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Roommate Roulette: A Guide to Peaceful Co-Habitation



At some point or another, nearly everyone rents a home or apartment. Often times, renters find it financially easier to take on a roommate than go-it alone. Easier said than done. Before signing a lease with someone new, do yourself a favor and follow these steps:

1. Be Thorough In Your Search: Posting an ad to Craigslist is a great way to get a large number of responses. Your ad is the time to be clear about exactly what you're looking for: describe yourself, your lifestyle and habits and make it understood that you are looking for a roommate with compatible traits. Make sure to include the price range you can afford, the area you are interested and, if you already have an apartment, any policies (no pets, no smoking etc.) that must be adhered to. Being up front from the beginning will hopefully help qualify your responses.

2. Meet and Interview: Before you agree to a roommate--get to know them first! You wouldn't marry someone without dating, so why jump into a long term living situation? Granted, roommates are only semi-permanent, but for daily purposes have similar ramifications. Be sure to talk about your habits, schedule and lifestyle and be sure to ask the same of them. Do you, or they, have a boyfriend or girlfriend that will be around often? Are they neat or messy? If you have a gut feeling that it may not be a good fit--listen and walk away! *Safety Tip* Meet in a neutral, public place. Remember, if you don't know this person, do not bring them over to your apartment right away, it's best to get a feel for the situation and decide if the partnership is likely to work first.

3. Credit Check: Do your potential roommate applicants have steady, reliable jobs? Find out immediately and be sure they can really afford their share of the rent. Be clear on when rent is due and expectations that it be paid on time. Ask them if they wouldn't mind running a credit check to see what their past history is like. It may sound pushy, but it's better to protect yourself, and your credit rather than be left to foot the bill every month.

4. Big Decisions: Once you've found a suitable roommate it's time to decide on the details. Where will your furniture be coming from? How will you split cable/phone/internet service/utilities? Talk about your expectations for common spaces. Are you going to share food, or keep things separate? Set ground rules now--these little issues are often overlooked but have the biggest impact on day to day life. Be up front from the beginning and you'll both feel better moving on. *Tip* consider making a roommate contract with everything you have agreed on.

5. Moving Out: Probably the last thing on your mind when you move into an apartment is moving back out. You should talk with your new roommate about their plans and expectations for the length of this arrangement. Set a minimum "notice" time if one of you is planning to move so the other won't be left wondering what to do. Will they be responsible for finding a replacement, or will you? The more you can organize at the beginning, the better.

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