What to Discuss with your Roommates Before Signing a Lease.

You know that saying “never room with your best friend from high school”? You might be wondering why people say that, and the reality is simple: having a roommate is much more than just being friends.

There are a lot of logistical aspects to having roommates–from utilities, to cleaning schedules, to common area rules–and a lot of people don’t feel the need to talk them over before embarking in roommate-dom. Here are the crucial things to discuss with people you are planning to room with:

  1. Rent. Some places allow for every roommate to have an individual lease–meaning that, if they don’t pay their share of the rent, the weight is on them and not on you. But if this is not the case, it’s important that there is a process set up in place to avoid late payments and fees. Designate one person who will be collecting payments from all the roommates.
  2. Utilities. If utilities are not included in your rent, divide the accounts–water, electricity, internet–between your roommates. For example, internet is always stable, so everyone pays the same amount every month, but water and electricity usage vary–make sure that all of you make the necessary calculations to determine how much money is owed each month.
  3. Food. Will you be sharing and buying all groceries? Will you be sharing only the essentials (eggs, bread, etc.)? Make sure to establish ground rules to avoid food theft, which is unfortunately common when it comes to living with others.

One way I figured out the splitting of the utilities in college is through apps like Venmo, which made my life way easier since it’s better than having to deposit multiple checks into your account. This way, you an electronic tally of who paid who, and for what.

Remember that, in Austin, you have access to Austin Tenants’ Council, an organization that provides resources and support for all tenants. The site also provides multiple types of forms, including this Renting Together Contract, which outlines some of the things I talked about above, plus topics like overnight guests, vacating, and other important rules you might have not thought about!