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December 2, 2018

Questions and Answers: Renting to Roommates

Are you renting or considering renting to a roommate? Here are some important questions to consider.

Q.  We have three persons living in one of our apartments who doesn't get along. Two of them have asked me to evict the third person. How would I go about doing that?

You are not required to bring the action, but if you decide to do, you must be sure not to allow the remaining residents to participate in the legal service of process of any notices or lawsuits. It is better advised to stay out of the middle and let them resolve their issues, so long as they are peaceful and pay the rent timely.

Can I insist that each roommate make three times the rent as a requirement for qualifying? Or do I have to total up all their incomes?

If you allow married couples to qualify together, you must allow all multiple applicants to qualify together.

Q  If one roommate pays the rent every month from his checking account, does that mean he is responsible for the rent instead of the other three roommates?

No, each resident is presumed to be "jointly and severally" liable for the breach of any of the provisions of the lease. This means they are individual, as well as collectively, responsible for all payments, including rent. Most leases state this in the body of the lease, so there is no question.

Do I have to let unmarried couples live in a one-bedroom apartment? What about two single women or single men in a one bedroom?

Yes, to do otherwise would be to violate state and federal fair housing laws by marital status and sex.

I own two houses; I live in one and rent the other. It is a three-bedroom home with a covered patio that I have turned into a fourth bedroom. There are four individual people renting. My question is, can I call it renting rooms or am I renting a house to four different people?

It is usually better if you rent the house to all four under one lease with each tenant being "jointly and severally" liable, meaning they are individually responsible for the lease as well as collectively.

We rented to three roommates who all moved in at the same time. One moved out a couple of months ago, and the other two moved out last month. All three were all on the rental agreement, and one is demanding that we give the entire deposit refund to him because he was the one who paid it. What should we do?

Either require the roommate to produce a written, notarized statement from the other two roommates granting their permission and consent or give him a check with all three names as the payee.

If roommates are currently paying with multiple checks, what is the best way to inform them that I want them to pay with one check only?

Refer to your lease or agreement, and if it is silent, utilize a 30-day notice to change the terms of the tenancy to receive only one rent payment, but only if the rental is on a month-to-month term. If the lease is a fixed term, wait for the time of renewal to insert the new provision into the lease. In any event, let the tenants know in writing of your request and remind them that they are all "joint and severally" liable for the rent (meaning that each tenant is responsible for the full amount).

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