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How To Deal With Roommate Problems: Leases; Costs; More!

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Today's topic: how to cope with your occasionally problematic New York roommates.

More people, fewer apartments, higher prices. That's a housing market that screams roommate. And in New York City, data shows that more residents are living with roommates today than ever before. New York Magazine's stellar multi-part investigation into the world of roommate culture this spring cites one telling statistic: Census figures showed that in 2010, compared with 10 years prior, 40 percent more respondents were living with others in nonfamily households. But with those partitioned rooms and lofted beds comes a host of problems, from how to divide costs fairly to drawing up an informal lease (to name a few). So we've compiled common problems you might face living with roommates in this dense concrete jungle of ours, and proposed some workable solutions.

One of the main questions, in fact, centers around a lease. And the concise answer is that even if you're subletting, it's paramount to have some kind of agreement in writing. Heaven forbid, should anything go wrong, or should lawyers have to become involved, even if your name is not on the official lease, it helps to have in writing how much you're paying, exactly what you're getting in return and for how long, and all the rest. The best way to ensure that you'll have all the rights as a normal tenant, though, is to add your name to the lease. When that happens, though, make sure you know your rights, and what the landlord can and cannot ask you and whoever is the primary leaseholder.

Also, did you know that it's against the law for more than three unrelated people to live in the same house? It's part of the housing code that exists, but is rarely enforced. "To pack unrelated people in an apartment? I don't think it's wrong," said one offender, profiled in a Times article about the little-known law. "It's part of New York City culture."

Roommate troubles are so common that the Rent Guidelines Board has put together a list of FAQs. Check out their well thought-out responses for common queries like "I'm not on the lease?what are my rights?" and "My roommates took my name off the lease while I was away?can they do this?" and "Can my brother get a roommate in his apartment and how much can he charge?"

Another important tenant advocacy organization, the Metropolitan Council on Housing, has come up with its own list of roommate-related Qs and As. Detailing your rights as a roommate, here you'll find out how to deal with eviction if you're not listed on the lease, how to find out if your apartment is rent-stabilized and if you're actually getting overcharged, and how to get back your security deposit if your roommate is withholding it. Unfortunately, disputes are all too frequent, so make sure that a lawyer has your back, or that there's someone you trust, like a broker with lots of experience and no vested profit-seeking interest, whom you can ask for advice should an untenable situation arise.

When it comes to splitting the rent, especially when bedrooms are unequally sized or one person uses more in the way of utilities than the others, you could take a tip from these folks, or seek out some online resource that do the work for you, like Splitwise, created by a Harvard graduate student. His calculations can even take into account the number of windows and closets each person has, and it can keep a running of total of who owes whom what amount as the month goes on.

Outside of monetary and logistical issues, though, interpersonal problems are also abundant. If you've weighed the pros and cons?and the distinct possibility that you'll wind up with some nightmares from Craigslist?and decided living with a roommate still makes sense, then set some guidelines. Most experts recommend getting responsibilities and shared duties (be it toilet paper-buying duty, the cable bill, or cleaning chores) down in writing, or at least conversing about them openly, so that roommates can be held to one clear, transparent standard.

Happy roommating!
· The Ultimate Guide To Dealing With Your NYC Neighbors [Curbed]
· Curbed University archive [Curbed]