Tips for Selecting a Roommate

Selecting a roommate is not as critical as finding your life’s companion, but it shouldn’t be like a blind date either. No roommate will be perfect, but a bad one will grow more annoying and frustrating over time and can cause long-lasting problems. Whether a prospective roommate is your best friend or someone who answers a classified ad, you should interview the person carefully and make sure you know the answers to some specific questions.

  • Will the apartment be the place where you want to study or party or both? What are the prospective roommate’s habits? Does he or she smoke? (Do you?) What about alcohol or drug use? What about musical tastes? Does reggae or jazz get on your nerves?
  • Do you stay at home a lot, or do you prefer going out? What are the prospective roommate’s priorities? Do you stay in your room, or do you like to take over the kitchen or TV room?
  • Consider living habits. Remember the Odd Couple—Are you like Felix or Oscar? It may seem trivial at first, but small things like leaving dirty dishes for days, drinking milk out of the carton, or not flushing the toilet can become very irritating over time.
  • How do you feel about guests sleeping over? Waking up with your roommate’s boyfriend or girlfriend, friends from home, or the whole wrestling team can be a memorable experience. Occasionally. But there’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable in your own apartment. If your roommate has frequent guests, and if they empty the refrigerator, hog the PlayStation, or run up the phone bill, they can ruin your life and studies.
  • Does it bother you if your roommate borrows your clothes, shampoo, or computer? How about the groceries you bought?
  • Is your roommate financially responsible? Remember, if your name is on the lease, you are legally obligated for the entire rent. If he or she doesn’t pay or moves out without paying, you may be left holding the bag, perhaps in court in front of a judge.
  • Pets can be fun and entertaining, but if you are allergic to them or your lease prohibits them, a roommate must agree to leave Spot behind.
  • When you find someone you think you could share an apartment with, be sure to agree upon, and write down, a list of rules and responsibilities. These should include shopping, laundry, cleaning schedule, telephone and utilities payments, dos and don’ts in the kitchen and bathroom, and anything else that is important to either or both of you.

Finally, consider arranging an escape clause that specifies who will stay and who will leave in case it doesn’t work out. Most roommates stay together for only a year or two and then move on. Planning will help avoid most major disagreements while people are living together, but if the unexpected becomes a problem, remember that discussion and compromise are still the best strategies.

Good luck!