Shared Housing & Roommates
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Sharing is one of the ways to make housing more affordable. Many of the rental websites post ads for shared accommodation. If you are looking for a roommate, here are some things to keep in mind.
About the Building/Unit
Find out what is included in the rent and what isn’t. If it isn’t included, ask about how the bills will be shared and paid. Find out about:
- Utilities (heat/hydro)
- What space will be yours (which bedroom, closet, etc.)
You may also want to know about:
- Building security
- Neighbourhood safety
- Access to transit and shopping
You can help things get off to a good start by clarifying expectations at the beginning. Be prepared to talk about how you want to share the space, chores and resolve any issues. You may want to ask about:
- Friends and guests: Do you like to have people over? How often? Do you want them to be able to stay overnight?
- Cleaning: Do you like to clean as needed or use a schedule? How clean/tidy do you like things to be? How would you like to split up the chores?
- Hobbies/time at home: How do you spend your spare time at home? (Someone who likes quiet reading may not be a good fit for someone who likes to listen to loud music.)
- Substance use: If you are abstaining or have concerns about substance use, it may not be a good idea to share with someone who uses frequently.
- Pets: Do you have any pets? What are they? Are you planning on getting a pet?
- Furniture/belongings: What will you be bringing?
Because the law is not clear about the legal obligations of roommates, it is a good idea to be very careful about entering into such an arrangement with anyone. Your rights and responsibilities depend on the rental agreement you have. This includes:
- All occupants have signed the same lease and are listed as tenants.
- Only one of the occupants has signed a lease with the landlord and is recognized as a tenant. Everyone else in the apartment is a roommate or is listed as an occupant on the lease.
- Each of the occupants of the apartment has a separate agreement with the landlord respecting rent for a room in the house. It is run as a rooming house.
The Residential Tenancies Act says that landlords only have to recognize tenants that the landlord knows about and that the landlord has approved of. For example, if you live alone and have a lease with a landlord and your partner or friend comes to live with you, they will only be a guest, not a tenant. You will still be responsible for paying all the rent to the landlord. If you leave your tenancy, your partner or friend would have no right to stay in the apartment.
If you decide to rent an apartment as roommates, ensure that both of you sign the lease. Note that if your roommate does not pay his share of the rent, you may have to pay it. Also, if your roommate leaves without giving notice, you may be responsible for the whole lease.
If your roommate leaves, you may be able to find someone else but you must have the landlord approve them as a tenant in order for them to be added to the lease.
For further information about roommates and tenancies, contact a community legal clinic.
For more information about tenancies, contact the Landlord and Tenant Board.