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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
This topic discusses issues you should consider before deciding to share rental accommodations with another person. It will outline your rights and responsibilities and suggest guidelines to follow.
In choosing a person to share your accommodations with, you want to consider whether this person:
- Is someone you will be able to get along with;
- Is financially responsible;
- Has a lifestyle that is similar to yours or a way of living which does not interrupt your day to day life;
- Expects the same things from the living arrangement as you do.
Once you have decided to share accommodations, you should determine the legal relationship between you and the landlord. There are 2 alternative methods:
- You may enter into a rental relationship with the landlord making each of you tenants. In this case, you would both be responsible for payment of rent and maintaining the rental premises. You may want to set out in the tenancy or lease agreement that you each pay half of the rent due to the landlord. The landlord and each tenant must sign the Agreement.
- You may enter into a rental relationship with the landlord where only one of you is the tenant. That tenant will be wholly responsible to pay the rent to the landlord and to maintain the rental premises. The agreement is between one tenant and the landlord only. In this type of arrangement, a written agreement should be drawn up between the tenant and the other person sharing the rental premises. Terms setting out the payment of rent, security deposits, utilities, telephone and other costs should be agreed upon and written up accordingly.
The legal relationship between tenants and landlords are governed by the Residential Tenancies Act.
The security deposit is often a topic of confusion when one person wants to move out before the other person. The security deposit is paid by the tenant or tenants and that person receives the refund and interest or pays for the cost of any damage or repairs. Where there are 2 tenants, the security deposit must be paid jointly. This means when they leave, the cheque is issued in both names and both tenants must be present when the cheque is cashed. Where one tenant decides to move out before the other, the tenant who remains may ‘buy out’ the share of the deposit of the tenant who leaves early. This situation should be considered early in the relationship, so that there is no misunderstanding.
Payment of utilities operates in much the same way as payment of rent. If only one tenants name is on the utility account, that person is wholly responsible for seeing the account is paid. That tenant must then collect from the other tenant. Some utility companies may allow an account to be in more than one name, in which case each person named will be liable for the account. All persons named on the account should have their name removed from the account if they move out of the premises before the other.
If a dispute arises between the landlord and the tenant or between the persons sharing the rental premises and cannot be worked out between them, the dispute may be resolved in the Civil Division of the Provincial Court.
Sharing accommodations can be a convenient way of saving money by cutting costs. You should consider all costs involved before entering into such an arrangement. Determine your relationship as a tenant with the landlord or if you are in a relationship with only your roommate. In either case, be clear in knowing your rights and obligations and what are expected of you. Whenever possible, set out your rights and obligations in writing.