Roommates can help with the rent, but there are legal consequences
With rents rising faster than incomes, taking on a roommate is one way to reduce the rental cost burden. But before taking on a roommate, there are some legal and practical things to consider. There are four kinds of relationships between roommates and each has strengths and weaknesses.
Tenant and Subtenant describes a relationship where a tenant subleases a portion of the rental premises to another person. The tenant legally becomes the landlord of the subtenant and takes on all the responsibilities of the landlord under the landlord tenant law. ( ORC 5321.04 ) The Subtenant pays rent to the Tenant who, in turn, pays the total rent to the owner/manager of the property (aka Landlord). Four things to consider:
Does the Tenant's lease prohibit subleasing?
Is the Tenant prepared to cover a missed payment by the Subtenant?
Is the Tenant prepared to collect the back rent?
Is Tenant prepared to take legal action in court to remove the Subtenant who doesn't pay rent or violates the rental agreement?
Co-tenants describes a relationship where two or more unrelated individuals share a rental space, each paying a portion of the total rent to the Landlord under a single rental agreement. Conflicts can arise because each co-tenant is 100% responsible for the whole amount of the rent. Because there's only one lease, a failure to perform by one roommate could result in a termination or eviction for all.
Shared Tenancy describes a situation where two or more unrelated individuals share a rental space, but each has her/his own rental agreement with the Landlord. Many "dormitory style" housing developments use this kind of rental arrangement. Sometimes shared tenancy relationships will include a system for splitting utility and other costs among the tenants.
Domestic partnership occurs when two or more unrelated individuals in the same rental unit also have established a domestic relationship. Legally, they are probably co-tenants by default. Each party 100% responsible for the rental agreement. Disputes often arise because one party thinks of the other party as "a guest". More likely, the roommate who "moved in" has acquired an equal legal right to the premises as the roommate who suggested the arrangement. Without some kind of written agreement beforehand, this kind of relationship can be hard to disentangle
No matter what legal arrangement works best, here's some other items to consider.
Screen your prospective roommate using a credit check to ensure that he/she is a reliable bill payer. Get references from other landlords or roommates and consider getting a police report.
Make a written agreement to insure on going cooperation between roommates. Written agreements should include rent payment procedures, areas of the property where roommates have exclusive control, allocation of duties among the roommates, provisions for resolving disputes among the roommates, and termination of the roommate agreement. Do local building and housing codes restrict the number of unrelated individuals in a rental unit?
Good advice Know Your Roommates: Conducting a full psychoanalysis of future roommates sounds excessive, but considering the signing of a legally binding document and financial interdependence with the new roomies, it might not be such a bad idea. Boundaries around food, cleanliness, and paying utilities can make or break a household relationship. Knowing how household bills will be divided constitutes only a small part of the household responsibilities. Who will see to it that the trash is taken out, the bag replaced and recycling sorted properly on those early mornings when the truck rolls by at 8 a.m.? What happens when a roommate who promises to pay a bill does not? Often, a build up of conflicts over small daily routines lead to unpleasant situations for the entire house, and no one wants to live in a hostile environment. Establishing an open communication policy for conflict management is necessary for dealing with the inevitable clashes of instinct and routine. Regular house meetings may sound corny, but may also deter a lot of passive-aggressive behavior.