Having a reliable, long-term tenant for your income property is any landlord’s goal—you want a steady, dependable income from your tenants. But what happens when your renter decides they want a roommate to help with the rent and share the responsibilities of the unit? Are you obligated to approve such a request? While there are benefits to accepting roommates for your Virginia income property, you should use caution when considering your tenant’s request for one.
You’re Not Required to, But There Are Potential Benefits
While you’re not obligated to accept roommates for your Virginia property, there are certain advantages to approving a request for a roommate. For example, an additional tenant means you could:
Grow your rental income. Unless you have rent control on your unit, you could consider increasing the rent if your tenant wants to add another person to the lease.
Increase the security deposit. More people means more potential for damage to your property, so you may want to increase the security deposit amount for your renters.
Have more reliable rent payments. Let’s say your tenant is struggling to pay the rent every month and wants to add a roommate to share some of the responsibilities. With two people contributing to the rent, it’s more likely that you’d have the full payment on-time every month.
Of course, accepting a new tenant can lead to more potential for problems too, which is why it’s essential to do your due diligence before approving a roommate.
Occupancy Restrictions on Roommate Requests
In Virginia, the limit of occupancy for tenants is two people per bedroom. This means that if you have a one-bedroom apartment and one tenant, you can approve a request for a roommate if you’d like. The same applies if you have a two-bedroom apartment and already have two tenants and they request a third person as a roommate.
However, suppose you have a two-bedroom apartment and already have four tenants. In that case, you can’t approve a roommate because it would exceed the limit of occupancy according to Virginia State law, so keep this in mind when considering roommate requests!
Evaluate Your Tenant’s New Potential Roommate
It’s best to have an existing clause in your lease regarding roommates should your resident ever want to add one. Consider requiring them to request written permission and make it clear they can’t just have someone move in and then ask for your approval later.
As with any new tenant, conduct your usual screening process. Even if you know and trust your current renter, don’t take their word for it that their potential roommate is a reliable and responsible tenant. Run a background and credit check, verify employment, and follow up with references just as you would with any new renter.
Have Them Sign a New Lease
Pending the approval process, it’s a good idea to have the new roommate sign an updated lease and become a co-tenant. This means they have the same responsibilities as your regular tenant in regarding paying rent on time, taking care of the unit, and notifying you of any intent to move out.
You could also consider allowing your tenant to sublease your property, which can help avoid unit turnover. With subleasing, your tenant essentially becomes the landlord to a new renter who will be responsible for the rent and live in the unit without your normal tenant. Since subleasing can get a bit complicated, have clear rules about this practice in your leasing agreement.
We’re Here to Help
While you don’t have to approve roommates, you can consider them if you choose. What’s the right decision for you? We’re here to help you decide at Circle Property Management. We work with property owners in Northern Virginia to maximize the potential of their income properties. Call us to find out more about our professional management services at (703) 349-0144!
About The Author
Eric Guggenheimer - SFR, ARM ® » Principal Broker, Certified Property Manager, IREM, ARM, NARPM, NVAR, NAR, VAR