Adding a roommate to your lease shouldn't be very complicated, but it pays to be careful about how you ask your landlord. It also helps to have some idea what to expect from your new roommate. For example, are they willing to commit to the entire lease term, and pay rent on time? Are they generally responsible and clean? Will they be having friends over late at night? Before even considering adding a roommate, ensure that whoever you choose is compatible and financially responsible. Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for a dispute down the road.
The following information will help you make the right decisions when adding a roommate, including steps that will help protect you legally. See FindLaw's Rental and Lease Agreements section to learn more.
Get the Landlord's Approval
Before writing your landlord to let him or her know that you wish to add an additional roommate, check your lease. Your lease will usually contain a clause about occupancy limits, so make sure that adding a roommate won't violate those limits. Your lease may also contain other provisions about what constitutes a "good tenant," so be sure that your prospective roommate also qualifies. Finally, it may be useful to have your prospective roommate attach his or her credit report along with the request.
And also keep in mind that if your lease specifically states that no roommates are allowed, you could be evicted by adding a roommate in violation of this clause. But it never hurts to ask, since the landlord could make an exception under the right circumstances.
New Roommate, New Lease
Assuming your landlord agrees to let you add a roommate and your prospective roommate passes a credit check, don't be surprised if the landlord asks you to sign a new agreement. Some landlords may allow you to modify your existing lease, but don't count on it. Signing a new lease assures that your new roommate is completely liable for rent alongside you, so it's for your benefit as well. From the landlord's perspective, they are not interested in working out disputes between roommates and will expect both parties to adhere to the rules.
If you choose to sublet your apartment, perhaps a room or a bunk, first ensure that it's allowed. If it's not in the lease agreement, then make sure you ask your landlord.
New Roommate, New Rent
It may seem odd that you should suddenly be paying more money for the exact same space, but landlords assume that more tenants cause more wear and tear. Also because you will usually have to sign a new lease, the landlord is entitled to include any rent increases that have occurred since you last signed (therefore, be cautious when seeking a new rental agreement if you live in a rent-controlled apartment). Although typically your landlord must give you notice of any rent increase, since this is a new lease, no such notice is required.
Security Deposit Increase
Along with a new lease and increased rent, your landlord will likely ask you to submit an additional security deposit as well. States limit how much of a security deposit landlords can ask for, so the increase over your old security deposit shouldn't be dramatic. It's probably a good idea from your perspective, as well, to have your roommate also submit a security deposit. Otherwise, you could be on hook for whatever money is subtracted from your deposit.
Have Questions About Adding a Roommate to Your Lease? Get Legal Help
Disputes with landlords and issues with lease agreements are never pleasant, but usually can be resolved through clear communication and a little perseverance. If you have questions about adding a roommate to your lease, or other issues related to landlord-tenant laws, it may be a good idea to speak with a skilled landlord-tenant attorney near you.