Can you have a roommate in an apartment?

Housing is what most Americans spend the largest share of their income on. Due to this reason, many people, especially those in major cities, have roommates to cope with the expensive rents. If you’re planning to do the same, you might wonder, can you have a roommate in an apartment?

Yes. But it’ll depend on the type of apartment. Those in private buildings can once they comply with the lease agreement and occupancy limits. But people in public or rent-subsidized houses may not be able to. A roommate has no succession rights, and the landlord should know about the roommate.

However, not telling the landlord doesn’t mean you’ve breached any law. Having a roommate agreement is also important to avoid any issues that might arise later. Here, we discuss whether you can have a roommate in an apartment.

Who is a Roommate?

Before determining whether you can have a roommate, you must know who a roommate is. A roommate refers to someone whose name isn’t on the lease but shares the apartment with the person holding the lease. This shouldn’t be confused with a cotenant, sub tenant, or guest.

Roommates are different from subletters. Subletting implies that you no longer live in the apartment for a period, and you rent it out. So, the person isn’t a roommate because you’re not sharing the apartment. A sublet is usually permissible by law unless the lease agreement prevents it. Even where it’s allowed, you should still get your landlord’s written consent before subletting the property.

Rules on Having Roommates

There are two situations you can be in when it comes to having a roommate in your apartment. These are

1.  Resident In A Private Apartment

Generally, you have the right to have a roommate. This rule applies long as you live in a private building and you’re the only one who signed the lease. In that case, you can share it with someone who isn’t related to you and charge rent from that person. But if there is more than one person who signed the lease, you’ll have to get the express permission of everyone whose name is on the lease.

Also, you’ll need to ensure that having a roommate doesn’t violate your lease agreement or occupancy limits. If more than one person should sign the lease, you can’t have a roommate unless one or more tenants with their name on the lease left. So if three people are on the lease and one leaves, you can add one roommate.

2.  Resident In Public Or Subsidized Housing

The rules might differ for those living in public or subsidized housing. In a case where you have received a rent subsidy or rent exemption on the house, or when your rent is based on how much you make, there are extra things you need to consider. Most rent subsidization programs require that you disclose how much your roommate pays as rent as part of your income.

Failure to do so might be a violation of the program and could result in legal action. Having a roommate may also make your income too high to qualify for the subsidy. So, you must consider all these before deciding to take in a roommate.

Can a Month-to-Month Tenant Have a Roommate

As for tenants who aren’t on the lease, i.e., month-to-month tenants, the right to have a roommate can be a bit dicey. Your landlord can end your tenancy with 30 days’ notice. So, you should get the landlord’s permission before bringing a roommate in. Rent-controlled tenants don’t have to worry about this. The landlord can’t evict them without cause. So even if they don’t have leases, as they usually don’t, they can still have a roommate. They have to comply with all the applicable rules.

Do You Need to Inform a Landlord When You Get a Roommate?

You must inform your landlord about a new roommate within 30 days of getting one. Or within 30 days of your landlord requesting information about the new roommate. Failure to do this doesn’t carry any statutory penalty. But the landlord could frame it as a breach of your lease agreement, especially if the lease provides for it.

Succession Rights of Roommates

Succession rights deal with whether a roommate’s name can be on the lease and if they can inherit the lease. If you are in a rent-stabilized apartment, you can ask the landlord to add the roommate’s name to a renewal lease, and they’re obligated to do this. But in other cases, the landlord doesn’t need to add a roommate name to the lease simply because you asked for it.

It might also be possible for some family members who can establish succession rights. If they do so, they can take over a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartment and lease. But without any familial relations, a roommate can’t take over the apartment when the person whose name is on the lease moves out or dies. If the tenant is also evicted, the roommate can no longer stay. Thus, the right of roommate ends once that of the tenant whose name is on the lease is extinguished.

Also, in the case of a condominium or cooperative conversation plan, the roommate doesn’t have the right to buy the property except if there’s express permission on that by the landlord and named tenant.

How Much Should You Charge Your Roommates

There are no laws on how much you can charge your roommate if you live in an apartment with no rent regulations. However, there may be restrictions in your lease. Even if there isn’t, you should avoid overcharging your roommate as this could cause serious problems. As for those living in a rent-regulated apartment, you can’t charge more than a proportionate share of the rent. So, you shouldn’t charge more than half the rent if you have one roommate.

Do You Need A Roommate Agreement? 

When getting a roommate, it’s important to have a roommate agreement to prevent any problems. About 79 million Americans have a roommate, and many experience issues during the period. No matter how close you might be with someone, living with them is a different experience. Thus, it helps to have a roommate agreement to prepare for anything that might occur.

What To Include In Your Roommate Agreement? 

Here are the items you should include in any roommate agreement:

  • The rent price, the share each person will pay, and the method and time of payment.
  • How to split the bills, who pays for what, especially the core utilities
  • What happens when one person moves out early
  • How to handle the security deposit in cases where both of you contributed to it, and the landlord doesn’t return everything.
  • Rules on pet ownership 
  • The stipulated time for quiet hours
  • Rules on when guests can come and how long they can stay
  • Established schedule for chores and cleaning
  • Rules on food sharing
  • Conflict resolution rules
  • Temperature expectations
  • Usage of all shared spaces.

In Conclusion

Roommates might be permissible in an apartment but make sure you’re familiar with all the applicable rules before you do. This means being familiar with your local laws and the lease agreement terms. Also, have an agreement with the roommate and get everything in writing.