Using a Roommate Addendum

Author: Scott Goodman • Scenic West Property Management

The ever revolving door roommates is a source of aggravation for most landlords. Like a game of musical chairs, roommates are constantly moving in, moving out, or somewhere in between. As many of the properties we manage are close to UCLA, in Westwood, we rent our fair share to roommates. It is important to add a new tenant to an existing lease, or to remove one that has moved out. But given the frequency with which this can happen, it could become a full-time job. This is where the roommate addendum comes in. By using the addendum, there is no need for a new lease agreement every time there is a change in roommate tenancy in a specific unit.  A roommate addendum should state that the new tenant is obligated to all the terms of the current lease agreement, and that the outgoing tenant is released from all lease obligations. Landlords should also provide all legal forms, such as a copy of the lease, to the new tenant.

The other issue that is sometimes unclear to landlords, is the question of the security deposit. The simplest answer is that the security deposit is linked to the unit under lease, and not to any one tenant. When there is a switch in roommates, the reimbursement of the security deposit (or portion thereof) to the outgoing tenant should be settled by the tenants amongst themselves. A landlord is not obligated to refund the security deposit until the lease is terminated. This should also be clearly spelled out in the roommate addendum.

Lastly, always screen an incoming tenant as you would any new tenant. Stick to your standards and rental procedures to avoid future problems and ensure the successful occupancy of your units.

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