The Everything Guide To An Effective Roommates’ Agreement.

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I am absolutely in love with learning and sharing all things real estate. I’m an agent for Jacaranda Real Estate In Harare, Zimbabwe. This blog will be the ultimate resource for all things real estate so subscribe and stay tuned.

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Living together isn’t easy! We often just barely get through it when it’s with our flesh and blood; the people we’ve literally known since day 1 and who we probably know and who know us better than anyone. Now, when you’re moving in with 1-4 strangers – The odds aren’t exactly stacked to your favor.

Whether it’s with an absolute stranger or the best friend you’ve known since you were 5; living with someone exposes a whole different side of that person and more often than not it’s a side that comes with a lot of “not so pleasant”  baggage for you to deal with.

And you know what? For as “pleasant” as you see yourself; you probably have as bad a side to you as well.

Though it won’t always be delightful and its often a bit strange to bring up; a roommates’ agreement is one, if not the best way to traverse the rocky landscapes of living with other people.

And this post is going to take you through the 5 stages of everything you need to know on successfully setting up a Roommates’ Agreement.

Stage 1 – What Is A Roommates’ Agreement?

A Roommates’ agreement is a legally binding contract between tenants that outlines an agreed-upon way of living between the renting tenants of a property.

Landlords are not bound to working within and operating under the contracts’ outline but will often need to be involved and mentioned to execute severe punishments such as forced evictions of a tenant who has not lived according to contract.

Stage 2 – Why Have A  Roommates’ Agreement? And What Can A Roommates’ Agreement Do?

In a previous post (HERE); I discussed “Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)” which are properties used to accommodate 3+ roommate tenants.

I outlined how and why in many cases the landlord will often treat the many tenants of an HMO as one person/entity whereby they charge one deposit, one rental payment and issue out the same consequences to everyone living in the property for the actions of one person. It is in the landlord’s best interest to do this.

A Roommates’ agreement not only allows the tenants of the property to treat most landlord blanket consequences on an individual tenant basis but also holds the tenants responsible for living and operating in the property in a manner that promotes peaceful living.

For example:

Where a landlord charges a blanketed rental fee on a property (say $1000) and there are 4 tenants within the property; the tenants may decide to split the fee evenly ($250 per tenant).

If one tenant cannot make the payment on time; the landlord would penalize the tenants as one person – they would all risk receiving the following consequences:

  • The landlord would charge a blanketed late payment fee (say $200).
  • The landlord would give each tenant a bad referral for their next application of tenancy.
  • In the worst-case scenario, the landlord could evict every tenant.

The tenants are encouraged to make up the differential amount for the rent, even if it involves covering the cost for the single tenant.

Where a roommates’ agreement is in place, the tenants could have a clause that would make the tenant at fault have to repay the differential amount and late fee to the other 3 tenants as well as note that they were the reason for the bad referral in future tenant applications.

Roommates’ agreements can also have procedures that would enforce tenant evictions; though these would require the landlords’ agreement beforehand (further discussed below).

Stage 3 – The Power Of A Roommates’ Agreement.

In most cases, landlords have little to no involvement in a roommates’ agreement to make it legally binding for anything that is directly and solely between the tenants such as the repayment of covered debts.

If roommates agree to the repayment of late fees that were enforced because of the actions of one tenant to the other tenants; this does not require any involvement of a landlord.

Where landlords need to be somewhat involved in a roommates’ agreement is in situations where the roommates’ agreement intersects with a tenants’ lease agreement with the landlord such as in cases where certain offenses against the roommates’ agreement are meant to result in the eviction of a tenant.

If roommates decide that a tenant who causes more than 5 late fees for the other tenants may be subject to eviction. This would require the involvement of the landlord in roommates’ agreement.

Stage 4 – 8 Indespensible Items For An Effective Roommates’ Agreement

The following are 8 items that should find their way into your roommates’ agreement to cover most key areas of possible conflict.

I’ve separated the items into 2 categories; Essential items and Extension items:

1. Essential Items;

These are the items necessary to make your roommates’ agreement legally binding and enforceable by the law (should you decide to do so).

2. Extension Items:

These are items that cover the common areas of conflict in a tenancy between roommates and how you should look at them in a roommates’ agreement.

What should be in a roommates’ agreement? – Table


Essential Items

Extension Items

1. Landlord and landlord signature (Dependant).

6. Bill Payment arrangements

2. Tenant identification and tenant Signatures.

7. House Rules.

3. Length and location of the agreement.

8. Conflict Procedures

4. Liable consequences of going against the contract


5. Amendment clauses


Essential Items Of A Roommates’ Agreement.

1. Landlord and landlord signature (Dependant).

Depending on how severe you believe the consequences of not living by certain aspects of the contract should be; the landlord can range from being critical in the contract to not even needing to be mentioned.

A general rule of thumb is this;

If the consequences of the roommates’ agreement influence a tenants’ tenancy or the landlords’ physical property – involve the landlord.

