Young people heading off to college or graduates getting their first job in a new city often live with roommates to split expenses. But sharing a new space with one or more people involves more than just deciding who gets which room.
Whether prospective roommates are longtime friends or complete strangers matched by a college or an ad from Craigslist, these five tips and guidelines can help ensure the experience of living together remains cordial, even if these individuals don’t ultimately become best friends.
1. Buying Furniture
If roommates will be sharing a dorm room, major furnishings like beds and desks will be provided. However, for roommates sharing an apartment, buying furniture is an immediate requirement. Coordinating different preferences and tastes can be a challenge, but the right pieces can make it easier to blend industrial chic with farmhouse charm.
Regardless of the furniture style to which is agreed, it’s not a good idea to split costs on even a single piece of furniture unless there is a written agreement in place on how to handle shared purchases if things go south. A better strategy is to split furniture costs, so each roommate buys specific pieces. That way, each roommate will own the pieces he or she has purchased and will be able to take or sell them as they see fit upon moving out.
2. Sharing Household Expenses
Splitting rent and basic utilities makes sense. Splitting the cost of food or other personal expenses often does not. Except for planned shared meals, such as dinner for a special occasion, each roommate should be responsible for his or her own food expenses. This is especially true for roommates if one or another has any dietary restrictions.
While splitting utility costs makes basic common sense, it can become a problem if one or more roommates consistently fails to contribute his or her fair share. If the situation becomes untenable, it may be necessary to ask the non-compliant roommate to move out. In extreme cases, legal action may be needed. However, know that locking someone out or throwing away their possessions may run you afoul of the law.
3. Splitting Up Chores
Splitting up household chores is another important matter to settle early in a roommate arrangement. Each roommate should be responsible for keeping his or her room reasonably clean, but it’s unreasonable for a clean freak to expect someone else to adhere to his or her standards.
Common areas should be cleaned on a regular, mutually agreed upon basis. Thus, setting up a rotating schedule so that everyone is responsible for each task at some point is a fair way of doing things, but it’s also possible to split chores among roommates.
4. Establishing Privacy Boundaries
Even if roommates are BFFs, they won’t be spending all their time together, especially if at least one has a significant other. Roommates who don’t know each other before moving in are even less likely to spend significant time together, especially at first. Hence, establishing clear guidelines about overnight guests, parties and quiet hours and similar matters early on minimizes the risk of any future misunderstandings.
5. Moving Out
For various reasons, it may become necessary for one or more roommates to move out before a dorm room assignment or lease agreement has ended. Changes among dorm roommates are usually handled by the college or university. However, apartment leases are a different story. Of course, a roommate who moves out early is still responsible for his or her share of the rent and other expenses until he or she finds another place.
Life with Roommates
Each of these tips aren’t meant to discourage young people from moving in with roommates. Of course, sharing living quarters is not only financially practical, but the arrangement also often results in roommates becoming friends, if they aren’t already. Taking care of arrangements beforehand just makes sense — and ensures a roommate situation remains beneficial for everyone involved.