In this week's 'Ask an Agent' column, the experts at TripleMint--a tech-savvy brokerage that gives buyers and renters access to the same database of listings used by the city's real estate agents, and pays their agents bonuses for client satisfaction--tackle a question that often crops up for renters with roommates: at the end of the day, who's going to put their names on the lease (and their credit on the line)?
Q: I'm apartment hunting with a few roommates. Is it better to put all our names on the lease so we share equal responsibility, or have just one or two people sign on, even if we then have to find guarantors because their incomes aren't high enough?
"If you sign a lease and your other roommates do not, you become liable for their portion of the rent. On the other hand, if all roommates sign a lease, everyone is equally responsible for the rent. Some landlords will require every tenant to be on the lease so that each of you are legally responsible for upholding the terms of the lease. Others will only want one or two roommates on the lease and have the rest of the roommates just sign on as 'occupants' so that they don't have to worry about collecting rent from multiple people. Before deciding who will be on the lease, you should find out what the landlord's rules are, then decide amongst yourselves as roommates what you all feel most comfortable with." - Shelly Place, Real Estate Specialist
"The more rooms you have, the more expensive your apartment will be. Sharing that burden across multiple people on the lease is probably a good idea not just financially but in terms of risk management. In the event that the living situation becomes unstable and there becomes a need for building management to approach only those legally responsible to settle any debts, you can share that responsibility across more people rather than giving anyone the opportunity to escape their legal obligation.
The other issue is that guarantors must make 80 times the monthly rent, while tenants are only required to pool their resources together to make 40 times the monthly rent. With guarantors, it will mean that fewer people will be required to make more money, which can amount to quite a bit in a 3+ bedroom apartment. In addition, there are fewer 3+ bedroom listings in NYC's inventory and requiring multiple guarantors to be on the lease may limit your search because some management companies will not accept multiple guarantors on a single lease." - Anne Richmond, Real Estate Specialist
"In any situation with multiple roommates, it's always best to figure out beforehand if everyone is on board with the search criteria and has their paperwork together because things can get messy with multiple people. General paperwork required is last one to two years tax return, employment or offer letter stating current salary, two to three most recent pay stubs, two to three most recent bank statements, and a copy of your photo ID. If all the roommates combined can meet the renting qualifications of the apartment, then you should absolutely all be on the lease together and share equal responsibility in the apartment you'll be living in. It can get tricky adding guarantors on for only some of the roommates, as those guarantors may want the other roommates on the lease as well to mitigate their potential responsibility for roommates besides the person they're signing on for.
Let's use an example of four parents acting as guarantors of four kids. If only two parents are going to be co-signing, then they may not want to be responsible for the two other kids if, let's say, a party gets crazy and they throw a refrigerator out a window! The best case scenario is if you can qualify on your own as roommates without guarantors as roommates. It'll just make things easier on you paperwork-wise, and make you stronger candidates when applying.” - Michael DeSena, Real Estate Specialist
"It's extremely important that all roommates and guarantors are on the same page before signing a lease. Landlords typically require all the necessary paperwork from all roommates and guarantors on the lease. If one or more guarantors are involved, landlords will again require the same paperwork from them. While this is more work for both parties, it gives the landlord the ability to look at each roommate and guarantor to cover the monthly rent.
Even if you have a guarantor who could sign on behalf of everyone, certain things should happen prior to the lease signing. Each roommate should have a guarantor in mind. All of the guarantors should have a clear understanding of the lease and responsibilities. It is highly recommended that you have a lawyer draw up a contract, so each party is protected. The same would apply for multiple guarantors. That way if one roommate is unable to pay rent each month, it won't fall on that one guarantor that signed the lease. Having a lawyer put a contract in place between the guarantors will provide security to each individual party.” - Pat Lehman, Real Estate Specialist
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