7 essential items to include in a roommate agreement—and why you need one in the first place

Roommate relations are the single most important element of harmony in a shared home. Shared living preferences and interests are certainly a good foundation of a roommate relationship, but no matter how similar your lifestyles are, conflicts are—as in any relationship—inevitable. The best relationships navigate conflict objectively and fairly. In a shared home, a roommate agreement is an essential tool for successful coliving.

Roommates cooking together
Roommates cooking together

Table of contents

What is a roommate agreement?Why do I need a roommate agreement?What should I include in my roommate agreement?The bottom line
a cute dog on a sofa in an apartment

What is a roommate agreement?

A written roommate agreement is a contract created and signed by you and your roommates (no need to get the landlord involved) before or when you move in together. It should establish house rules like quiet hours, division of household duties, a cleaning schedule, how you’ll handle overnight guests, and more.  All roommates sign the contract. Whether or not it is legally binding, the contract should be taken seriously by all parties.

two roommates hugging and cooking together

Why do I need a roommate agreement?

Signing a written roommate agreement provides you with a roadmap for solving future conflicts. A document you all contributed to and signed can act as a non-human mediator when disagreements happen. As a bonus, creating one also sets a precedent for open communication right at the start of your roommate relationship.

What should I include in my roommate agreement?

There are seven key areas to cover in your roommate contract, but really, anything is fair game. Use this as a time to put all your housekeeping hangups on the table. The only thing that needn’t be provided for in this contract are the things that are covered in your lease, like rent payments. 

  1. Paying for Communal Items. You’ll have to purchase some items at the start of your lease, for example: cleaning supplies, spices, and a Costco-sized package of toilet paper—that one’s practically a rite of roommate passage. Who’s responsible for paying for these items and how will you handle split costs going forward? Communal groceries fit into the category as well—because three separate gallons of milk is probably too many.

  2. Cleaning. It can be helpful to put together a cleaning schedule for the upkeep of your home. Create a roommate chore chart by listing the necessary chores, dividing them up by person, and assigning a time frame for completion. If you have complementary opinions about which tasks are abhorrent and which are just fine, divide chore duties by preference. If you want digital help, consider instituting the use of a chore-tracking app. 

  3. Noise. Discuss everyone’s sleep schedules and determine quiet hours. Consider concrete guidelines for noise outside of quiet hours like, “if I can hear it in X room of the house, it’s too loud.”

  4. Guest Rules. Consider a weekly limit on sleepovers or designating days for overnight guests. It’s also worth discussing what the boundaries for guests are: can they shower, make meals, or use the living room? Additionally, who can be an overnight guest? Maybe a partner or bestie is okay, but a stranger from a bar isn’t. And when family visits, do they need to reserve a hotel, or can they crash on an air mattress in one of the common areas?

  5. Food and Mealtimes. Discuss where each roommate can keep their personal food items in the kitchen and pantry. Next, consider whether you’ll make some meals together or if you need to discuss rotating meal times so no one’s nudged out of the kitchen.

  6. Pets. If your rental unit allows pets, set rules for where the pet can roam, who’s responsible for cleaning up messes, and what happens if the pet’s owner leaves town for a few days.

  7. Temperature. If you have control over the temperature of your home, agree on ranges for daytime and nighttime, and adjust seasonally.

The bottom line

A roommate contract can make coliving easier by setting up ground rules up front, and creating a written document to reference in case conflict arises. To that end, you might consider posting it in one of the common areas, or distribute it electronically.

Once it’s signed, don’t let it languish—make your agreement a living document by continually iterating on the house rules, and communicating your needs as they evolve. Let your first meeting set a precedent for respecting household duties—and each other.

A successful roommate agreement calls for great roommates. Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes—and the best roommates to share them with. Unlike other shared housing options, we vet all Bungalow residents and help you match with roommates who share your living preferences and interests. Find your next home on Bungalow.

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