Unlike better-known joint leases, individual leases allow two or more people to live in the same apartment but pay separate rents. Each roommate signs an agreement to pay for his or her bed or bedroom and a share of the common areas: the living room, kitchen, dining room and any other shared spaces. Many individual-lease apartments have private bedrooms, with a private bathroom for each bedroom, and rent “by-the-bedroom.” Some have shared bedrooms and bathrooms and rent “by-the-bed.”
Pay your share – and only your share: With an individual lease, you have no financial responsibility for any other roommate. If a roommate moves out or stops paying rent, you and other roommates will not have to pay his or her rent. You also won’t have to replace the roommate. It will be up to the property manager to fill the room again or not.
What’s your damage? A renter with an individual lease is responsible for damage in his or her bedroom only, not a roommate’s bedroom. If a roommate trashes his bedroom, then moves out, that’s not your problem. Keep in mind, however, that all roommates can be held equally responsible for damage in shared living areas, regardless of who caused the damage.
Meet your new roommate: The biggest disadvantage of an individual lease is a personal one. If a roommate moves out, the property can rent the empty bedroom to anyone, without the approval of the remaining tenant or tenants. This could be unpleasant if you don’t like the new roommate who’s now sharing your living room. Fortunately, however, many individual-lease apartment communities offer roommate-matching services that consider study habits, partying, pets, smoking and other lifestyle topics.
The price you pay: An individual lease may cost you slightly more than if you and friends were renting the same space jointly. That’s because the landlord takes on more financial risk if a roommate bails on rent or damage.
Learn more about off-campus life in our Apartment Guide for College Students.
Mom and Dad: We’ve got an Apartment Guide for College Parents, too.