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What To Do When Your Tenant Wants A Roommate

Property Management and Tenant Placement

What To Do When Your Tenant Wants A Roommate


One common thing that you can expect to encounter while you own rental properties in Portland is a tenant who wants to have a roommate.

Roommates are becoming more common since the Pandemic because many tenants have been unable to pay their rent due to Covid-19, lockdowns, or job losses and have found that having a roommate makes life a little easier for them.

The big question is what should landlords do when their tenants tell them that they want to have a roommate?

In this article, we will answer the roommate question and offer you tips on how to communicate with your tenant about this efficiently.


Background Check

Since the new tenant is going to be living in your Oregon rental property, you should still require them to fill out a rental application and go through a background check like your original tenant.

This is important because you want to have peace of mind in knowing that you’re going to be renting to someone who is going to be responsible and will do their part to care for the property.

Thankfully, it’s easier than ever before to do a tenant background check in this day and age since most of the tools that you need to conduct a background check can be found online.

During the process of completing a background check, you should also call the tenant’s employment and rental references because it’s also easy for people to fake references, and the only way to professionally verify someone is by taking the time to call those references yourself.

Add Them To The Lease

Once you’ve vetted the new tenant, it’s also best to add them to the lease because you want them to know that they will be responsible for paying their share of the rent and following the same rules on the lease that your current tenant has to follow.

Tenants must know that once they are added to the lease they will be “jointly and severally” liable for paying rent and adhering to their lease.

Most important of all, both tenants must know that if one tenant moves out, the remaining tenant will be responsible for paying the full rent for that month.

Co-tenants must also be made aware that everyone may be held responsible for one tenants’ negative actions if that individual violates the terms of the lease.

Most landlords don’t like ‘bad apples’ and will want to remove people who may damage their rental properties so it’s in the tenant’s best interest to both tenants work hard to pay their rent on time and stay compliant with the landlords’ rules for the rental property.

Make Sure Roommates Know How To Handle Disagreements

For all sorts of reasons, roommate arrangements often don’t work out. If you’ve shared an apartment or house, you know about roommates who play the stereo too loud, never wash a dish, pay their share of the rent late, have too many overnight guests, leave their gym clothes on the kitchen table, or otherwise drive you nuts. If the situation gets bad enough, you’ll likely end up arguing with your roommates about who should leave.

However, you can’t (with few exceptions) terminate your roommate’s tenancy by filing an eviction action. One exception is if you have sublet a portion of your rental, making you your roommate’s (sublessee’s) landlord.

Another exception involves rentals governed by rent control laws that allow a landlord to designate a “master tenant”—usually a long-term tenant who was there first—to perform many of the functions of a landlord (as is the rule in San Francisco). Master tenants have the right to choose—as well as to evict—tenants. If your municipality is subject to rent control, find out whether the scheme includes a provision for a master tenant.

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More Tips On Renting To Roommates

Don’t Divide Security Deposits

When a tenant moves out, don’t divide the security deposit and give him or her the proportional share. The deposit should only be returned when the unit is completely vacated and you have the chance to inspect the property for damage. This means the co-tenants must work out for themselves how to handle the security deposit when one of them moves out. To accomplish this, the incoming co-tenant can pay the departing co-tenant his or her share of the security deposit, or the departing co-tenant can wait until the other co-tenants have vacated to get his or her portion of the deposit back.

Insist on One Check for the Full Rent Amount 

In addition to being consistent with treating the tenants as one person for joint and several liabilities and cutting down on administrative work, this is a great way of limiting your involvement with individual tenants. This will make you less likely to get drawn into individual tenant financial issues. If one of the tenants can’t come up with his or her rent, he or she will need to work it out with the other tenants rather than with you.

Assign a Tenant Representative

Ask your tenants to designate one person as the point person or “tenant representative.” This person should be responsible and available to communicate with you about any issues or concerns that you or the tenants have. Rather than having to contact each roommate individually, you can get in touch with the representative, which will save you time and simplify things like the scheduling of maintenance and repairs.

This information should not be considered legal advice. Keep in mind that state and local jurisdictions have different laws and rules. Always check the rules and regulations in your area and consult an attorney before changing your lease agreements or taking any action.


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