If the consequences make a tenant liable to another tenant or the property of another tenant – don’t involve the landlord.

*Keep in mind that most landlords won’t be so quick to want to be involved in a roommates’ agreement unless it; in some way or form better improves the position of the landlord concerning the tenancy at large.

The tenant won’t likely evict a tenant who’s a slob but still pays their rent on time and doesn’t damage property.  

2. Tenant identification and tenant Signatures.

The individuals who will be contractually tied to the duties and obligations of the contract. Any appropriate form of identification will do; so long as it verifies that the individual has willingly agreed to be attached to the terms of the contract.

3. Length and location of the agreement.

Acknowledgment of where the obligations and duties of the agreement are tied to as well as how long individuals are tied to the responsibilities of the contract (usually the equal to the stated tenure of a tenants’ lease agreement).

4. Liable consequences of going against the contract

It wouldn’t be much of a contract if there wasn’t a cost to not following it.

As mentioned in Point 1, the degree of severity of consequences will dictate whether or not the landlord should be referenced in the roommates’ agreement.

If all the consequences only rely on the interaction between tenants then the landlord is not needed in the contract.

For example, if the tenants are all-inclusively punished (blanket) by the landlord to pay a late rental fee or repair damaged landlord property because of the actions of one person – all the tenants may be charged by the landlord but according to the roommates’ agreement; the individual who caused the issue would have to reimburse the other tenants.

The landlord is not needed in such a case. He is equally not needed if the dispute is between the tenants such as paying a fine or having to replace an item for misuse of another tenants’ property.

If consequences influence the tenancy of the landlord (their current and future income) or the landlords’ property directly; then the landlord would need to be involved in the contract.

For example, if there is a clause that could potentially lead to a tenant being evicted under the roommates’ agreement but not the lease agreement – the landlord would have to be included in the contract to ensure its applicability.

This can happen if say, a tenant has had to repeatedly have their portion of rent covered by the other tenants. The landlord and lease agreement are not infringed upon because the rent is being paid but the roommates’ agreement is because one tenant is not pulling their share.

Other consequential rulings that would need consideration for whether or not the landlord should be included in the roommates’ agreement would be in the case of a roommate voluntarily leaving the property early.

How would this influence the landlord and remaining tenants concerning the viability of the tenants’ deposit and rental fees? Would the tenant have to cover a specific amount of rent or find another viable tenant to take their place?

5. Amendment clauses.

Your roommates are going to be as unique and different to you, as you are to them. what would work perfectly for one roommate may not work at all for the next.

A roommates’ agreement isn’t at all a one size fits all document that you’d sign at after getting a job, it needs patience, compromises, and amendments – probably many amendments.

You should always leave wiggle room to change things down the line; you could realize that some rules were far too lax and others far too strict to be viable. “You’re roommates, not prisoners.”

Having specific methods or means to enact procedures and processes to change the roommates’ agreement are important.

For example, The agreement could be up for review and amendment during a specific period after a new tenant comes in (2 months into a tenancy) for them to get used to the way things work and potentially change things that would be more considerate for their circumstances.

Or the agreement could be up for review every 3-4 months.

Extension Items Of A Roommates’ Agreement.

6. Bill Payment arrangements.

Depending on how the landlord runs the property, if they choose to charge a sum fee for the property and not charge rent on a per-tenant basis; tenants may choose to include rent considerations in the roommates’ agreement.

These can include how rent is paid (shared equally between tenants or proportionally according to room sizes and amenities), the reimbursement of landlord consequences such late rent fees to the other tenants and the reimbursement of damaged property that belongs to the landlord or tenants.

Between the tenants, “bill payment arrangements” can also include how everyone contributes towards basic commodities (house cleaning products) and utilities (water and electricity) if they aren’t a part of the rent.

*When discussing whether or not a roommates’ agreement is legally binding, it is concerning the financial statements and consequences in this section. You can’t necessarily take your roommate to court for not doing their chores but for not paying you back for the above? It’s very viable.

7. House Rules.

Hopefully, the reason you need a roommates’ agreement will have less to do with you thinking one of your roommates is going to try leech off you and not repay you for covering their share of rent and will have more to do with them not leaving their dirty socks all over the house.

House rules are the main causes of conflict between tenants and I’d be willing to bet that the problem usually stems from the fact that no one knows the house rules – or everyone has their own house rules in mind.

Probably the most useful aspect of the roommates’ agreement is in its ability to present and communicate what exactly everyone does and does not expect from themselves and everyone else to live peacefully.

The following house rules are often the prime areas for conflict and crucial points to be included in the roommates’ agreement.

  • Guests Agreements –

The rules and regulations over inviting people who aren’t paying rent into the property.

This can include the rules and protocols of inviting overnight guests, the number of guests generally allowed on the property, typical visiting hours, guest restrictions (where guests can’t go/what guests can’t do) and procedure to have a gathering on the property.

