Off-Campus Housing

 
  Roommates


 Some basic information about roommate considerations. Click the grey boxes below to expand and view the information. 

Roommates: Positives and Negatives

Trying to decide whether to live alone, live with friends, or live with new people?  You should have open discussions with anyone you're interested in living with. It is better to get any concerns out in the open before a lease is signed or an agreement is made.

A roommate relationship is more than a living arrangement. Roommates can have emotional as well as financial effects on each other's lives. There are many laws to define the tenant-landlord relationship, but none deal specifically with roommate relationships. (Though it is possible under some circumstances for one roommate to be the landlord of the other(s).)

It's important to choose a roommate wisely and to communicate, so you can work out any problems that might occur. If you arrange to share an apartment with a roommate you don't know, you might ask the landlord to let you sign separate leases so each of you are responsible only for your share of rent and any damages you cause.

Also beware, your best friend may not be the best choice for a roommate. Living together could strain your friendship if you find you disagree about cleaning, parties, paying bills, or other issues that arise in a shared apartment. Negotiating a compromise, subletting, or sticking it out can become very difficult.

There are many pros and cons to both living with a roommate and by yourself. Living by yourself will give you the chance to enjoy solitude and release the potential burdens of living with others. Living with others may help you save money by sharing expenses, such as rent, utilities, and telephone.

Questions to Ask a Potential Roommate

  • What is your class schedule?
  • What are your study habits?
  • What are your eating habits?
  • What do you expect for housekeeping/ cleanliness?
  • Are overnight guests okay?
  • Are you okay with borrowing/sharing items? Which ones?
  • Are you okay with smoking inside/outside? Are parties acceptable? When? How late?
  • How will you handle paying bills?
  • Are pets acceptable? What type? How many?
  • How much study time do you need?
  • What level of quiet do you like during study hours?
  • What type of eating arrangements do you prefer (cooking at home, eating out)?
  • Is cooking smelly foods a problem?
  • Is use of alcohol in apartment okay? When?
  • Is coming home drunk okay? When?
  • Do you use drugs?
  • How do you plan handle roommate confrontations?
  • What is your expected level of privacy? (entering rooms, sharing rooms)
  • Does the person with the bigger room need to compensate the others?
  • Are you comfortable lending money?
  • What are your usual desired bedtimes/wake-up times?
  • While sleeping, what is your desired level of noise? Radio/TV on?

Preventing Problems

You and your roommate should discuss creating a roommate agreement or contract and determine your expectations before committing to living together. Here are suggestions of what to discuss with prospective roommates before you sign a lease:

  • Cleaning: How often should the place be cleaned and how will the work be shared?
  • Privacy: How much privacy does everyone want and where do they get it?
  • Guests: Will overnight guests be allowed? When and how often can guests visit?
  • Parties: Agree on how often, how many people and how late can parties run?
  • Shared personal belongings: Will food, clothing, CD’s, toothpaste and other belongings be shared?
  • Bills: How will bills be divided among roommates and who will be responsible for payment?

Solving Minor Problems

Common problems are personality and lifestyle clashes. The best way to deal with these is to negotiate one on one with your roommate. Identify the problems, what causes them, and what each roommate can do to solve them. Put any agreement you reach in writing and post it prominently-such as on the refrigerator. If necessary, seek mediation.

Another solution is subletting, which is when you move out and find someone else to live in the apartment and pay your lease. But subletting can be difficult, especially if roommates won't cooperate in finding a sublessee. In addition you usually need the landlord's permission to sublet your apartment or house.

Solving Serious Problems

Serious roommate problems are those that threaten your health, safety or substantially deprive you of full use of your apartment. The first step to solving such problems is to ask roommates to stop the problem behavior.

Offer to negotiate and work out a solution. If they ignore you or negotiation does not work, take a more formal approach:

  • Document the problem.
  • Keep a complete record of roommate conflicts in your rental log.
  • Include specific dates and notes on what was said or what happened.
  • Use friends as witnesses.
  • An important step is to write a letter to your roommate. It should be an account of problems that have occurred and steps you have taken to resolve them. Demand an end to unacceptable behavior and threaten further action if such behavior continues. Present the letter in person and keep a copy. Writing a letter to someone you live with may seem ridiculously formal or embarrassing, but it may be the best way to communicate your viewpoint.