The Delaware roommate agreement (“room rental agreement”) is a document that lays out the responsibilities of each co-tenant in a shared living situation. The contract may also include terms and conditions associated with sharing the space, as well as rules that all co-tenants must follow.
For those who wish to rent rooms in their rental unit, a room rental agreement is important to have in writing. While having a verbal contract is allowed under Delaware law, a written contract is more secure, especially if any disputes arise.
The first consideration is that the tenant(s) who signed the lease with the landlord needs to make sure the rental agreement for the entire rental unit allows roommates. If the rental agreement with the landlord does not specifically allow roommates, then the tenant(s) who signed the rental agreement needs to get written permission from the landlord to have roommates. Failure to do this step may get a tenant evicted for a violation of the guest policy or exceeding the authorized occupants allowed in the lease.
Roommates sign a room rental agreement with the tenant(s) listed on the lease that the tenant(s) signed with the landlord. However, roommates do not normally sign any agreement with the landlord. All roommates should be given a copy of the lease for the entire rental unit because they must follow all of those terms and conditions. The lease should be referenced in the room rental agreement and included as an attachment with a statement that the roommate agrees to comply with everything in the lease.
It is important to understand that any roommate who is not a signer of the lease does not have any contractual rights that are enforceable against the landlord. If the lease agreement is terminated for any reason, a roommate who is not listed in the lease signed with the landlord will have to move out without having any say in the matter.
In addition to following the terms and conditions of the lease, the room rental agreement contains additional terms that a roommate must follow. The room rental agreement should include a provision that each roommate is responsible for any damage caused by them.
Delaware Landlord-Tenant Law
Give all potential roommates a copy of the Landlord Tenant Code. Ask them to read it because in the room rental agreement it should say that they received a copy to read.
For a rental property built before 1978, give each roommate a copy of the EPA’s warning about lead-based paint hazards.
Roommates are slightly different than tenants under the law. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate against a potential tenant based on many factors, such as age, gender, race, religion, and so forth. However, a roommate relationship is considered more intimate and the courts allow a person to select a roommate based on certain characteristics that may make them more compatible such as females who want female-only roommates.
There is nothing prohibited by law about choosing a roommate based on that person having certain characteristics.
Selecting a roommate, who will be easy to live with, is a serious consideration. Some find it useful to seek the help of a roommate-matching service when looking for a person to share a rented space or a room in a place that is already rented by someone else.
Things to Include in a Delaware Room Rental Agreement
A room rental agreement cannot contradict any terms and conditions found in the lease for the entire rental unit.
The main issues that need to be covered in a room rental agreement are:
- Money Issues: Security deposits, rent, utilities, and other expenses.
- Upkeep: Cooking, cleaning, and maintenance responsibilities.
- House Rules: These rules may be quite extensive and cover such things as the use of common areas, pets, parking, noise, smoking, drinking, guests, etc.
- Notice to Vacate: This is the advance notice required if someone is going to move out.
- Other Important Issues: This is based on the specific circumstances and might include things such as allowing only vegan cooking in the kitchen or other limitations on room usage.
- Dispute Resolution: This is a description of how disputes will be settled. It could be as simple as taking a majority vote of the roommates or it might include something more sophisticated such as third-party mediation or arbitration.
Be as detailed as possible in the room rental agreement. If any calculations need to be done for the allocation of any expenses, be explicit in the agreement about how those calculations are to be made.
With a room rental agreement, there is no eviction procedure possible unless the landlord evicts everyone and then let’s one or more tenants re-rent the place. That is very rare and landlords do not want to do this. A room rental agreement is not binding on the landlord so do not expect help from the landlord if there is trouble with a roommate. The best way to deal with problems is to try to work them out among the roommates.
Also, be aware that the tenant(s) who signed the lease with the landlord is responsible for everything that any roommate does or fails to do. If a roommate does not pay their portion of the rent, then the tenant(s) on the lease must pay it. If a roommate damages the rental unit and does not pay for the repairs, the tenant(s) on the lease must pay for the repairs.
Delaware Room Rental Agreement Elements
Here is a list of how to fill out a room rental agreement and what to include.
- Effective Date: Enter the date the agreement begins.
- Term: Enter the length of the agreement and the date it ends.
- New Roommate Name: Enter the full legal name of the person becoming the new roommate.
- Responsible Person: Enter the full legal name of the person who is the tenant under the lease agreement for the entire rental unit who will receive the deposits and rent from the new roommate. This person signs the room rental agreement with the authority to do so under the lease agreement for the entire rental unit.
- Other Roommates: Enter the full legal names of any other roommates.
- Rental Property: Give the address and description of the entire rental unit.
- Roommate’s Area: Describe the exact portion of that rental unit allocated to the roommate if a portion is not shared by others. For example, the northeast master bedroom with its adjacent private bath.
- Common Areas: Describe the roommate’s permitted access to common areas and list any areas where access is not permitted.
- Security Deposit: List the amount of the security deposit to be paid by the new roommate. Delaware law requires any security deposit to be kept in a separate federally-insured (FDIC) bank account that is identified in the agreement. Security deposits must be refunded, less any legitimate itemized expenses for cleaning and repairs, within 20 days after a roommate vacates the premises.
- Rent: Enter the amount of monthly rent that is paid by the new roommate. This can be a dollar figure or a percentage of the full rent for the entire rental unit. Give the day of the month that rent is due, how many days are allowed before the rent is late, and any late fees that will be charged for late payment of the rent. If checks are an acceptable form of payment then put the amount for the fee for insufficient funds (NSF) if a check is returned by the bank. Use the fees for these same items that are identified in the lease for the entire rental unit as a guide.
- Utilities: Describe in detail how utility bills are paid, what dates they are due and what portion is to be paid by the new roommate. Give examples of the math, if helpful for clarity in understanding how the calculations are to be made.
- Termination of the Agreement: Notice required under Delaware law is 60 days prior to a move-out by a roommate. One option is to allow or require a departing roommate to find a replacement roommate, which may shorten this notice period.
- Additional Provisions and House Rules: In this section, be very specific about any particular circumstances that are applicable, especially about damages caused by the roommate and who pays for repairs. This may include many other items such as quiet times, lights out, guests, partying, noise, smoking, pets, use of items in common areas, etc.
- Lease Agreement: Refer to the lease agreement for the full rental unit, saying that the roommate agrees to follow all of its terms and conditions and include a copy of the lease as an attachment.
- Governing Law: State that the agreement is under Delaware law in the county where the rental unit is located and that the roommate was given a copy of the Title 25 Landlord-Tenant Code to read.
- Legal Notices: Give the contact information for each of the parties to use for legal notices sent to the other one.
- Signatures: Have a place at the end of the agreement where each party to the agreement can print out their name and sign the agreement. Co-roommates can also sign as witnesses.
Give everyone that signs the agreement a signed copy of it.