  • Tenant Lifestyle Agreements –

This rule is focused on how to amicably allow tenants to go about doing specific personal pleasures that may conflict with those of another tenant.

This can include smoking and drinking regulations in the property, how to use/share public areas of the house such as the lounge and when and how tenants can play music or instruments.

*Quiet hours represent a specific regulated time that may be in the lease agreement as well as the roommates’ agreement and represents a period whereby tenants are expected to be respectful of neighbors and other tenants concerning noise and disruptive behavior.

  • Property Maintenance Agreements –

How tenants share chores and cleaning responsibilities of the property.

This can involve cleaning schedules, stock up responsibilities, changing lights and batteries as well as who is responsible for notifying the landlord whenever the property has been damaged or needs renovations.

  • Personal or Group Tenant responsibilities  –

How tenants share and carry out responsibilities over personal or group amenities.

These are the personal pleasure responsibilities of an individual tenant or items that tenants as a group have agreed to take care of. Possible items in this category include pet responsibilities, plant duties, stocking the fridge for food and snacks and rules and payments for the internet.

If it’s someone’s turn to pay the pizza bill, etc.

*Note some landlords, in general, won’t allow pets or when they do allow pets they hold the tenants of the entire property responsible for its actions; in such a case, roommates’ can personally rule whether or not pets are or aren’t allowed on the property (as well as the type of pets) – this would require the landlords’ approval.

  • Cancelation Procedures.

The rules on how a tenant can change the usual routine due to personal incidents.

If it’s someone else’s turn to take the dog for a walk but they also have an exam on that day, how exactly do they go about changing the roster and how and when will they have to repay their debts.

  • Parking Spaces and Personal/Shared Spaces.

If there is public parking available for driving tenants on the property it’s often best to just outright decide how parking is dictated and whether or not there are designated parking areas for individuals or whether parking spaces change ownership periodically.

Trust me parking spaces can lead to some huge arguments down the line.

On a whole, the discussion over what and where accounts for public and private space in the property and how the spaces are treated.

This can go past the arrangement of bedrooms, the lounge, public compute or study/office can be treated as a public room during specific hours and private for specific hours for certain tenants.

You’re never too old to fight over who’s turn it is on the internet.

  • Safety and Security regulations.

How tenants are supposed to act in the concerning property protocols that ensure the safety of everyone in the property.

Whether it’s the last person to leave the house has to make sure the doors and windows are locked in the whole property, the procedure to report a lost key and get a replacement, who is responsible for reporting shady behavior to the landlord or authorities or everyone contributing to the purchase of a home medical kit and supplies.  

8. Conflict Procedures

You are going to fight. It’s going to happen regardless of the level of preparation you’ve made to avoid it – people fight, argue, have bad days, get sad and have disagreements.

You might not be able to stop it from happening but you can do your best you know how to “best” handle the situation when it arises.

How to bring up house meetings when something has gone wrong because of someone’s mistake, what the procedure for handling repeat offenders, how are tenants repaid for covering the blanket consequences from a landlord because of a single-tenant, etc.

And as silly as it sounds now, you shouldn’t underestimate a personal note clause that discusses “how you should act if you see me crying.”

Bonus Note – What Happens If A Roommate prematurely cancels their tenancy?

I touched upon this lightly above but I think it needs a bit more attention. Where landlords charge rent on the property and not per tenant; when a tenant leaves the property early it can cause havoc on the entire lease arrangement for the remaining tenants.

In such a case, it is important to as early as possible discuss possible compromises with the landlord before making tenant arrangements. This can include requesting permission to sublease a new roommate or temporarily renegotiate the tenancy fee (adjustment period).

It’s often not fair or viable to ask a leaving tenant to pay a fee for leaving prematurely because you never know their circumstances for the decision so it’s always best to discuss possible avenues with the tenant first.

After that, it can be viable to request that tenants have an emergency rental fund ready for just such a case. This can be to cover one month’s rent or half a months’ rent in the case of emergency evacuation to just help the remaining tenants.

*The case of a premature personal eviction is usually always touchy; don’t rush to whip out an agreement out of spite; be considerate – “What if it was you?” That being said, the earlier you have these discussions with your roommates and the landlord; the better.    

Stage 5 – How to write a roommates’ agreement.

Below is a downloadable and adaptable roommates’ agreement template. It covers everything you’ll need to consider and fill in to have a great foundation for your agreement.

Just delete the items that don’t apply for you and add in aspects that cater to your needs.


A roommates’ agreement isn’t some magical document that will guarantee you a peaceful and loving tenancy in an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) but it is an extra level of security that could give you a stable guideline to navigate through situations that could turn your property into warzone into more peaceful waters of conversation and reference to the agreement.

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I am absolutely in love with learning and sharing all things real estate. I’m an agent for Jacaranda Real Estate In Harare, Zimbabwe. This blog will be the ultimate resource for all things real estate so subscribe and stay tuned.