Rent for room-mate

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Rent for room-mate

Can a landlord charge extra rent for a room-mate?

Asked on May 10, 2009 under Real Estate Law, Alabama

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

If you have a written lease that says the landlord can charge extra for an additional occupant, that would be the end of it.  Many landlords today include these clauses, and ordinarily it will tell you the amount of the extra charge. Even if there is no extra-rent clause, if the lease has language that says that only the person or persons named in the lease will be living there, the landlord can increase the rent if you add a room-mate, because by doing that you are in some sense violating the lease.

If you have a written lease that says nothing at all about who will be living there, aside from the usual language that says the person signing the lease as the tenant will be living there as his or her primary residence, the answer might be different.  The lease is a contract, and one of the basic rules for interpreting written contracts, where the written words don't provide the answer with their usual meanings, is that when one side completely controls the wording of the contract, the other side gets the benefit of any gray areas.  But even if you were to win this battle in court, when your lease expires in less than a year, you can expect the landlord to increase the rent, and probably put the necessary language into a new lease rather than just renewing the old one.

If there is no written lease at all (which is rare), you have only a month-to-month tenancy, and the landlord can raise the rent on a month's notice for almost any reason anyway.

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Yes.  Your rent may be based on a single person occupancy (heat, electricity, water, sewer, trash, wear and tear).  If you have a roommate, not only can a landlord charge extra, but will in many circumstances require the rommate to be on the lease, as well. 


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