Guide to Having Housemates

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It is standard for Georgetown students to lease with at least one housemate/roommate. Living with someone other than yourself can be tricky, so if you are choosing to do so, it is important to know your rights as a roommate.

Regarding the space that you are renting, be sure to check that the square footage of the rental space is in line with the following DC regulations.

  • Occupancy Requirements: 
    • According to the Rental Housing Act of 1985, rental units must have a minimum of 130 sq. ft. of habitable space (doesn’t include bathrooms, closets, laundry rooms). For every additional person, there must be an additional 90 sq. ft. of habitable space, until 8 occupants, where there must be an additional 75 sq. ft./ occupant. 
  • Bedroom Requirements:
    • A bedroom for one person must be at least 70 sq. ft, and a bedroom for more than one person must have 50 sq. ft/ occupant. 

Here are the responses to some commonly asked questions regarding roommates.

  • What does D.C. law say about roommates?:
    • D.C. law is mainly concerned about whether your roommate is a tenant or a guest. 
    • If somebody has signed a lease agreement with you on a rental unit, then they are a co-tenant.4 
    • If you are letting someone stay with you and they are not paying money or doing work in order to stay with you (and they never agreed to do any of those things), then they are generally considered a guest.4
    • Why is this difference important?
      • Mainly because whether someone is a tenant or a guest determines what actions you can take to remove them from your property. 
  • What can I do if I want my roommate to leave?:
    • If your roommate is a tenant, you both have an equal right to live in the rental unit. Even if one tenant is not paying rent or they violate the lease, tenants cannot evict other tenants.4
    • If your roommate is a guest, and they refuse to leave, then you have legal avenues to evict them.4 
  • Where do I go for help?

Sources:

1-3 Reggie Lys, Washington DC Landlord-Tenant Law (2020)  <https://www.avail.co/education/laws/washington-d-c-landlord-tenant-law>

4. D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. “Frequently Asked Questions: Evicting Guests, Roommates, Family Members, and Other Unwanted Occupants from Your Home.” LawHelp.org/DC, December 18, 2019. https://www.lawhelp.org/dc/resource/frequently-asked-questions-evicting-guests-roommates-family-members-and-other-unwanted-occupants-from-your-home.&nbsp;