Getting a roommate for the first time? Here’s how to keep things cool
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Looking for a roommate is no easy task. Typically, you have a limited amount of time to try and get to know someone, and in the worst cases, you don’t find out about your biggest differences until it’s too late. While not all roommates will be best friends, it’s important to at least find out if you have a few things in common. Focusing on a few core tendencies will help you gain a better understanding of the person you’re about to move in with, and create a solid foundation for a great roommate relationship to come.
Have an open conversation with your potential roomie about their sleeping, eating, smoking and cleaning habits so you can both have a better idea about what to expect from day-to-day life with each other. With all of this information out in the open, you’ll be able to analyze whether your lifestyles will mesh successfully. If one of you is a night owl and the other is an early riser, this could be informative of your decision on what type of apartment you’ll need to find or whether or not you’ll be able to coexist at all.
It’s rarely a comfortable conversation to have, but addressing finances up front is an absolute must when moving in with a new roommate. Beyond the obvious requirement of being able to pay the rent each month, outline the processes you’ll follow to make sure all of the bills are paid on time and in full. This includes rent, as well as utilities, cable and internet, and — if you want — a monthly donation to a “household fund” that goes toward keeping things like toilet paper and dish soap fully stocked. (One thing you shouldn’t split: renters insurance. You can go learn why each roommate should have their own renters insurance here.)
Make sure you also determine — with each other and with your landlord, if necessary — how you’ll make your payments. Will the landlord accept half of the rent payment from each of you? Or will you have to nominate one roommate to make the payment and split it on the back end? My best tip would be to take turns paying the bills. For example, one roomie does rent and the other does utilities one month, and then you switch the following month, all while making sure to collect the right amount of money from the one who isn’t paying before the payment is made.
We’ve all heard tales of besties becoming roommates and subsequently enemies, and strangers becoming roommates and subsequently besties, so we know both situations are possible. If you and your new roomie are just meeting for the first time, try to set some boundaries upfront. One of you might be the type of person who is comfortable opening her closet to the other, and one might require alone time every night for a certain period of time. Being aware of these things will make it easier to avoid conflict in the future. You can keep an open dialogue about what’s communal and what isn’t as you get to know each other.
There are many things you’ll want to document when moving into a new place, from the quality of the walls and any existing damage you’ll want to remind your landlord about to the agreements you come to as roommates concerning the rules you’ll be following in order to live together peacefully. Keeping track of these things in writing will make your life easier in the future when you need to refer back to what you agreed on should a conflict arise.
Although it’s not always easy to get out of an unfavorable living situation, there are ways. Check with your landlord and local laws first, and always try to work it out before making any drastic decisions. And next time, check out these additional tips for interviewing new roommates.
Ally Greer is an expert in — and perpetual student of — renter’s rights, city living and other things young professionals should know. Outside of that, she's trying to figure out adulthood in the tech capital of the world while still finding time for comedy, baseball and calling her mom.
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