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5 Tips for Landlords to Keep in Mind While Renting to Roommates


To get the most out of your rental business, you may find yourself renting to roommates sometimes. Renting to roommates has some benefits, like filling up vacant units quicker and having a wider range of tenants to rent to. Although it may seem like more of a hassle than renting to a family, we have some tips to help you navigate the renting process successfully. So keep reading while we go over everything you should know about renting to roommates. 

Do Landlords Have to Accept Rental Property Roommates?

Renting to roommates is a bit different from renting to a family or an older couple. In fact, some local jurisdictions have rules in place regarding how many unrelated people can live in a rental unit. For example, the Philadelphia Housing Code does not allow landlords to rent to more than three unrelated tenants. So, before you begin renting to roommates, brush up on your local laws and housing codes. 

When you decide to accept roommates in your rental, it’s crucial to set firm rules and expectations within your lease agreement. Both you and the tenant must discuss these expectations and come to a mutual understanding before proceeding. Now, let’s go over some of the tenant and landlord responsibilities while maintaining a rental agreement. 

Tenant Responsibilities

Tenants are responsible for several things while living in a rental unit. However, when living with roommates, the responsibilities may differ slightly. For example, roommates are responsible for dividing up rooms, deciding how the rent is split, and keeping all unit areas clean and well-maintained. 

Unfortunately, roommates don’t always agree on “fair”, so conflicts may arise between tenants. However, tenants are still responsible for paying rent in full each month. Additionally, each tenant on the lease must comply with all the terms and conditions, which typically includes:

  • Keep up with regular indoor and outdoor maintenance
  • Pay rent in full and on time each month
  • Comply with pet rules and limits
  • Follow max occupancy limits
  • Report any damages within the rental

5 Tips for Landlords to Keep in Mind While Renting to Roommates

Landlord Responsibilities 

While renting to roommates, landlords should consider their fair share of responsibilities. As such, responsibilities may differ while renting to roommates instead of renting to a single person or married couple. Let’s go over a few essentials to keep in mind while renting to any tenant: 

  • Market your property truthfully
  • Take care of maintenance requests promptly.
  • Provide tenants with a clean, livable unit with working plumbing, water, etc. 
  • Provide a secure and safe property
  • Comply with all housing laws and codes

Renting to Roommates: 5 Tips to Keep in Mind

Renting to roommates may seem a bit complicated. After all, when you have two unrelated people living together, it may lead to disagreements, personality clashes, and schedule conflicts. Here’s a helpful guide for landlords to follow when signing a lease agreement with roommates

  • Screen All Roommates
  • List All Tenants on the Lease
  • Only Accept One Full Rent Payment
  • Avoid Subleasing
  • Appoint One Person to Contact

Screen All Roommates

Screening tenants is one of the most critical steps in leasing your rental home. When renting to roommates, it’s essential to screen each person individually as you would with a single tenant. That said, asking the right screening questions is crucial in finding quality tenants and roommates to live in your rental unit. 

Here are a few questions you may want to ask your tenants during the screening process: 

  • How many occupants will be living in the unit?
  • What is your desired move-in date?
  • Do you have pets? What kind, and how many do you have?
  • Can you provide proof of income?
  • Have you ever been evicted? If so, why?
  • Would any issues pop up if we ran a criminal background check?

If your tenants are unwilling, unable, or not qualified to answer any of the above questions, it may be time to consider someone else. 

List All Tenants on the Lease

5 Tips for Landlords to Keep in Mind While Renting to Roommates

Since each roommate will presumably share responsibilities within the home, it’s essential to list each tenant on the lease agreement. That said, roommates may come and go. When this happens, it’s crucial to update the lease agreement with the new tenant and have each of the roommates sign it again. 

When you have each tenant listed on the lease at all times, it ensures that the agreement is legally enforceable. Similarly, it gives you a point of reference for who’s living in your rental unit at all times. So although it may seem like just an extra task for you, it pays off to keep records accurate in the long run. 

Only Accept One Full Rent Payment

Roommates often split the monthly rent payment amongst themselves. However, you’ll want only to accept one full payment each month. Keeping track of split payments from separate tenants is a huge hassle and requires additional, unnecessary work for landlords. So, make sure to include that one payment is due in full each month in your lease. Then, if one roommate is short on rent or doesn’t pay on time, your tenants must work that out amongst themselves. 

Avoid Subleasing

Ensuring that each tenant is listed on the lease at all times is crucial while owning a rental unit. That said, when you allow tenants to sublease, this can get tricky. After all, subleasers are occupants that do not sign the lease but still reside in the unit. So, therefore, they aren’t legally responsible for the obligations listed in the agreement. As you can imagine, this can create all sorts of trouble for landlords. Consider adding a lease clause that prohibits tenants from subleasing to avoid this trouble. 

Appoint One Tenant to Contact

Landlords are extremely busy people. So, tracking down each individual who lives in a rental can be difficult and time-consuming. To make things easier for both tenants and landlords, it’s best to appoint one roommate as the main point of contact for the whole household. This can help landlords and tenants communicate effectively without wasting time by tracking down each roommate. 

What Could Go Wrong While Renting to Roommates?

Unfortunately, renting to roommates poses a few risks for landlords. For instance, roommates may split up, leaving part of your unit unoccupied and potentially unpaid. So, let’s go over a few scenarios that landlords may run into while renting to roommates and discuss how to navigate these circumstances. 

Breach of Lease by One Tenant

Sadly, it’s not uncommon for one roommate or tenant to break the rules set in the lease agreement. Thoroughly screening tenants before they move in can reduce the risk of a broken lease, but it still happens from time to time. 

That said, even if one roommate violates the lease, all tenants may be held responsible for the violation. Additionally, landlords may terminate the tenancy of all roommates as necessary. So, even if only one roommate damages the property, it’s possible to evict all the tenants listed in the lease legally. 

5 Tips for Landlords to Keep in Mind While Renting to Roommates

One Roommate Doesn’t Pay

Roommates are in charge of splitting responsibilities and payments within a rental unit. That said, it’s possible to run into a situation where one roommate refuses to pay their portion of the rent. Unfortunately for tenants, it’s up to them to come up with the rental payment anyway. 

One way to help your tenants navigate life with roommates is by recommending a roommate agreement. This can help your tenants formally decide who will pay what portion of the rent and who will take care of certain responsibilities within the rental. 

Although landlords may not enforce the terms that tenants agree upon in their own contract, it can at least give them peace of mind knowing that roommates are aware of their responsibilities. 

Not Sure How to Manage Renting to Roommates?

We get it—renting to roommates can be extremely stressful. After all, if you’ve ever lived with someone you are not related to, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. So, how can landlords easily manage one or more rentals with roommates? Consider hiring a property management team! 

Bay Property Management Group provides top-notch leasing services, including tenant screening, maintenance, rent collection, eviction services, and more. With the help of our qualified professionals, you don’t have to stress about who you’re renting to. We’ve got you covered!

Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive property management services in Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.!