The CantonRep
Real Estate
- Page 10
Buddies or not, co-tenants need a written rental contract

David W. MYERS - King Features Syndicate


Friends who rent a house or apartment should always put their agreement in writing.


DEAR DAVE: My best friend and I have decided to move into an apartment together in order to save on rent and other expenses. Neither of us has ever had a roommate before. Can you offer some tips?


ANSWER: Sure. A growing number of friends or even total strangers are teaming up to rent an apartment or small house together, in part because rents nationwide have soared by double-digits over the past few years.


The first issue, of course, is to determine how the two of you will split the rent, utility bills and other expenses. Though most roomies divide the household bills evenly, others reach an agreement for one to pay more than the other if, say, one will occupy a bedroom that's larger or has a terrific view.


It's also important to agree that those bills will be paid on time. If your roommate doesn't have the cash to pay a bill when it comes due, you will have to pay the full amount out of your own savings or risk getting a black mark on your credit report.


Also work out issues regarding food. Whether you're buying a place together or simply renting it, the two of you could agree to evenly split the grocery bills and share in the cooking and cleaning duties. But if one of you is a budding Wolfgang Puck, he or she may want to handle most of the preparation duties if the other promises to clean up after meals.


Should one of you be a vegetarian but the other is not — or if the two of you simply have different tastes or a dietary restriction — it might be better to buy your food separately.


Pets can be a major source of problems, unless you live in a "no pets" building. If one owns a pet but the other doesn't, the pet owner should be responsible for any extra security deposit the landlord may charge, not to mention the costs of its food, cleaning up its mess and any damage it may cause.


Of course, both of you will need renters insurance. Sometimes it's cheaper for roomies to buy a single policy together, but other times it's less expensive to purchase them separately -- especially if you can bundle your renters coverage with the same company that insures your car.


You'll also need to formulate a plan that will swing into action if one of you wants to break the shared-lease agreement before it's set to expire. A broken lease is costly, typically including a hefty penalty levied by the landlord and the loss of some or all of the security deposit. The fairest way to handle this potential pitfall is for the person who wants to leave early to pay for all of those costs.


It's obviously a good idea for you and your upcoming roomie to spend a few hundred dollars to have a lawyer cobble the proposed arrangement. There are also several sites online that offer basic (but free) forms: Just Google "contract with roommate."


Once everything is in writing, both you and your roomie should sign it and have the document notarized just in case a minor disagreement later turns into a big legal battle.


DEAR DAVE: We recently spent four days vacationing in Las Vegas and the temperature topped 100 F each day. I can't imagine what it will be like in mid-summer! So, just out of curiosity: Is Las Vegas the hottest city in the nation?


ANSWER: No, not according to a recently released study by the U.S. National Climactic Data Center.


The center looked at long-term temperature averages in mid-sized and large cities over the course of several years and then based its findings on the average number of days when temperatures topped 99 F. Phoenix topped the list, with an average 107 days each year reaching 100 degrees or higher.


Las Vegas was second, with 70 days of 100 F or more. It was followed by suburban Riverside, California (24 days); Dallas (17) and Austin, Texas (16).