words Alexa Wang
Relationships between roommates often grow to become important and life-long friendships. But what happens when you make a mistake and choose the wrong roommate? If you are lucky, you’ll just have to put up with someone’s annoying habits.
But it might be worse, even endangering your property and your life. According to U-Magazine, 75 percent of students report having problems with their roommates, and 30% of them say that these problems led to violent altercations. So, if you are considering living with a roommate, you need to make sure you choose the right one. If it is at all possible, choose someone you already know and trust. If you need to open your house to a stranger, you need to be thorough and careful. Here are some useful tips:
- Ask for an application form from all candidates. There are several templates available online, and you can add questions or information requests that are important to you. Make sure to add a checkbox to agree to a formal background check.
- Always go through a background check. Formal services such as Check People will give you important data such as credit reports and public records (felony charges and appearance in sexual offenders lists).
- Ask for references from previous roommates or landlords, and check with them.
- Prepare your interview questions carefully, and pay attention to non-verbal cues. If someone feels uneasy or declines to answer a specific question, it may be a red flag.
- Make a thorough list of deal-breakers. Remember that it is your place, and you should be able to set the rules before committing to living with anyone. If you hate loud music or don’t want to have parties at your place, say so. Also, ask for their list of deal-breakers and ask yourself if you will be able to commit to them.
- Build your list of a “dream roommate.” You may find a few good candidates, but will you enjoy living with them? Shared interests and things in common will not ensure the rent is always paid on time, but they will certainly make life more enjoyable. While we are not suggesting that you make a decision based solely on these factors, you should definitely consider them.
- Pay attention to your gut. If someone seems too good to be true, they probably are. Even if everything looks good on paper, and they answer all your interview questions correctly, if you don’t feel comfortable around them, you should not move forward.
- Create a roommate agreement that works for you and your potential roommate. Before signing a contract, have a long conversation that includes the following:
- Parties: are they allowed? Is there a time limit? How many people can come to a party? Can there be loud music?
- Sleepovers: are they allowed? For how long can a friend or family member stay at your place? Should guests pay for services?
- Common areas: Cleaning schedules and rules
- Services: Who pays for what? (internet, utilities, maintenance fees, etc.)
- Miscellaneous: will you share groceries? If not, how will you organize the pantry and fridge? Think about anything that you consider important, regardless of how small it may feel. You would be surprised to know how many people end up fighting over things they thought were irrelevant.
- Always set up a probationary period. Even when things seem perfect in the beginning, there is nothing like living with someone daily. So you need to have an easy way out if things don’t work out. This agreement should also work for your roommate: they should be able to leave after the probationary period if they are not feeling comfortable.
Living with a roommate is an option that more and more young adults are considering. There are a lot of benefits, such as being able to afford better places in better neighborhoods. And the benefits are not just financial. Studies show that living with a roommate may lower depression rates, and people sharing living situations tend to thrive on other aspects of their lives (jobs, school).
Shared living helps to lower financial anxiety issues and can lead to strong and caring relationships. But all these benefits are contingent on finding the right roommate. A lot of people make the mistake of looking for a roommate when they are in deep financial trouble, and this leads to them choosing the first candidate that shows interest. Bad choices may end up costing a lot more, so always take your time and do your due diligence.