Saturday, June 5, 2010

Before Getting a Roommate

B and I have lived by ourselves for the last two years, but three weeks ago we moved into a two-bedroom with a new roommate. Most of our coworkers gave us funny looks when they heard we were getting a roommate, but not only are we saving money, there are social benefits (B gets another video gaming buddy around). We fully understand the situation could turn sour. We have paid our dues with a list of terrible roommate experiences behind us. Here are a couple of ways to find any red-flags before you move in with someone.

Discuss Financial Situations 

Getting a roommate is like getting financially married to someone, at least for the length of the lease term. In the same conversation when you discuss how much monthly rent you are willing to pay, you should also talk about how you are going to pay for it. If your future roommate is unwilling to talk about sources of income (or if you don't share that with your roommate), it is a red flag for trouble times ahead. I am not saying to share tax returns, but a general understanding is required. Full-time job, part-time job, a monthly allowance from Mom&Dad, part of their financial aid package...? You should not be in the dark. If your roommate refuses to talk about finances and you do move in with them, don't be surprised when you discover they're a drug dealer or paying the rent with money from online gambling.

Put Your Faults and Pet Peeves Out Front

Better to make the decision not to move in, than to get into get stuck in a bad situation.  Go through all the details up-front, don't be worried about being awkward or rude. If you don't deal with issues now, you will have to deal with them after there is a problem. Here are a few issues that have caused problems in the past:

- Is sharing food ok? Alcohol? Cooking supplies? Milk?
- Is there limited cabinet/fridge/freezer space? How to divide it up?
- How soon do dishes and pans need to be clean after use?
- What's the cleaning policy? Just clean up after yourself? Cleaning everything together? Or “assigned” cleaning days?
- How do you feel about main room electronics? Need to ask permission first? Ok as long as owner doesn't want to use? Free-use of TV, DVDs, and game consoles?
- What time is “bedtime” or “quiet time”? Does anyone work or have class early in the morning?
- What temperature should the thermostat be set at? How hot does it need to get before we turn the AC on? Is saving electricity a high priority or no?
- What is the guest and party policy? Do we need to give a heads-up before inviting people over? How many people? How late?
- Pets?
- Smoking?
- Drugs?

Think of your own answers to the questions. Be honest with yourself and with you potential roommate. If there is more than a couple of items where you are not seeing eye-to-eye, that is a red flag. Do not ignore the red flags and sign the lease anyway. However compromise is a part of life, so recognize the issues you feel care about from those you don't. Compromising on everything will make you miserable, compromising on nothing will make you an ass. 

Share Stories about Previous Roommates (the Good and the Bad)

You want to get to know your future roommate's past and they can know yours. It can reveal previous problems that did not come up directly before. You could learn why your potential roommate is looking to move, and it is also a way you can be honest about your habits you know could potentially cause a problem. “Other roommates got annoyed with me about...”

Most importantly, by agreeing on how ridiculous the other people you have lived with has been, it can be a bonding experience. Here are a few good roommate stories I have heard (or told) throughout the years...

Parties without your permission, nudity in the house (during parties), physically assaulted over laundry, reporting illegal drug use to authorities, having a homeless person living on your couch, leaving food on the counter for 5+ days, living with Roaches, a 38 year old male roommate that watched Hannah Montana, leaving passive aggressive notes, counting individual strands of spaghetti....

Final Words
The time before signing the lease with a new roommate is an awkward one. You are trying to put your best face forward, and you both want the most mutually beneficial relationship. However, it is better to decide against it in the beginning, than to get into a horrible living situation. There have been times in the past where I ignored the red flags, and it turned very ugly.

Good luck and be Honest!

1 comment:

  1. Pretty good article. I assume you meant apartmentmate.