6 Considerations Before Allowing Your Tenant To Have A Roommate

January 2, 2018 by Jorge Lopez

Three Female Friends Carrying Boxes Into New Home On Moving Day
Saving money is a top priority for renters. Some hang onto their cash by splitting rent with a friend. They move in together and build a cozy home they can cohabitate in.

Not every roommate situation begins that way, though. People who enjoy living alone can face unexpected financial hardships that cause them to look for a roommate. Demotions, layoffs, and even terminations are all situations that might inspire the search for a roommate in Katy, Texas.

If your tenant unexpectedly needs a roommate to pay rent, and the situation isn’t outlined in your lease, they might call you to ask for permission. How you handle the situation will make a big difference for both you and your tenant.

Should you choose to allow a roommate, which is different from subletting, here’s how to do it smoothly while protecting your investment:

  1. Be clear that your tenant is in financial trouble

If your tenant requested permission to find a roommate, they need help paying the rent. They may not tell you the whole story, so be prepared for late or unpaid rent.

It could be a sign of responsibility when your tenant asks permission to get a roommate. Some tenants don’t ask permission before letting someone move in.

Tenants are unpredictable in dire situations, so don’t assume they’re playing by the rules, just because they’re asking permission. Be alert and remember what’s driving the request for a roommate.

  1. Require potential roommates to be screened as tenants

Any potential roommates should be required to go through the same screening as your tenant. They’re going to be helping your original tenant pay rent, so they should pass your screening requirements. Letting anyone move in as a roommate is like allowing anyone to move in as a tenant. Don’t skip the screening process, no matter how much your tenant pleads with you.

Perform your routine background and credit checks. Don’t allow your tenant to convince you to skip the screening process. They might object and claim you’ll get your rent faster if you ease up on the rules, but be firm.

Screening potential roommates protects you from the tenant making a poor choice out of desperation.

  1. Be cautious about creating new lease terms

Be diligent with any agreements you construct between yourself, your tenant, and their roommate.

If you replace the old lease with a new lease that covers both your original tenant and the roommate, it can get complicated when it comes to responsibility for damages and paying rent. Your tenant might not meet the income requirements anymore, and the roommate may not either.

The best option is to allow your original tenant to have a roommate, but under your rules:

  • Require the roommate to pass your screening process and prove income.
  • Require the roommate to be listed on the lease as an occupant.
  • Make the original tenant fully responsible for paying rent to you in full. It will be their responsibility to collect rent and any extra security deposit from the roommate.
  • Make any agreement with the roommate null and void if the original tenant moves out.

If doing all of this on your own sounds too complex, our property management professionals at Green Residential can help. We regularly handle this situation for our clients. With our help, you won’t have to create legal documents you’re not sure are in your best interest. We’ll do it all for you.

  1. Don’t place the ads for your tenant

Your tenant will probably have preferences for the kind of roommate they want. They may want to live with a male, a female, a business professional, or a student.

Your tenant might ask you to place the ad for them, but this is dangerous territory for you. They can express a preference for a roommate of a specific gender; you can’t.

Your tenant has the right to express a preference for a roommate of a specific gender if that makes them feel comfortable in their own home. As a landlord not living in the unit, you can’t do that. Even if you publish the ad on behalf of your tenant, you’re creating a liability for yourself.

Empower your tenant to place their own ad. Give them pointers, tips, and suggestions, but never place the ad for them.

  1. Be prepared to consider a unit switch

While your tenant thinks of ways to reduce their rent, the option to switch units might come up. They might ask to move to a smaller unit to save money and continue paying rent on their own. Or they might ask to move into a bigger unit with an extra bedroom to take on a roommate.

A study by Renthop shows moving into a two-bedroom apartment in Houston with a roommate can save about $4,000 per year. That’s a significant chunk of cash.

It could be risky allowing your tenant to move into a larger unit while they’re in financial trouble, but if they find the right roommate it could be great. The roommate should be qualified, and rent should be paid prior to allowing the tenant to move into the larger unit.

  1. Consider raising your occupancy limit

Texas law sets the occupancy limit as three people per bedroom, but many landlords set stricter rules.

If adding a roommate would put the unit over the occupancy limit you’ve set, consider making an exception, especially if your tenant has been a good tenant.

If the unit is a two bedroom and already has two tenants, adding a third person won’t necessarily be a risk. Two people might share a bedroom, or the living room might be converted into a bedroom. College students are known to set up partitions in living rooms to have private space while sharing a home.

Let Green Residential help

Instead of trying to figure it out on your own, we can help. Green Residential is a professional property management company in the Katy area with decades of experience. We make owning rental property easy by screening tenants, collecting rent, and handling repairs and maintenance on your behalf.

We’re here to help you manage your investment property so you can have peace of mind. Contact us today for a free analysis and find out how we can help your investment thrive!

Jorge Lopez

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