Usually, roommates are great. They help make off-campus living more affordable and they become your community. Ensure your roommate experience lives up to your expectations by following these simple tips.
Who you live with is your choice
Ultimately, you choose who you live with. If you're interviewing for roommates, be sure to have a clear list of priorities, requirements, and deal breakers. Be upfront at the very beginning about quirks and expectations. If you're thinking about becoming a roommate, you should do the same. And take an honest look at the conditions of the apartment or house you'd be living in. If it's messy now, it'll probably be that way while you're there.
Communication is critical and should be a priority. If you have a few roommates, plan a time every month to get together and discuss issues and ideas. Remember that you might see things differently from others. Ask questions to find compromises. What is your idea of neat and clean? What annoys you? What are your study habits? Then come up with solutions that will respect all your answers.
Make rules & assign responsibilities
Will you have quiet hours? Who is going to take out the garbage? How will you divide groceries? Will there be a cleaning schedule? What's private and off limits? What's for sharing? Talk about these issues and agree on the best way to ensure everyone is happy and willing to help out.
Keep finances separate
It's better to sign individual leases than to assume responsibility for others. If you don't have that option, at least be sure everyone's name is on the lease. Rent payments should be secured with pre-dated cheques for the duration of the lease. If you're paying the landlord, plan to cash your roommates’ cheques at least a week before your rent cheque will be withdrawn.
Things to consider when choosing a roommate
Most roommate conflicts occur because of differences in expectations around cleanliness and frequency of when chores and cleaning should be done. Know what your expectations are and have the discussion before you agree to live with someone about their expectations and comfort levels are. If you haven’t lived with people other than your family, how your space was kept in the home you grew up in is a good first clue.
This is another source of conflict. Do you need total quiet, play music 24 hours a day or something in between? Talk about it to see if you’ll be happy and productive with your roommates.
What are your expectations about you and your roommates having friends over? How often? Extended stays? Overnights?
4. How are you dividing living costs?
Some roommates choose to share the cost and use of everyday items – food, kitchen items, furniture, cleaning products, clothing, toiletries, toilet paper, spices, etc. Others prefer to keep their expenses and items separate. Have a discussion, make some rules, and stick to them.
Do you like to party? Do you like to cook and share food? Do you prefer to get takeout? Do you smoke? Are you a rule follower? Do certain things make you anxious? What are your expectations around privacy? What are you expecting from the relationship (new BFF, just someone to pay half the rent? a cleaner? your personal chef?)
Want to prevent getting a bad roommate? Read this study on roommates and the effect conflict can have on your studies and well-being:
1. Create a roommate agreement
Have you considered a roommate agreement? Here is an example, but there are others online: Roommate Agreement.
2. Create a chore schedule
Another item to consider is a chore schedule. First you’ll need to list all the possible household chores. Here’s a sample – Household Chore List.
Next, you’ll need to divide up the list. Here’s a great article to reference – Roommate Chore Chart, with more examples online.
Dealing with conflict
1. Be a good communicator
Having good communication is essential for resolving conflict with roommates. Here are a few tips:
- Learn your conflict resolution style.
- Talk in person. Avoid using text. Definitely don’t post anything on social media about it.
- Use “I” statements instead of blaming “you” statements.
- Learn what being a good listener means and practice listening. Seek to understand their perspective.
- Stay calm, be kind, assume they have good intentions.
- Don’t swear, name call or have an emotional outburst.
- Get support if you need it beforehand.
- Try not to address issues when angry.
- Don’t involve others who are not part of the issue. (Landlords will not get involved in roommate conflicts.)
2. Revisit the roommate agreement
Treat it as a living document that may need revising and changing as the year goes on. Strive to have a win-win situation. You have agreed to live together and you both (or all) want to be happy, so start there and see if you can meet in the middle.
3. Know when to call it quits
You might reach a point where your differences are too big to overcome. Sometimes, the healthiest thing is to go your separate ways. A roommate “breakup” doesn’t have to be a bad thing – see these tips on how to do it right.
4. If you have been threatened, have been assaulted, or fear someone you are living with, get immediate help.
5. Consider finding a mediator
Conflicts can be resolved much easier if there is a mediator involved. Check on supports available through StFX such as: