Roommate Compromising

snickerdoodle564January 17, 2005

I'm about to move into my first apartment with a friend of mine. It'd be great if we could just come to an agreement on things. How have all of you in forum-land compromised with your non-familial roommates?? Anything you've regretted?

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When I was living with roommates, these are some of the things we talked about ahead of time:

1. Girlfriends/boyfriends - Can they stay over, or should you stay at their place? Any limit on how many nights at a time? (It can be annoying having someone who doesn't pay the rent basically living in your apartment.)

2. Food - Will you eat together? Buy food together? If either of you has good pans or knives or whatever, may the other use them, and how should they care for them?

3. Utilities - You should each have your own phone line, in your own name. *Many* people have been stuck with phone calls from roommates. And check your bill often, so that if someone made a phone call on your line, you can get the money for it.

4. Common areas - During what times may you listen to music or watch television. Especially important when one roommate is a morning person and the other a nightowl. Invest in headphones.

5. Talk about your views on drinking, smoking, and drugs. If they're not similar, you'll have problems.

6. Agree on how you'll pay bills. Some roommates open a joint checking account, others use their own. Both people should be on the lease, but realize that if your roommate won't pay at some point down the line, you are responsible for the whole rent. Never pay a bill before you have your roommate's share.

7. Talk about your financial background and your current source(s) of income. It can be tough, but it's necessary. Don't ever get into a living situation with someone who doesn't have adequate income for the apartment. You can easily get stuck.

8. Household chores are another issue to consider. Some people draw charts, others pick chores out of a bowl. Try to come up with an equitable system, but be aware that what usually happens is that the neater person does more of the work, just because it matters to her most.

9. By renting an apartment, you are entering into a legal contract. As I said before, both of you are responsible for the rent, but if one of you doesn't pay, the landlord will look to the other for the whole rent.

If you have a month to month lease, you can be asked to leave at any time. (State law says how much notice the landlord must give.) If you have a yearly lease, you are responsible for the entire year's rent. Even if you move out after six months, or if your roommate moves out and you can't find a new one. Read the lease, and if you don't understand it, ask a parent or another person who might understand to explain it to you.

I'm sure there are other things, but this is a start. About regrets - I've lived with a dozen roommates, and have rented rooms to a dozen more. The vast majority of these people were responsible, pleasant people, and I enjoyed living with them.

I have only two regrets, and both happened when I didn't listen to my gut feeling. So my advise is to talk about everything you can think of, all the while understanding that things will change when you're actually living together. And trust your gut. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 2:22AM
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Excellent response! I think I will copy that off and give it to my son, who will be entering college soon. I know he will be in a roommate situation in the near future.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 12:29PM
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Yeah, Joann, I think you just about covered it all! Thank you! We have talked about many of these things already, in some degree of detail, but have had nothing written down. I appreciate your advice, and I'm sure it will come in VERY handy.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 1:32PM
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You're very welcome. I've lived with about a dozen (maybe more?) people, and have rented rooms in my home to at least that number, so I'm pretty attuned to potential problems. Except as a landlord, I just tell people the rules before they move in.:)

By the way, I should have mentioned that I think cell phones are the way to go, especially if you're young. Many young people move every year or two (I know I did), and it's nice to maintain the same phone. Plus, it's unlikely that a roommate would "borrow" a cell phone from you and run up charges on your dime. When I rent rooms to people, I always suggest that they get cell phones. And with the new plans, they're competitive with land lines.

Again, good luck.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 2:23PM
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I think joann's list is really great. I've never had a roommate, but I do watch a lot of Judge Judy, and she touched on every major roommate dispute that comes up ;)

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 4:33PM
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I cannot stress enough that it is important to have every single word WRITTEN down, no matter if it may be trival. It can save a lot of headaches down the road and can be used as a proof if someone don't hold to his/her word. Also make sure every person has a copy and send a copy to a family member to hold on, just in case.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2005 at 9:47PM
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I suppose it might be a good thing to write down what you've decided, though I've never done it and have never had an incompatible roommate. However, anything you write is a guideline, not a contract, and if someone doesn't live up to what they've agreed to, there's not much you can do, short of moving out. Plus, things always change over the course of time, so you have to be flexible.

This is why I stress listening to your gut feeling. If something doesn't feel right, don't wait to figure out why. And don't sign any contracts.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2005 at 1:33PM
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The girlfriend/boyfriend staying over thing is important! I once lived with my sister. She started dating a guy and pretty soon he was over *every* night. Then he was there when she wasn't - she would go to work and he'd stay. I ended up talking to her and said he had to pay 1/3 of the rent and utilities, and she agreed. I paid all the bills, so instead of collecting from him, I had her pay me 2/3. I knew I'd never get it out of him, nor should I have been the one with the burden to. We had 4 months left on the lease and I let her know I'd be getting my own place after that.

It was kinda sad, I really liked living with her, we had a lot of fun until he came along.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2005 at 8:13AM
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Consider also the question of pets. Are they allowed, or not? I had roommates get pets after we became roommates, and it was a problem.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2005 at 12:20AM
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Wow Joann really did state pretty much everything that needs to be said.

I currently have a roommate -I had the apartment first and rented out the other room- and wish I did not. She's nice but totally clueless and sees nothing wrong with walking around the kitchen with her boots on at 5am in the morning -stomp, stomp, stomp- while she's preparing her breakfast, running the dryer half full for 2 hours/week or inviting people to stay at our apartment for a week to a week and a half every now and then without telling me even though we've discussed these things and she's agreed not to do them.

It's pretty annoying and I would definitely suggest consulting Joann's list prior to commencing your roommate hunt

Good luck...

    Bookmark   February 2, 2005 at 9:01PM
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