Just Sharing Space

Law

You may be living together with a friend, sibling, cousin, or even former partner, but keeping your lives mostly separate. See the sections below to learn about:

  • Basic legal considerations when renting in Alberta
  • Things to consider when starting to share space
  • How your relationship status under the law can change over time
  • Living with a former partner or spouse

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: August 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information for people who are living together as roommates, but are not in any sort of committed relationship (romantic or non-romantic). You may be living with a friend, sibling, cousin, or even former partner, but keeping your lives mostly separate.

To check whether or not you are living in a committed relationship, consider the following.

  • You may be “common-law” partners under federal law. This means you have lived together for one year in a romantic relationship. Or, you have lived together for less than one year in a romantic relationship but you have a child together.
  • Or you may be “Adult Interdependent Partners” under Alberta law. This can apply to both romantic and non-romantic relationships. To be Adult Interdependent Partners, you have lived together for 3 years in a “relationship of interdependence.” Or, you have lived together for less than 3 years and you have a child together. Or, you have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement. See the “What the words mean” section below for more detailed information about Adult Interdependent Relationships.

If either of these apply to you, see the Living Together: Common-law Partnerships & Adult Interdependent Relationships Information Page instead.

If you want information about things to consider when moving in together, see the Before Moving in Together: Legal Considerations Information Page. That Information Page was written for people in committed relationships, but the information about joint ownership may apply to you as well.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

landlord

A person or company who owns or manages a rental property.

tenant

Someone who is living in a rental property with the permission of the landlord. This can include:

  • someone who has signed a rental agreement; or
  • someone who has permission from the landlord to live there (even if they have not signed a rental agreement).

shared accommodation

Living with someone else as part of a rental agreement. This can include:

  • living with your landlord and sharing the space; or
  • renting a living space with a roommate.

conjugal

A word used to describe a relationship—a “conjugal relationship” means the people involved have sex. This is also called a “romantic relationship.” This is different from a “platonic relationship,” which is a relationship of any kind that does not include having sex.

platonic

A word used to describe a relationship—a “platonic relationship” is a relationship of love or friendship, which may be intimate and affectionate, but is not sexual (conjugal).

“common-law” partner

In Alberta, the term “common-law” only applies to certain couples and only for certain federal laws (such as the Income Tax Act). Under most federal laws, the term “common-law” refers to a couple who has lived together in a romantic relationship:

  • for at least one year; or
  • for less than one year but they have a child together.

Under Alberta’s provincial laws, there is no such thing as “common-law” partners and “common-law” relationships. In Alberta, similar rights and responsibilities come from being in an “Adult Interdependent Relationship” (see below).

Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)

The term used in Alberta to describe what many people might think of as a “common-law” relationship.

A person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with and in a “relationship of interdependence” with another person:

  • for 3 years; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have or adopt a child together.

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners are not married but they:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.

The relationship does not have to be romantic or sexual to meet these requirements; it can be non-romantic (also called “platonic”).

The laws that may apply to you

When dealing with a legal issue, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply to your situation. The laws included on this Information Page are:





PDF Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement Regulation
Government of Alberta
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

Renting and roommates in Alberta

When you rent a home in Alberta, the terms of the rental will usually be governed by the Alberta Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). For general information about the RTA and about being a tenant in Alberta, see the following resources.

PDF Renting in Alberta: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Renting 101: A Guide to Renting in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Renting Basics: Easy read guide to renting in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Laws for Landlords & Tenants in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF 8 Rules for Smart Renters in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Video Your Rights as a Tenant
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English

PDF Five Things Every Tenant Should Know
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Publications & Resources
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Housing and Rental.”

Web Landlord and Tenant
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Types of Tenancy Agreements
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Tip

There is information about renting with a pet on the Getting a Pet Information Page.

However, the Residential Tenancies Act does not address the rights and obligations that tenants (such as roommates) have to one another. As a result, roommates often enter into roommate agreements so that each person knows their rights and responsibilities. For information about legal considerations when having a roommate, see the following resources. You may also want to see the Cohabitation Agreements Information Page.

PDF Moving In: Roommates
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Sample Roommate Agreement for Alberta Renters
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Shared Accommodation
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

 

The Residential Tenancies Act also does not apply when a person shares accommodation with a landlord. For information about living with your tenant or living with your landlord, see the following resources.

PDF Shared Accommodation
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Renting Basics: Easy read guide to renting in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See Part 10.

PDF Renting Out a Room in Your Home
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Sample Living with Your Landlord Agreement for Alberta Renters
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Other things to consider when sharing space

Moving in together, even just as roommates, can lead to legal changes in your life. For example:

  • You may sign a rental agreement for a new shared apartment.
  • One person may move into someone else’s apartment without signing anything.
  • You may choose to have a joint bank account to cover joint expenses.

Each of these options have different legal consequences that you should be aware of before taking any steps.

See the Before Moving Into Together: Legal Considerations Information Page for information about things to consider as you start to share space, including:

  • joint ownership and debt;
  • single name ownership and debt; and
  • joint names on leases and bills.
When does living with a roommate become “more”?

You may move in with a roommate and then your relationship develops into something more committed. This could happen in:

  • a romantic relationship; or
  • a non-romantic (platonic) relationship.

Romantic relationships

If your relationship becomes romantic, after one year you will be considered “common-law” partners under federal law. This will affect your taxes and some other legal rights.

