If you have roommates, you probably know the standard move-in conversations that need to happen to ensure harmonious living. How will rent be collected and paid, whose television is going in the living room, and are peanut butter jars considered communal? But it's important to make sure those A-plus communal living communication skills don't fizzle come move-out time. Here are five convos you should have with your roommate(s) before you all move out (plus one if you're the one cutting out early).
1. Who is cleaning the shared spaces?
Obviously, each roommate is responsible for cleaning their own rooms and bathrooms. But you'll need to divvy up chores for the shared spaces. Don't wait until the frenzy of move-out date to patch holes in the wall left by frames or getting the carpet cleaned. Instead, make a list of all the tasks that need to be finished before the move-out date and assign deadlines to them, suggests Rachel Rosenthal, founder of the organizing firm Rachel and Company. You can even create a shared calendar to help everyone stay on track. Whoever draws a short straw can clean behind the refrigerator. And, if you're really gunning for a full refund on your security deposit, here's why you should use a screwdriver when cleaning the bathroom.
2. Whose Apple TV remote is that?
After living together for months (or years), there are bound to be some shared items between roommates. Rosenthal suggests having a conversation a month or so before move-out day to see who has plans to take what, and what will be left behind. That will give you and your roommates more lead time to think about replacing bigger items, like furniture or TVs, in your new living space.
3. Who gets the security deposit?
Yay! You got your deposit back. Now the only question is: How to disperse it among roommates? A month before moving, ask your landlord or property management company if the check can be divvied up evenly and sent to each roommate. (Be sure to provide a forwarding address!) While you're at it, ask that everyone on the lease gets an explanation of any deducted charges from the deposit. If they can't send each of you a check, choose one roommate to be in charge of receiving the check and dividing it up.
4. Who is paying the final utility bills?
Sure, you had a smooth system down for divvying up and paying utility bills while living together. But it's not as easy to do now that you're under multiple roofs. Post move-out, make sure one roommate doesn't get saddled with all of the remaining utility bills by setting up an arrangement over a service like Venmo. (And now might also be a good time to have that conversation about who will keep paying for Netflix and Hulu, and, um, if those passwords will be changing!)
5. How would you rate me?
Is your roommate comfortable recommending you as someone who paid your rent on time, kept the place reasonably tidy, and, overall, was considerate? Can you say the same for them? Somewhere down the line, you might need a rental reference to get approved for your next apartment. Oftentimes, your landlord will serve as the reference, but leasing offices may ask your roommates to vouch for your character and financial responsibility. Beyond rental references, if you're going into the military or other defense-related field, an investigator may need to speak with your roommate as part of your background investigation for a security clearance.
In special cases: Will you sign this 'move-out' form?
If you're the first to move out and your roommates are staying in the space, you should also try and protect yourself against being held liable for any future damage to the space. First, that means making sure that you are no longer on the lease and not liable for any damage done to the apartment once you leave, says Jeff Miller, a real estate agent and owner of AE Home Group, a real estate team in Baltimore, Maryland. Your landlord is more likely to take your name off the lease early if you and your roommates are model tenants and pay your rent on-time, Miller says. If you're subletting or have found someone to sublet from you, the new subletter will need to go through the landlord's vetting process with a background check, employment verification, and credit report, he explains.
Then, once your name is off the lease, Miller suggests taking photos to document the condition of the apartment before you leave and filling out an inventory form that states the condition of your living space. A quick Google search will turn up several of these forms—they're similar to the ones used by college housing departments or property management companies. "While it may be awkward, it's important that you have your roommates sign this form to prevent any claim against you at a future date," Miller says. That way, the landlord can't come after you for bathroom tiles that chipped after you left. After you get the sign off, you can return to your regularly scheduled champagne toast as you bid goodbye to your roommates and the space you shared.
If you absolutely can't get your name off the lease, Miller says it's still worth having your roommates fill out the form so they don't accuse by you of causing damage—but, legally speaking, you're still liable for damages since your name is on the lease.