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What You Need To Know About Your Rights If You Are A Roommate

With a roommate, you can split the cost of rent, utilities, and internet. However, this arrangement comes with challenges of its own.

Sharing space with a roommate (even if it’s a close friend, family member, or partner) can be difficult. Once in a while, you’re going to step on their toes—or they’ll step on yours.

Any rooming arrangement requires open communication, consideration, and respect.

Are you having a dispute with your roommate? Even if you’ve been a tenant for years, you may not be familiar with your rights. You might want to brush up on them, just in case. 

In this blog, we’re going to cover your rights as a renter in Canada and what to do if you encounter issues with your roommate:

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA)

The RTA protects the rights of tenants and landlords. It describes the responsibilities of tenants, roommates, and landlords. The RTA applies to all tenancy agreements in Manitoba.

However, not every rooming situation falls under the category of a tenancy agreement.  

Who is (and isn’t) protected

It’s imperative to know whether you’re covered by the RTA. If you aren’t, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise should issues arise with your living arrangement. 

As a tenant, you will be covered by the provincial legislation in any permanent residential leasing agreement. 

There are a few exceptions, which include:

  • Hotels
  • University and college rooming situations
  • Seasonal homes
  • Shared accommodations (Do the landlord and tenant share common facilities [kitchen and bathroom]? Is the tenant renting a room in their parent’s home? If so, this may be a shared accommodation, not a tenancy agreement.)

If you’re looking for more information about being a tenant, check out the Residential Tenancies Branch (RTB) website. Here, you can find information about giving notice to move, paying rent, and cleaning at the end of a tenancy. 

Setting Up a Roommate Agreement

It’s a story that dates back to the start of renting:

You’ve always wanted to live with your good friend—but once you move in together, you find out that they let dishes soak (for weeks) and consider cleaning to be optional. Too late, you realize that the two of you have very different expectations when it comes to living standards.

How can you avoid this all-too-common problem?

You can skip the headache and hassle by setting up a roommate contract. In this agreement, you can both outline terms that you expect from one another in the rental unit. 

Having it all in writing can be a great help down the line. In your roommate agreement, you can include things like:

  • What are the expectations for sharing chores? (Taking out the garbage, doing dishes, general cleanliness, etc.)
  • How will common areas be shared?
  • What are your schedules like? (If you need to get up early, you may want to communicate when you need quiet time to sleep at night.)
  • How will the bills be divided?
  • How much notice should be given if one person wants to move out?
  • How will the damage deposit be split up if one person is responsible for most of the damage?
  • General rules about smoking, having guests over, pets, and shared appliances/kitchen condiments.

Before signing a lease, sit down with your roommate and iron out these important talking points. When you’re on the same page, things will go much more smoothly once you’re living together. 

If you run into issues down the line, you can refer back to the roommate contact that you both agreed to. 

In addition, make sure your roommate contract aligns with your lease. When it comes down to it, the lease has precedence over your roommate agreement. 

Reviewing the Lease

Let’s say the worst-case scenario happens: One day, your roommate up and leaves. You’re stuck holding the bag—namely, the lease and the monthly rent payments in their entirety.

What happens next?

It depends. The most important thing is: Whose name is on the lease?

If it’s just your name, you’ll be responsible for covering the payments yourself. But if both names are on the lease, your roommate is still responsible for half of the rent. 

Even so, if they don’t pay, you may be required to cover their end—otherwise, you could be evicted. 

Is your roommate refusing to pay rent, even though their name is on the lease? Consider contacting Small Claims Court to be reimbursed for their share of the rent.

The same principle applies to your utility bills. For example, imagine that you set up a Manitoba Hydro account for your apartment. On the account, you only used your name, and your roommate just sends you half the amount each month. If your roommate departs suddenly, they will not be liable to pay any remaining bills. 

So, in summary: If you have a roommate, make sure both your names are on the lease and bills. 

Adding a New Roommate

Sometimes, you end up with a roommate who leaves before your lease expires. 

If this happens, you have two options: Find a new roommate, or consider ending your tenancy. 

With the latter, it’s best to reach out to your landlord directly. You can explain that without a roommate, you are unable to afford the cost of your rental unit. 

Or, if you find a new roommate to replace the first, be sure to get them approved by your landlord!

Whenever you’re adding a new roommate, be sure to choose carefully. If both your names are on the lease, your landlord can choose to terminate the agreement due to your roommate’s actions—and they are within their rights to do so. This may be due to disturbances to other tenants, failure to pay rent on time, or excessive damage to the property.

Find Your New Apartment Today

If you’re in a difficult living situation, it might be best to part ways. Is it time to find a new place to hang your hat? On our website, you’ll find dozens of Winnipeg apartments for rent. Discover an apartment you love at a price you can afford using our Find an Apartment tool. 

At Globe Property Management, it’s our goal to exceed your expectations. We offer exceptional rentals for tenants across Winnipeg. Locate your next home on our website today.

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