If you continue to live together, you may then become “Adult Interdependent Partners” under Alberta law. To be in an Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR), you must have been living with and in a relationship of interdependence with another person:

  • for 3 years;
  • for less than 3 years if you have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement; or
  • for less than 3 years if you have or adopt a child together.

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners are not married but they:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.

In other words:

  • If you live together for 3 years (without having or adopting a child or signing an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement), you will be in an AIR when you reach the third anniversary of moving in together (whether you want to be or not).
  • If you have or adopt a child together, you automatically become Adult Interdependent Partners upon the birth or formal adoption, no matter how long you have lived together.
  • If you sign an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (AIPA), you become Adult Interdependent Partners as soon as it is completely signed and witnessed, no matter how long you have lived together. However, you cannot sign an AIPA if you are a minor, unless you are 16 or over and have your guardians’ consent.

Being common-law partners or Adult Interdependent Partners comes with legal rights and responsibilities. For more information, see the Living Together: Common-law Partnerships & Adult Interdependent Relationships Information Page.

Non-romantic relationships

Even if you are not romantically involved with your roommate, you can still become “Adult Interdependent Partners” under Alberta law. To be in an Adult Interdependent Relationship, you must have been living with and in a “relationship of interdependence” with another person:

  • for 3 years; or
  • for less than 3 years if you have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement; or
  • for less than 3 years if you have or adopt a child together.

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners are not married but they:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.

The relationship does not have to be romantic or sexual to be an Adult Interdependent Relationship; it can be non-romantic (also called “platonic”). And if the conditions are met, becoming Adult Interdependent Partners will happen whether you want it to or not.

Being platonic Adult Interdependent Partners comes with legal rights and responsibilities. For more information about this situation, see the Non-romantic Adult Interdependent Relationships Information Page.

Living with a former partner or spouse

Sometimes, people live in the same home with their former partner or spouse after they have separated. This can happen for many reasons. Maybe you stay in the same home for financial reasons. Or maybe you both just prefer to have a roommate.

This can have legal consequences if you:

  • are living “separate and apart” with the intention of becoming former common-law partners, becoming former Adult Interdependent Partners, or divorcing; or
  • get back together (“reconcile”) with your former partner or spouse after a period of separation.

These situations are described in more detail below.

Living “separate and apart”

Although separation usually means living in separate places, this does not have to be the case. You may be separated from your partner even if you continue to live in the same house. However, when you do live in the same house, it is more difficult to prove that you are separated if you ever need to do so.

If you are ever in court about this issue, the judge will look at all of the facts of the situation. The key concern is when the couple stopped “marriage-like” activities such as:

  • sharing a bedroom;
  • having sex;
  • going to family events together;
  • sharing a social life;
  • eating together;
  • providing emotional comfort;
  • doing each other’s laundry; and
  • cooking and cleaning for each other.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web How can you prove you're separated if you and your spouse still live together?
Legal Services Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The 16 Ways to Know You are Separated
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Getting back together (“reconciliation”)

Sometimes partners or spouses separate for awhile and then get back together. This is called “reconciliation.” This can affect your separation date in the future. How it will affect you depends on how your relationship is defined under the law:

  • common-law partners under federal law;
  • Adult Interdependent Partners under Alberta law; or
  • married spouses.

Common-law partners

For couples with federal common-law status, living “separate and apart” for 90 days is the only way to end their status as common-law partners under federal law.

Any separation of less than 90 days does not count toward the 90 days. For example:

  • you separate for 60 days;
  • you then get back together for a few weeks, then separate again;
  • the 90-day period starts again from the first day of that second separation.

For more information about ending a common-law relationship, see the Ending a Non-married Romantic Relationship Information Page.

Adult Interdependent Partners

You and your Adult Interdependent Partner may be planning to become “former Adult Interdependent Partners” by living “separate and apart” for one year. If you reconcile for more than 90 days, the one-year separation will have to begin again if the partners later decide to permanently separate.

For Adult Interdependent Partners, living “separate and apart” for one year is not the only way to reach the status of “former Adult Interdependent Partners.” The other ways are:

  • enter into a written agreement;
  • one of the Adult Interdependent Partners becomes the Adult Interdependent Partner of someone else;
  • one of the Adult Interdependent Partners marries someone else; or
  • get a Declaration of Irreconcilability from a court.

These options are described in more detail on the following Information Pages.

Be Aware

If you are in a romantic Adult Interdependent Relationship, you will still be considered common-law partners under federal law, even if you end your AIR immediately using one of the above methods. The only way to end common-law status under federal law is living separate and apart for 90 days.

Married spouses

To get a divorce in Canada, the spouses must meet one of the “grounds for divorce.” These are the reasons that a court will grant a divorce. The grounds for divorce in Canada are:

  • living separate and apart for one year;
  • adultery (by the Defendant); and
  • physical or mental cruelty (by the Defendant).

Most divorcing spouses use the one-year separation as their “grounds.” This is because it can be difficult and time-consuming to prove one of the other grounds for divorce.

If you and your spouse reconcile for longer than 90 days, the one-year separation period will have to begin again if the spouses later decide to divorce. In other words, if the spouses get back together for longer than 90 days in a row, they will have to wait another year from the date of their last separation before being granted a divorce.

Process

The steps you need to take for any of the issues related to sharing space are discussed on the Law tab of this Information Page.

Last Reviewed: August 2016

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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