For many people, the word “roommate” comes with negative connotations. It reminds us of our first nightmare roommate, or the horror stories regaled by older siblings on their first Christmas back from college. Despite the stigma, however, living with roommates doesn’t have to be horrible. In face, it can even be a pleasant experience if you put in the time and effort to find the right roommate for you.
If this is your fist time looking for a roommate, or if you’ve been burned in the past, we’ve put together a few suggestions and tips on how to get a roommate, with a checklist of questions that will give you peace of mind before contracts are signed and boxes unpacked. We’ve also added a few tips for being a good roommate, to help those who are setting out on their own for the first time adjust to life under a shared roof.
Finding The Right Roommate
There are no good roommates or bad roommates, only incompatible roommates, and it’s much easier to find a compatible roommate than to try to work things out with someone who was not a good match from the beginning. So how do you find the right roommate for you? Use our checklist below with a few key questions to ask when you’re conducting roommate interviews.
- Verify that you’re both on the same page regarding cleanliness. What is your expectation of a clean house, and what is theirs? Can dishes soak in the sink or do they have to be washed immediately after a meal? How often do they vacuum? Mop?
- Agree beforehand on quiet hours, and ask them what they like to do on their time off. This will tell you whether you can expect them to be coming and going at all hours of the night, or let you know if they host a weekly improv club.
- Enquire about relationships and family that may be visiting from out of town. You may not have a problem with a partner sleeping over once a week, but draw the line at their siblings crashing over for a long weekend.
- It may seem odd, but ask about cooking habits. Incompatibilities here can range from inconvenience caused by your roommate’s love of elaborate meal-prep weekends to clashes over more serious things like allergies. If your Tuesday night favorite is shrimp scampi and your roommate has a shellfish allergy, it’s not going to work.
- Ask them about past experiences with roommates – their response will tell you a lot. If they take this opportunity to regale you with horror stories of all their past roommates, take it as a warning. The common denominator here is them, and it may very well indicate a recurring issue.
- Finally, ask about employment. If your potential roommate is between jobs or doesn’t seem to have a steady financial standing, they could have trouble paying rent and utilities down the line, putting you on the hook in the future.
Keep The Peace
Once you’ve found a roommate that is mostly on the same page as you, it’s a good idea to lay down some ground rules ahead of time. Ground rules can be quiet hours so that you can study, a divided list of chores, or rules regarding how many times a week a partner can sleep over. For more serious matters, like division of rent and utilities, how they will be paid, and who is responsible for collecting payment, you may want to sign a roommate agreement contract.
Be A Good Roommate
Being a good roommate on your part means first and foremost keeping your end of the agreement. If you’ve agreed with your roommate that they vacuum and you clean the bathrooms, keep your word. When disagreements arise, don’t assume ill intent on part of your roommate — they’re probably not doing anything with the intention of causing you any harm. Instead, have a calm discussion with them and try to work through the problem together. That said, choose your battles – it’s not worth fighting with your roommate over petty things that or one-offs.
Remember that you’re not your roommate’s parent, and you are not responsible for changing them. If something they are doing doesn’t directly negatively affect you, don’t try to change it. In short, treat your roommate as you would want them to treat you – respect their privacy and alone time, don’t argue with them over insignificant things, and above all remember that it’s their home too.
If Things Don’t Work Out
Even after you’ve done your homework and written out all agreements, you may still find yourself in a situation with a roommate that makes your time in your home unpleasant. You will not be able to evict a roommate in most cases, as that is an action that can only be taken by a landlord. If you leave the shared living space before the end of the lease, you will very likely still be on the hook for rent and utilities until the lease is up, unless you are able to find a replacement tenant that your landlord and roommates agree to.
Save for instances where you fear for your personal safety, it is oftentimes easier to grin and bear it until the term of the lease ends. Take it as a lesson learned, and cut your losses, and line up new living accommodations for when your current lease expires.