Finding an Apartment
Three's Company—Or a Crowd
If you decide to go with a roommate, you can cut your up-front costs by splitting them. Instead of $2,000, you'd need only $1,000. You can cut costs even further by renting with more than one person, but make sure you find out about any restrictions the landlord or neighborhood might have concerning the number of tenants per unit.
In addition to helping out financially, a roommate can be great company and make you feel more secure if you're a bit uncomfortable living by yourself. Be sure, however, that you consider any potential dis-advantages before moving in with a roomy.
Once you sign a lease, thus agreeing to pay up-front costs and rent for a specified amount of time, you are legally obligated to do so. If you find out you can't live with your roommate and you've already signed the lease, it could be very difficult for you to resolve the legal aspects of the situation.
Look for other people who know your prospective roommate and try to get a feeling for what the person is like. Don't be afraid to ask the potential roommate any questions you feel are applicable, either. Some people conduct extensive interviews with prospective roommates and have the roommate agree to certain conditions before moving in. Even if it's someone you know, be sure you agree on basic rules for living together and get all financial matters in writing. For instance:
Dollars and Sense
If you get into legal trouble with a roommate, your best bet is to consult an attorney. If your roommate walks out on the lease, talk to your landlord and explain what has happened. He or she may be sympathetic and try to work with you. Meanwhile, an attorney can best advise you on what to do.
- How will the rent be split up?
- At what time of the month must the rent be paid?
- What if someone wants to move out?
- How much will each person contribute to the security deposit?
- How will costs like food and utilities be paid?
- Will one person write a check and be reimbursed by the other(s)?
- When will the reimbursement occur?
Leave nothing to chance. Remember that renting an apartment is a legally binding agreement. If you default on the agreement, or get caught in the middle of a problem with a roommate who defaults, it can negatively affect your credit rating and cause you problems for years to come.
More on: Family Finances
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in your 20s and 30s © 2005 by Susan Shelly and Sarah Young Fisher. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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