Looking for Roommates - Shining a Light on How to Keep Control of Your Space
My flatmates are all in the process of leaving. All for good things mind you. Two of the are marrying next week and the remaining one has had a wonderful job offer in another country. I am in the unique situation of interviewing potential new roomies. Do you have any tips for me? I’ve just read your article with mates not getting on. How can that best be avoided from the start? I’ve lived in this apartment for 12 years. I adore this place and it is just perfectly situated for me regarding my family friends and career. I do not wish to become uncomfortable here. I’m doing well in regards to career but I should need at least 2 roommates to cover the expenses. It’s a rather large flat with 4 bedrooms, a converted warehouse of sorts. I know I’ll never find anything like it again. Any tips you have for me would be appreciated.
Since you’ve lived in this great place for 12 years and you care about it so much, I’m gearing the advice I’m offering to you in a very specific way. I want to encourage you to keep control. Unlike Mira’s situation in the Hub where you first commented, you can’t really just go seek out another place if the new roommates don’t work out.
There’s a difference between having roommates and renting out some rooms. You may want to consider making that distinction in your search.
Since you have the history there, you may want to this new crop of strangers to understand from the get-go that this place is yours, not “ours.”
In most situations a roommate carries an equal portion of responsibility. Decisions like painting and buying furniture are everyone’s. Cleaning is everyone’s responsibility. Things are negotiated or agreed upon like how food shopping and sharing will be handled. Things that you’ve probably taken for granted with long-term flat mates are now things you have to think about and design your way. If you all split the rent equally and you all list your names on the lease, you’re all equals in the apartment.
In your situation it might be a brighter idea to consider renting out rooms.
Renting out rooms is a different scenario. If you choose to do that it means the apartment is yours except for their bedrooms. You would be in charge of furnishing and cleaning the kitchen, living room, and other common rooms. You don’t have to check with anyone if you want to redecorate, have guests over, or set a bathroom schedule.
When people are looking to rent a room, they generally expect to pay much less then they would if they were sharing an apartment. You may find you can’t charge as much to room renters than to roommates. And that’s fair.
People looking to rent a room are sometimes a little more transient than people looking for roommates. Someone usually rents a room for a shorter or predetermined amount of time. Perhaps they’re newly separated, waiting for remodeling to be done on their house, can't afford the rents in the area yet or because they travel frequently and can’t keep up their share of an apartment while being gone so much.
I’m guessing your apartment isn’t in the US. Here it is customary for room renters to have month to month leases. The turnover is more than it would be with roommates.
This is good because it’s easier to remove someone that isn’t working out. Depending on your area this also might be fun, getting to know different people. I know a couple in California that have a fabulous apartment in a two family house. They rent out two rooms all the time. They are close to a University and often have teachers as their renters. Teachers come who’ve been newly assigned, or teaching for one semester, etc.
I had a reader comment once that he has a house close to the airport. He used to work for an airline and has since retired. He has a few rooms to rent, and collects rent from about 10 different people for them. His tenants are flight attendants or pilots who live in other cities. They wind up in his city so often that it’s just cheaper for them to be able to have a room there instead of staying in hotels. I spoke with my good friend Susan about this. She explained to me that in her industry these are called Crash Pads. Airline pilots and attendants often wind up spending overnights in the cities they’re based out of, and wind up renting Crash Pads together. They rarely see each other, so it probably works out just fine that he has several different people taking turns with his spare rooms as needed. They're allowed to help themselves to whatever food is there as part of the agreement, and they can do laundry, shower, watch TV and sleep until they have to leave.
Renting rooms out certainly has its advantages and gives you a lot of control but with that comes responsibility. It is your responsibility to handle anything that comes up or goes wrong. You would be the only one dealing with the landlord. Whatever is entailed in your living arrangement with the owner of the building, it would be up to you to know and uphold it. Problems with the plumbing or electric, contacting repairmen, handling routine maintenance or updating the place, furnishings, appliances… it all falls on you to oversee. And if one room renter misses their rent payment, it falls on you as the person in control of the flat to cover it. You have to deal with them and you have to make sure the rent gets paid to protect yourself and the other room renters who’ve paid on time.
A roommate situation is different. Everything is shared. Even if you’re the one with seniority you will have a hard time maintaining control if everyone is on the lease equally especially if other roommates align.
If you can come up with a firm idea of what you want you can interview potential roommates in an authentic way. Making agreements ahead of time on how things are to be handled is wise. But you still have personalities involved.
You could find a roommate with whom you fundamentally agree about everything from cleaning, to money, to furnishings and food. Yet they are just impossible to live with for other reasons. Maybe they are mean spirited and hurtful, maybe they find your sense of humor offensive, or maybe they try to befriend your friends in an appropriate way. Maybe something intangible about them makes you uncomfortable. Maybe they become depressed or they’ve gone off their meds, or started practicing self-destructive behaviors. Maybe they like you and become clingy or invading of your personal space. Maybe they wind up in a committed relationship and everything changes in spite of what you’d agreed upon. Maybe they are very religious or have strong political beliefs that they like to talk about. Even when you agree to be just roommates and to keep your personal lives personal, shit happens.
You live there, you wind up talking and sharing. You may be hanging out casually with a roommate one night who tells you something from their past. It may be something that goes against every fiber of your being, something you can not get passed or forget. It has nothing to do with your living situation, but it has changed the way you see this person, and now you can’t unsee it . Sometimes you wind up getting friendly, and for whatever reason you discover this is a person you simply don’t like.
And then what do you do.
My best advice to you Daphne is to assume the role of control even if it’s not natural to you. Rent rooms at first, or if you do look for roommates somehow make it clear that this is your place and it will be only your name on the lease for the first year until you’ve made final decisions. Maybe you can even speak to your landlord about how to handle that. Something, somehow, like that, may just be the bright idea you need to insure your future security in your home of 12 years. Good luck.
Famous roommates Oscar Madison and Felix Unger in The Odd Couple
For those who used to have roommates, and now live alone or have started families, are you still friends with any of your former roommates?See results without voting
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