Tips for Choosing a Roommate
Your happiness in your living environment is directly related to your relationship(s) with your roommates(s). Running into personal problems with roommates can cause unneeded distress in one's life. Picking the right roommate(s) is extremely important to your well-being. Remember that friends are not always the best roommates. Friends may take advantage of the situation by borrowing your CD's or clothes without asking, or they may not clean up their mess if they think you will clean it for them. If the roommate relationship becomes strained, you may lose a friend as well as a roommate. Avoiding conflicts with roommates ahead of time will save you time and possibly money in the future.
Here are some tips to ensuring that you and your roommate(s) have a quality living experience together:
- Discuss study habits and the expected study environment. Will you have some sort of "quiet hours"?
- Discuss utilities. Will you have cable and internet? if so, what cable/internet package will you choose?
- Discuss visiting hours/procedures, if there will be any. Discuss party plans and expectations, if there will be any.
- Discuss the lease term. Most leases are 12-month contracts, but many students tend to go back home for the summer time. Make sure all roommates are clear on expectations. Will the roommate leaving be responsible and cover the rent while they are gone? Will they try and find a replacement roommate (and if so, is this acceptable to the roommates remaining)?
- Make a cleaning agreement or schedule; including sweeping, dusting, cleaning up messes, doing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, etc.
- Agree on a food policy. Do you share the cost of food, or do you shop individually and have a "hands off" policy?
- Establish drinking/smoking rules.
- Determine your personal boundaries. Is it ok for your roommate(s) to borrow a shirt, jacket, book, computer, etc?
- Be careful that you and your roommates have the same idea of your relationship - are you looking for a best friend, someone to do things with on weekends, or just a roommate?
- Always communicate concerns as soon as they happen, or most likely it will get way out of hand.
- If you are concerned about your roommate's ability to pay rent regularly, ask to see a credit report. Offer a copy of your own in return. On rare occasions, a roommate may run into financial difficulties and be forced to move out without paying rent. This may leave the financial burden on the remaining roommate(s). If possible, sign separate leases (although most leases are joint and several, meaning you are all equally responsible for your share and/or the entire rent amount). This way, each roommate is responsible for his/her own portion of the rent. If that is not possible, as is usually the case, have your roommates' parents co-sign the lease as well (most companies require this anyway). This will place the burden of rent on the parents if the student tenants are not able to cover the rent.
- If your roommate is a 'random roommate' and you are leery or uncertain of their background, you could ask to see a police report, and in return offer a copy of your own for he or she to view.
- We strongly suggest that you do not pay your rent in cash. We suggest the same when it comes to paying for your share of the utilities: do not pay in cash. Even if your roommates are friends of yours, we highly suggest that you pay your rent with a check or money order. Depending on your property owner's regulations, you may either be able to send a check/money order for your individual share of the rent directly to their office, or send one check/money order for all the roommates' share of the rent. Whatever the case may be, think twice before handing over cash to your roommate(s). It is much more difficult to prove that you gave your roommate cash versus a check/money order.
- After you decide what is acceptable and what is not, sign a Roommate Contract with your roommates. This may seem impersonal, but it may prevent problems in the future. With a little foresight and common sense, roommate conflicts can be avoided.
- It is extremely important that you and your roommates are clear on your expectations. It is beneficial to all tenants involved to discuss all items on the Roommate Contract. Signing the contract allows for further documentation of verbal agreements.