Shared Accommodations

The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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, another written “roommate 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, when notice to move out must be given to the other roommate(s) should be agreed upon and written up accordingly. Roommates can add other terms as long as all room

The legal relationship between tenants and landlords are governed by the Residential Tenancies Act. The Residential Tenancies Act does not address the rights and obligations that tenants have to one another.

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. When the security deposit is returned at the end of the tenancy, the landlord must make the cheque out to all of original tenants named on the lease, even if one of the tenants already left the premises. 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. However, the landlord is under no obligation to return part of the security deposit if one tenant moves out early. The security deposit is usually only returned when the tenancy ends. If the landlord does agree to return some of the security deposit early, this agreement should be put in writing.

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 or the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS).

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.

Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.