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Renting to roommates can be a double-edged sword. While mature roommates with a good relationship can ensure reliable long-term rentals, increase affordability for each individual, and expand your pool of potential renters, bad roommates can create conflict and disruption, potentially leaving you to pick up the pieces. When helping renters understand and obtain renters insurance, it’s important to make sure that each roommate understands his or her personal role in obtaining protection and considers renters insurance an individual investment.
How does roommate renters insurance work?
Even the best of friends and the most committed romantic partners can find themselves with divergent interests when it comes to insurance coverage and personal property protection. That’s why each person on the lease should have his or her own renters insurance. This way, each roommate will enjoy optimal protection for their personal possessions and personal liability, plus individual recourse in the event of displacement due to destruction of property or natural disaster.
For most roommates, experts recommend separate renters insurance policies for each person sharing an apartment or rental home. While a tenant can share coverage with a roommate, most renters insurance carriers advise against it. Here’s why.
- The most congenial roommates and long-time friends can decide that they no longer get along, their housing needs are changing, they’re relocating to a different area, or they simply no longer want to live with a roommate. A shared insurance policy creates additional complications in case one of the roommates decides to move away.
- Disagreements can arise over the ownership of personal property, especially in the case of roommates who may have purchased furniture or decorative items together. Separate policies better delineate ownership and costs for compensation or replacement if needed.
- If one roommate has considerably more personal property than the other -- for example, a high-priced media room setup or expensive home office equipment -- separate policies simply make more sense. By differentiating coverage and determining whether the policy should provide cash value or replacement value, each roommate can ensure that their policy is tailor-made to their personal needs and financial resources.
- Falsely claiming a roommate’s property on an insurance claim can be construed as insurance fraud. This can lead to a denial of the claim, cancellation of the policy, and even legal action. It is best for each roommate to have his or her own insurance policy so that there is no room for error.
- Insurance claims may raise individual risk and result in subsequent increases for auto and home insurance down the road. The policyholder will bear the brunt of this increase for years to come, even if the claim involved an item belonging to the roommate.
Roommate renters insurance for siblings
The one exception commonly cited for the separate policy rule is sibling roommates if one of the siblings is the primary guardian for the other. However, in the case of adult siblings living together, it is still preferable for each sibling to have his or her own policy, especially if they have significant separate personal property.
Roommate renters insurance for college students
Most college students living as roommates in campus housing are covered by their parents’ homeowners insurance policies. However, students living off-campus in an apartment, fraternity or sorority housing, or in a rental home should have separate renters insurance policies.
Troubleshooting roommate conflict
You will certainly feel that adults living as roommates should be able to handle conflict. However, this may not always be the case, and the inability to live peacefully together can have significant repercussions for you, especially if it causes them to try to break their lease prematurely.
In addition, roommates who don’t get along can cause frustrations for neighbors. Loud fights, cars coming and going at all hours, and other signs of conflict may result in complaints from other tenants. It is worth your time to add facilitating peaceful coexistence between roommates to your list of responsibilities.
If you manage property in a college town or in a city with a large population of young newcomers, you may find that you are frequently called upon to deal with immature behavior on the part of one or both tenants. This can result in significant disruptions to your property management, especially if they are unable to come to a meaningful resolution of their conflict.
You may want to consider adding tips for roommates to your blog, video channel, website, or onboarding materials, especially for younger roommates who may need some guidance in this area. A little proactive, upfront advice may help to prevent frustrations down the line and keep your tenants in place all the way to the end of their lease term.
Facilitating roommate relationships
Here are ten tips you can offer tenants to help set them up for a successful roommate experience.
1. Create systems and processes for common duties
Many roommates go into their first apartment more focused on decorating decisions than on the day-to-day realities of living in the same space. Before signing a lease, roommates should agree on the following:
- How bills will be divided and paid
- How grocery shopping will be handled
- How shared spaces will be maintained
- What ground rules will be implemented
- How ground rules will be enforced
By thinking through logistics upfront, roommates will be more prepared for the realities of living in and maintaining the shared space and the roommate relationship.
