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The Legal Responsibility Of Being A Roommate

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - If the beginning of the school year is the first time you are renting an apartment with a friend, there are legal rights – and responsibilities – you need to know.

A man in Australia was surprised by his roommates, who’d pranked him by turning his room into a princess unicorn wonderland while he was away. Everything in the room that they’d remodeled in his absences was pink, frilly, sparkly, or all of the above. So far the man has not said how he would repay his roommates, but is advising them not to sleep with both eyes closed.

Even if your roommate is neither creative nor bent on your destruction, you need to know that renting an apartment isn’t just a rite of passage, it’s a cold hard contract. And you and your roommates are jointly and severally liable to the landlord to pay rent. That means that you are each legally obligated to pay rent but if one doesn’t, the others have to make up the difference. And only the landlord can evict a rowdy tenant – the co-tenants can’t.

So, before you put your name on the lease with your friends, figure out in advance what’s your share of the rent, how you pay – whether by electing a leader to write one check or by each paying the landlord individually – whether there’s a house fund for food and necessities or if you each carry your own toilet paper – and how to resolve disputes before you’re ready to shove a unicorn where the sun don’t shine.

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