By Lauren Minnick

Students at the University of Georgia who live off-campus often choose to have roommates, but sharing rent and other expenses has the potential to be financially stressful, especially for first time renters unaware of ways to protect their finances prior to signing a lease.

John Parker of Athens Parker and Associates, a popular rental company for UGA students, said there are many ways renters can position themselves for a good rental experience beyond just being familiar with the specific terms of their lease.

“One thing I would recommend is a roommate agreement, especially if there’s some concerns beyond the lease terms,” Parker said. “An agreement saying hey, we’re each going to pay a fourth of the balance, or I’m paying for this utility and you’re paying for that utility… just so there’s no ambiguity about responsibilities, because in our leases and in most landlords leases, that’s not delineated.”

This practice is especially important for renters with joint leases as Parker suggested, which unlike individual leases do not make distinctions between renters in the lease itself. Joint leases are the most common type of rental contract as they automatically give lessees equal entitlement to common spaces, appliances and utilities in the home, however it then falls to the renters to distinguish individual responsibility, according to Parker.

While he said roommates putting each other in difficult financial situations or at risk of default on the lease do not happen often, having a separate written agreement between the renters can help serve as a protective mechanism if renters do find themselves in trouble.

Abbie Earnest, a UGA senior, said she and her roommates, who all share a jointly leased property managed by Parker and Associates, implemented such an agreement.

Earnest said it was important for her group to find the right place. She said that meant “a place that said in the contract it wouldn’t raise the price if we decided to live there another year and that we discussed we all could afford.” Once such a place was located, her group agreed to put their understanding in writing.

“Really set out a set of ground rules before you sign the lease and all agree to those rules,” Earnest said.

Earnest said it was open communication between her and her roommates that set them on their path to enjoying a good rental experience.

Parker also said renters should seek a property management company they feel comfortable with and that they feel will collaborate with them along the way. He said this is almost as important as finding dependable roommates.

“When you’re choosing a landlord, choose one that you feel comfortable with,” said Parker. “Also obviously figure out roommate situations as much as possible beforehand… Try to get to know your roommates a little bit before. It’s always a good plan.”

Earnest echoed Parker’s advice and said that her roommates knowing one another prior to deciding to live together was extremely beneficial. She said knowing her roommates made her feel comfortable they each would pay their shares of the rent and eased any additional awkwardness or tension that might have occurred if she had been drafting a roommate agreement with strangers.

 

Lauren Minnick is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.