommate Agreement?

As with all relationships, communication is essential in a roommate relationship—particularly when that roommate is also your significant other. The first step in addressing a breach of your Roommate or Cohabitation Agreement is to raise the issue with your roommate or significant other. Reference the specific provision of the agreement that you believe they have breached. Listen to their perspective and negotiate a solution. If circumstances have changed such that one or both of you no longer can or want to abide by the provision, work out a compromise that both of you can accept. If your roommate consistently breaches the agreement despite your best efforts to communicate and accommodate them, you may have legal options.

If you have legal questions about moving in with your significant other or another roommate, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® 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.

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