You and your significant other have decided to move in together and it’s time to sign the lease. Before putting pen to paper, it is important to think about just what that lease means to you, your relationship, and your future.
Have you talked it through?
Moving in together is not the same as getting married—obviously—but it is a big commitment. It might make sense financially in an expensive housing market like San Francisco or New York, but what will the legal commitment mean for your relationship? Take time to talk through what living together portends for you as a couple. This means thinking about everything from shared spaces to sleeping habits.
What is their (and your) credit situation?
If your partner has less-than-stellar credit, a joint lease could have a direct impact on your credit rating. If, for example, you move out and your erstwhile partner falls behind on the rent, you and your good credit could face a financial and legal nightmare.
Have you actually read the lease?
Make no mistake: a lease is a binding legal document. Read and understand the terms of the agreement. If both your names are on the lease, then you’re both responsible not only for paying rent but also for following any by-laws, regulations, or rules. It won’t matter that it was your partner who brought that cat into your no-pets-allowed apartment—you’ll be equally liable for any damage or fines.
Who’s paying what?
Before signing the lease, have that tough talk about money. How will rent and expenses be paid? Will it be an equal spilt, or will one person pay more? These can be uncomfortable conversations, particularly if one person makes significantly more money, but deciding who pays for what needs to happen before the joint lease is signed.
And if the whole thing doesn’t work?
It is important to understand how and if the lease can be broken—just in case cohabitation doesn’t work out. If you can’t break the lease and neither of you can afford to move out, you’re in for an awkward living situation. Taking about it beforehand will not make a break-up inevitable, but it just might make it survivable.