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Adding a Roommate to Your Lease

Adding a roommate to your lease is the best way to bring a potential roommate into your rental unit. Roommates can help cover monthly rent and utilities and offer companionship. Although having a roommate is beneficial, you will likely need your landlord's approval before a new tenant can move in.

This FindLaw article explores how to add a roommate to your lease agreement.

Check Your Lease

The first step in adding a roommate to your lease is checking your current lease or rental agreement. Rental agreements cover short-term rentals, such as month-to-month tenancies. Lease agreements cover rentals for one year or more. Your lease agreement should tell you whether you can have a roommate. Look for a clause about occupancy limits to ensure adding a roommate won't violate those limits.

If your lease explicitly does not allow roommates, you risk eviction if you attempt to move in a new roommate.

Get Your Landlord's Approval

The next step in the process is getting the landlord's approval. Landlords have a right to screen prospective tenants, including a new roommate. Your landlord may subject your potential roommate to an entire screening process before approving their addition to the lease.

The tenant screening process can include the following:

  • Rental application
  • Background check
  • Credit check (credit report and credit score)
  • Check prior landlord/roommate references

In short, your landlord may subject your potential roommate to the same screening process as any other tenant. If the landlord approves the additional tenant, they may require you both to sign a new lease agreement.

Can My Landlord Refuse To Add My Roommate?

Yes, the landlord can reject your request to add a new tenant to your lease. Depending on the screening process and the current lease, their rejection may be legitimate. Yet, landlords must still follow anti-discrimination housing laws during the process. 

If your landlord refuses your choice of a co-tenant, don't get discouraged. Talk to your landlord and ask why they disapproved of your choice. You may ask if you can present a new candidate.

Ignoring the landlord's refusal can have consequences. Allowing a rejected roommate to move in with you could result in eviction

Review the New Lease Agreement

Your landlord or property manager will likely ask you and your new roommate to sign a new lease agreement. Some landlords may allow a modification of your existing lease agreement or a lease amendment, but most prefer to use a new lease.

Signing a new lease helps ensure your new co-tenant has the same obligations as you. Be sure the new lease agreement contains language dissolving the original lease, ending your obligations under that lease.

Potential Rent Increase

With a new lease agreement and a new renter, your landlord may raise the rent. Rent increases for the same unit often aren't about the space as much as accommodating the increased occupancy. Although you can negotiate any rent increases, your landlord can raise the rent if they want to.

An exception applies if you live in a rent-stabilized rental unit. In cities like New York City, local ordinances govern rent increases.

Your landlord may also ask for a new security deposit. They can credit you any amounts you already paid, and your prospective roommate can pay their share directly to the landlord.

Create a Roommate Agreement

In an ideal world, roommates have no issues. Everyone pays bills on time and shares household duties. A roommate agreement could help you and your roommate avoid or resolve future conflicts.

Roommate agreements can cover the following:

  • Due dates for rent payments
  • Division of rent and utility bills
  • Division of household chores
  • Cleaning schedule
  • House rules

Roommate disputes are unfortunately common despite the best intentions. As with adding a roommate to your lease, there may be consequences if one tenant moves out later.

Get Legal Advice for Co-Tenancy and Lease Agreements

Adding a roommate to your lease agreement is a big decision with a few moving parts. An experienced landlord-tenant attorney can help you through this process and protect your rights. They are experts in this niche area of real estate law and can provide sound legal advice. Speak to a qualified local landlord-tenant attorney today.

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