2. Discuss conflict resolution styles
It is vital that each roommate analyze and discuss his or her way of dealing with conflicts when they arise in order to prepare for effective conflict resolution. If one roommate is passive and unwilling to bring up problems as they arise and the other has a more in-your-face style of dealing with problems, this can be a recipe for unhappiness with the living situation. Roommates should be honest about their style of communicating and willing to implement strategies for effective ongoing communication and negotiation.
3. Implement effective boundaries for guests, space, and quiet time
Does one roommate have a boyfriend who is constantly staying over and making demands on the space without sharing expenses? Or, does one roommate dominate the common areas and items, including the television or kitchen? Does one roommate get up early for work while the other is a night owl? It is important to set expectations upfront for these common sources of conflict so that everyone is on the same page. This is especially important in the case of roommates working from home or attending school online, when many hours of uninterrupted quiet time may be necessary.
4. Find regular times for communication
Roommates shouldn’t wait until there is a problem to sit down and discuss how things are going. Regular and consistent communication can help to avoid problems before they occur. In addition, an old-fashioned suggestion box or discussion jar can help roommates write down their concerns in the moment, then discuss them when they are feeling less emotional and more focused on finding common ground.
5. Know how to pick your battles
The reality is that even the closest roommates will not always agree and live in perfect harmony. The expectation should not be unfailing agreement but consistent compromise and implementing win-win solutions. This may be a difficult skill to master for only children or those who grew up with parents who facilitated communication between siblings, but knowing what battles are worth the fight -- and which ones are not -- is a life skill that can be cultivated at any point.
6. Avoid splitting major purchases
A new couch, TV, or another pricey item may seem like a natural place for roommates to cooperate and share costs, but this can lead to tremendous conflict. When both roommates own an expensive item, they both feel entitled to say how and when it will be used. Joint ownership can also create problems around insurance coverage and decisions about ownership when one roommate decides to move out.
7. Avoid conflict around money
Similarly, any scenario where financial issues arise is ripe for conflict. Any way in which roommates can avoid mingling money helps to offset potential problems. Roommates should avoid splitting optional costs, borrowing money from each other, or covering bills for each other. This is yet another reason they should have separate renters insurance policies as well, as it helps to avoid commingling of financial obligations and liability.
8. Avoid conflict around cleaning
Cleaning is yet another way in which roommates can drive each other crazy, so avoiding conflicts in this area can head off many major issues. Roommates should be on roughly the same page about the baseline level of cleanliness they expect before they decide to live together. If one roommate is compulsive about cleanliness and the other has a high tolerance for dirt and disorganization, each should probably seek out a more like-minded roommate. In addition, setting an expectation for cleaning of common areas -- say, once a day or once a week -- will help create more consistency and reduce conflict.
9. Seek out an impartial third party when needed
Mediation is an effective way of resolving the conflict between roommates and can drain much of the emotional investment and frustration out of the situation. Professional mediation can cost anywhere from $100-300 an hour, but it is far more affordable than breaking a lease and more desirable than ending a friendship over a roommate squabble. As a property manager, you may want to consider finding a reliable mediator to recommend for roommate and neighbor disputes.
10. Remind roommates they don’t have to be best friends
Having realistic expectations upfront can help to facilitate a better relationship between roommates. Often, folks find that rooming with their best friend leads to more frustration than rooming with a stranger because their expectation is that they will always be in harmony. Conversely, some roommates may be expecting the roommate relationship to deepen into one of friendship and emotional closeness.
In reality, roommates need to be able to negotiate a shared space. They don’t need to be each other’s soulmates. The more tenants can remove the personal and emotional baggage from the roommate relationship, the less conflict there will be.
Shopping for renters insurance
Shopping for renters insurance as roommates means focusing on the needs of each individual roommate. There are a variety of carriers with a host of different coverage types and pricing options.
As a property manager or leasing agent, you may choose to require renters insurance. If you do so, helping renters identify relevant coverage options and find a reliable carrier would be a great value-added service that you can provide.
Fortunately, RentSpree is here with options that are consumer-friendly and landlord-friendly as well. Through our partnership with Sure, you can notify your renters of their insurance obligation and streamline the process of obtaining coverage, all from the RentSpree platform. In addition, you can track the status of their renters insurance policy right from your RentSpree dashboard. Talk about a win-win solution to their roommate renters insurance needs and your property management requirements.