Tips on How to Survive Roommates
1. Be the only one on the lease.
It might seem counterintuitive. After all, if they're not on the lease, doesn't that mean they can get away without paying rent? Yes, but if your roommate is also on the lease, guess what? They can still decide not to pay the rent - or even abandon the lease completely - and guess who will be left holding the bag?
I've seen it happen countless times. One roommate is irresponsible and can't, or won't, pay. Both roommates are on the lease, so the one who doesn't pay is under no obligation to move out. The other roommate is left footing the entire bill for the apartment and now has a very unwelcome houseguest to contend with.
You always want your roommate to be on the lease as an occupant. Subletting to a friend without letting your landlord know can cause legal problems due to occupancy regulations and can even make you eligible for eviction. Putting the roommate on the lease as an occupant while keeping the lease in your name is the best way to go. This gives you the right to kick them out if they don't pay the rent as long as you go to court for an eviction notice. Most courts will require that you give your roommate 30 days to find a new residence, according to "squatter's rights."
Remember, having a roommate who doesn't pay the rent is a drag, but not nearly as bad as having one who doesn't pay and can't be kicked out without a long, drawn-out legal ordeal!
2. Put It In Writing
Draw up a "roommate agreement," preferably before moving in together. Be sure to lay out all your basic expectations - when rent is due, that you reserve the right to ask them to find a new place to live if rent is not paid on time, and other necessities. How will you split the electric bill and other utilities? Will the living room be a common area or will you have a schedule for who can be out there and when? How much notice does each person need to give before having company over? After what time should the house be a quiet zone with no loud music or blaring televisions?
These are all matters that may seem trivial now, but - trust me - once you're being kept awake by someone's guitar practice at three in the morning or buying all the toilet paper, you'll wish you had something in writing. An agreement protects both you and your roommate by laying out clear expectations and serving as a written reminder when they aren't met.
3. Be Respectful of Common Space
No one should become the Couch King. Remember, you're (hopefully) both paying to live there. While you should feel at home, you should also be aware that the space is home for someone else, too. For some roommate situations, unspoken awareness and courtesy are enough to ensure that all parties get adequate space. For others, a more specific and scheduled arrangement is necessary.
I know of one set of roommates that treated each bedroom as a studio apartment and rarely came out into the common spaces at all. This arrangement may be a bit extreme for you, but it's a good illustration of cooperative management of space.
4. Weekly Meetings
We meet with our roommates once a week, usually on a Friday. After pizza and a movie, once everyone has wound down from the day's stresses and is in a good mood, we discuss any issues that may have come up earlier in the week. This way, if someone is bothered by something, they have time to process it and come up with a way to word their grievance outside the heat of the moment. It may seem like something out of a 90's sitcom, but when you're sharing your living space with someone else, it really works!
5. Comments Box
For those too shy to voice their roommate concerns, consider setting up a comments box. That way, each roommate can discreetly look inside the box without having a confrontation. Just be sure the content in the notes is constructive and not passive aggressive!
6. Trade Off on Buying Supplies
Have one person buy toilet paper for the week while another buys dish detergent to make sure that costs are split up evenly. Or, if you all want to save a buck, consider getting a membership at a shopper's club like Sam's or BJ's. Purchase communal necessities like toilet paper, dish soap and paper towels in bulk and split the cost to save major bucks over time.
7. Be Honest
Don't harbor grudges for something your roommate did without ever mentioning it to them. You both deserve your home to be your sanctuary, but the only way that can be accomplished for both (or multiple) parties is if the lines of communication are fully open.
Many people are afraid to communicate their concerns to their roommates out of fear or ruining a friendship, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that being someone's roommate does change your relationship with that person. When you live with someone 24/7, you see a different side of them - both good and bad. Be realistic about this change and try to keep a healthy, civil dialog with your roommate. Issues will arise, but that doesn't mean it has to ruin your relationship.