Having a roommate is great—there’s always someone to watch Netflix with, they share the load and help clean your apartment, and best of all they split the bills, making it much easier to live in high-rent locations.
All that said, roommates can also end up being pretty terrible if you find yourself with the wrong one (aka dirtying your apartment instead of cleaning it, always being late on rent, having guests over at all hours of the night, etc). With a little planning, hopefully these situations can all be avoided. Read on for some tips on ensuring the roommate you have stays in the “good” category!
Deals: Payment Agreements With Your Roommate
As part of the initial conversation about living together, get all of the financial components out of the way early. Talk openly about your expectations—will the utilities be split equally? How will rent be paid? Will you use Venmo or checks? After you have these conversations, draw up a contract. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but seeing it on paper helps solidify everything, and if things go terribly awry later, this document can help you should you need to go to small claims court.
Talk With Your Roommate About Shared Spaces
Let these agreements trickle over into other up-front agreements as well. Talk openly about shared spaces (yes you can use my pots and pans), expectations for guests (no the new boyfriend cannot stay over every night), and anything you’d like your roommate to contribute (it would be great if you bring the vacuum cleaner). You won’t be able to cover everything that may come up, but having a starting point and going over these expectations and ground rules will help set the tone for anything that comes up later.
Dirt: Chore Responsibilities
After you have agreed that this potential roommate can actually become your roommate, the next item of business is laying out the chore responsibilities. Again, have an open conversation about how to handle chores. Do you and your roommate want to split them evenly and keep them the same for the length of the lease (i.e. you always take out the trash, she always vacuums)? Or do you want to switch things up, with you cleaning everything one week and him cleaning everything the next? There are many ways to handle this, but you will need to consider each person’s schedule and personality in order to determine the best way to go about this.
It’s also a great idea to agree up front that if someone forgets to take care of their chores, the other roommate will remind him or her. Agreeing up front and setting the expectation that a reminder will happen will help avoid any hurt feelings.
Disputes: How to Manage Them
Even with the best intentions, disputes will still arise. Hopefully they don’t actually become “disputes” and stay in the “discussion” realm, where you and your roommate can talk things out peacefully. To make sure that happens, there are a few things you can do.
Respect The Sleep Schedule Of Your Roommate
First, get to know each other’s schedules. If you roommate needs to be up at 5 AM for work every day, a late night drum jam session is not appropriate on weeknights. If you like to shower every morning at 7:30 a.m. sharp, let your roommate know so that he doesn’t try to jump in at 7:29AM for his half-an-hour shower. Second, don’t take your roommates groceries or toiletries without asking, and ask your roommate to pay you the same respect. “Borrowing her toothpaste just this once” can quickly turn into “wow, I don’t remember when I last bought toothpaste, ” along with a resentful roommate.
Even with all of that, if you find yourself in a disagreement with your roommate, stay calm.
Keep reminding yourself that you live with this person and will continue to live with this person even after the dispute, so do what you can to prevent it from becoming ugly. Discuss things calmly and with a solution in mind, and listen to his or her side of the story.
Keep the solution at the forefront of your mind, and realize that reaching it may mean compromising.
Do not leave post-it notes around with instructions or passive-aggressive hints—go directly to your roommate and have a conversation if something is bothering you. This will help you arrive at a solution instead of harboring hurt feelings.
In closing, the key to a good relationship with your roommate is up front agreements and calm communication. Do your best to set clear expectations and be rational in your conversations, and you will be on the path toward a great roommate situation!