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What is a Room Rental Agreement?
Sometimes, a tenant in a residential rental unit opts to take on an additional roommate or roommates. In such situations, a room rental agreement is needed. A room rental agreement is a legal contract that defines the rights and expectations of all people that reside in a rental unit, including individuals not listed on the original residential lease between the landlord and master tenant. It is necessary to complete a room rental agreement when more than one person lives in a rental unit but may not be stated on the lease, as in when a master tenant seeks a roommate. This document is considered to be a signed contract and is vital in the event of legal action.
Typically, having a room rental agreement in place provides several key benefits that can include:
- An easier time making rent: Sometimes, rents can suddenly increase, and not everyone can keep up with the costs of paying rent on a monthly basis. With roommates, the cost of rent is split so that the rent is able to be paid when it is due.
- Easier itilities management: Similarly to how additional renters may make paying rent more manageable, the same can be said for utility payments. In fact, some utility payments may not increase with additional renters, which can really make the monthly cost very manageable.
- An easier time cleaning the unit: With more able-bodied tenants, keeping large units clean is much easier. Some roommates even incorporate a cleaning plan in order to make this even easier.
- Making it easier for tenants on fixed incomes: For some, the cost of living can become very difficult to achieve, which is why older and disabled individuals may open their rental units to additional tenants, especially as rent prices increase.
With all of these benefits in mind, it still helps to establish a rental agreement because it forms a legal document that any of the roommates can use as a framework for the relationship. In the state of Iowa, this is a very useful document that can help ensure that the conditions of a pleasant relationship are maintained. These documents are even used when there are new roommates because most have add-on sections with blank spaces for additional names.
In Iowa, it’s fairly common for there to be a primary tenant, even when there have always been roommates in the unit. This primary tenant will serve as the primary lease signer, which means that an agreement will be required in some situations to ensure that all the needs are met outside of what’s established in the fixed-term lease. When writing one of these documents, it’s critical that every potential situation is covered so that there are no problems as the lease progresses.
It’s also essential to understand that since there is a primary lease signer that the landlord has no legal responsibility to anyone else who is dwelling in the unit – at least unless their name is on the lease as well. As a result, it’s imperative that the lease conditions are studiously kept so that the original lessee doesn’t have legal issues.
Writing a Room Rental Agreement in Iowa
When composing a legally-binding document like this, it’s critical that all aspects of the roommate arrangement are covered in detail. Here are a few details that must be presented in the agreement:
The first detail that must be presented in this type of binding agreement is the date. Additional blank spaces for future add-on dates can also be presented in this part of the agreement so that there’s room for additional add-on roommates.
Next, the physical address of the property will need to be included. This should include the street number, unit address, county, and zip code. If there are any side streets or unit numbers, these will need to be recorded here as well.
Since this document is secondary to the lease, all parties with the exception of the landlord must be signatories on the agreement. In many cases, the original lease signer is considered to be a primary tenant on the agreement. To ensure that there is enough space for all of the involved parties, at least five spaces should be included. Not every roommate will need to sign this agreement, but it’s essential to understand that those that do no sign will be denying the legal protections provided by a legal roommate agreement in Iowa.
Details of the Security Deposit
In Iowa, the two most important laws that pertain to security deposits are:
- § 562A.12: This law states that the landlord may not charge more than two months’ worth of rent based on the agreed-upon rental value of the property.
- § 562A.12(3)(a): This law states that the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days of the tenant (as well as any roommates) vacating the premises.
This information will need to be provided within the roommate agreement so that all roommates can understand the process as it pertains to the security deposit. Usually, roommates split the cost of the security deposit, and when this is the case, the security deposit is returned to the primary lessee who then allocates each roommate’s percentage to the roommate. For clarity, since security deposits can be used by landlords to recoup damage, it should be noted that not all of the security deposit may be returned.
Rent Due Dates and Payment Amounts
Paying rent in a timely fashion is a major cornerstone of any roommate relationship, especially as the penalties for late rent will usually fall on the shoulders of the primary tenant. For this reason, the agreement must note each roommate’s percentage of the payable rent. It’s also a good idea to include the date when rent is due.
Since roommate agreements can often present an unequal property allocation, it’s a good idea to include the precise space granted per roommate somewhere in the agreement. Sometimes, as a result of less space, one roommate may pay a smaller rental amount than his cotenants. If this is the case, this will need to be outlined.
In many cases, roommate agreements establish a primary payer of specific utilities. This makes it easier to pay off these utilities by simply providing the appropriate roommate with the share. Sometimes, this can be the primary roommate, but in any situation, each roommate can just pay the established roommate their cut of the utilities, and that roommate can then make the payment. In the agreement, the specific payer needs to be established.
Cleaning, Yard Work, Food Prep
To keep things pleasant, many of these agreements note that the primary living areas must be kept clean by all of the roommates. This is typically called a tidiness clause, and it stipulates the precise upkeep schedule and responsibilities for each individual dwelling in the property. For those roommates that prepare food together, this can extend into a food preparation clause that establishes the breakdown for grocery bills and food preparation schedules.
Sometimes, in areas with a high volume of students, roommates may take time off away from the rental unit. In these situations, the roommate may opt to sublet their space so that rent can continue to be paid in a timely manner. It’s important to understand that Iowan state law allows for subleases only in properties where it isn’t explicitly forbidden in the original lease. Also, if there will be subletting tenants, it’s important to understand that the sub-lessor will be responsible for any sub-lessee’s behavior during the rental period.
Dealing with Noise, Guests, and Privacy
Roommate rules for the sake of peace in the unit should also be established, and in most cases, these rules deal with noise, guests for the roommate, and privacy. For noise, quiet times can be outlined so that each roommate can relax. This can cover things like partying, moving furniture, and behavior for guests visiting the roommate. When it comes to privacy, rules establishing open- or closed-door rules should also be covered as well as any limitations established for how long a overnight guest can stay in the unit.
At the base of the document, each roommate that will be accepting the roommate agreement should both sign and print their full name as well as any initials. In addition, there should also be a blank space for the date of signing. Make sure to leave extra spaces in this section to allow for add-on roommates in the future.
Iowa-Specific Considerations for Room Rental Agreements
Similar to a lease, a room rental agreement in Iowa does require that there be some fairly specific disclosures. Usually, these mirror what’s required in the lease. Here’s what to include:
Based on federal law, for any property built before 1978, the landlord must disclose the presence of lead-based paint. This material can be dangerous for a variety of reasons, so a tenant will need to understand if there is any present.
Sometimes, a property has shared utilities that the tenant will have to pay after receiving their bill from the landlord. If the property has a shared utility arrangement, the rate at which the charges are tabulated should be included in the agreement.
Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Information System
Based on Iowa state law § 562A.13, if the property is listed in the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s database, this must be disclosed.
For those individuals that represent the landlord’s interests such as management companies, maintenance workers, and building staff, these must be listed clearly in any contract associated with the unit. Additionally, if notices are received in a separate address, this location should be clearly stated in the roommate agreement.