Writing a living arrangement agreement

Once you have found your ideal housing companion, it is recommended to sign a living arrangement agreement that outlines all of the terms. You may be tempted to think you don’t need to because your new housing companion is a good person. However, it is a risk not worth taking. We have heard many stories of bad rental experiences without having a signed contract in place. We want to help you so that never happens!

Important note!

The structure of your shared living arrangement is essential for legal reasons.

Disclaimer: This is information only and not legal advice. Details may vary from location to location. Always consult your local tenancy laws.

IIf you are sharing an owner-occupied home (the Host is the homeowner), you may be exempt from the Residential Tenancy Act. This is particularly important as support will not be available from the Residential Tenancy Board if a problem arises. Make sure always to consult your provincial or state laws.

If you are sharing a tenant-occupied home (The host does not own the home), the structure of the living arrangement is very important. The possible arrangements are:

  1. Co-Tenants
  2. Tenants In Common
  3. Occupants

Co-tenants

People who share a home and are all named on a single tenancy agreement with their landlord. Rent is paid directly to the landlord or property manager. Co-tenants are responsible for each other’s behaviour and ability to pay rent. This is the most common type of shared living arrangement for couples, friends, and families who rent a home or apartment.

Tenancy laws protect tenants, not problems between people sharing the home.

Tenants in Common

People who share a home but have separate tenancy agreements with the landlord. Each person is responsible only for their portion of rent. 

Tenancy laws protect tenants, not problems between people sharing the home.

Occupants

People who rent a room from another tenant that lives in the same home. Rent is paid to this tenant rather than the landlord. This type of living arrangement is common where a “head-tenant” signs a rental agreement with a landlord, then rents out the spare bedrooms. If you enter this kind of arrangement, you will not be protected by the Residential Tenancy Act. The Residential Tenancy Board will not be able to assist you. Tenancy laws do not protect occupants or problems between people sharing the home in most locations.

What to include?

Important note: The following information is only for agreements between housing companions. For agreements between landlords and tenants, consult your state or provincial tenancy laws.

Every living arrangement agreement must include some standard terms at a minimum. Beyond the standard terms, you can include optional terms that go into more detail. At no time can you create terms that violate a person’s legal or human rights; even if these are on the contract, they cannot be enforced.

Standard terms include:

  • The names of the Guest and Host
  • The address of the home
  • The date the agreement is signed
  • The address and telephone number of the Host and Guest
  • The date the living arrangement will start and end, or if it will continue on a month-month basis
  • The amount of rent and when it will be due 
  • rental price varies, depending on the number of people (for example, if you share your room with a spouse)
  • What services and facilities are included in rent (utilities, furnishings, food, etc.)
  • The amount of security deposit or pet deposit required and the date it was or must be paid

Extra terms

Extra terms can be used to specify extra rules or guidelines for sharing the home. These rules must be fair and reasonable. If you specify any rules that are discriminatory or violate a person’s rights, they will not be enforceable. You are encouraged to put some extra thought into this section. Make sure to list your non-negotiables that we covered in Module 4.

Examples include:

  • Task exchange for reduced rent
  • Quiet times
  • Laundry schedule
  • Meal sharing schedule
  • Parking rules
  • Use of storage space
  • Considerations for allergies
  • Cost to replace lost keys
  • Rules for visitors and friends (day visit and overnight)

Want some help?

The Happipad Portal makes it simple to create a legally binding living arrangement agreement with your housing companions. Happipad uses lawyer drafted contracts that cover the basics and allow you to customize based on your personal needs.