September 21, 2012

Don't be a Bad Roommate

For many people, having roommates is a natural transition. It can be a great way to trim expenses and save for the future. But if you're not careful, having a roommate can also devolve into constant bickering over finances and dirty dishes.

Roommate tensions are not limited to strangers. Long-suppressed grievances can erupt if you're not careful. If you live in an apartment in Garner, NC and are about to get a roommate, read on:

The key to living amicably is open communication. Everyone must be able to ask candid questions about financial situations and living preferences. Air any complaints or perceived inequities before they magnify and sour the relationship.

Try to agree on as many living arrangement details as possible before moving in together. A few considerations:

The lease. Whoever signs the lease is responsible for paying rent and meeting other legal obligations, so you may want to have all roommates sign the lease if possible. That way, even though you'll still be responsible for the rent if someone moves out suddenly, at least you'll have some legal recourse to recover his or her share if they baulk at paying.

You may need the landlord's permission for a new roommate to move in. The landlord may want to run a credit check and may even ask that a new lease be signed.

Rent. If one bedroom is more spacious or has a private bath, a 50/50 split may not seem fair. The same goes if assigned parking or other amenities aren't equitable. Try to calculate rent amounts together so no one feels slighted later on.

Utilities. Find out which utilities are paid by the landlord and which you'll split. Consider usage levels: Say one roommate works from home and runs the heat all day, or another never watches TV or uses the Internet.

Food. Some people are territorial about their food. Decide whether you'll go in together on groceries, cleaning supplies and other household items or each buy your own, and set rules for replacing used items.

Major purchases. If your place needs common area furniture or appliances, it may be simpler to buy pieces individually so when you move there's no question of ownership. For example, you buy the couch and your roommate buys the TV.

Keep an inventory. Inevitably, your possessions will get mixed in together. To make it easier when your household eventually disbands, make a list of who owns what.

You may want to draft a roommate agreement that establishes household rules and duties. While not necessarily legally binding, this document gives you each a chance to weigh in and may be a helpful tool if communications should later break down. In addition to the billing and cost-sharing information outlined above, also include details such as:

Housecleaning schedule and responsibilities.

Agreement about how to handle damages caused by roommates or their guests.

Move-out procedures, including how much notice is required, forwarding addresses, abandoned property and who is responsible for finding the new tenant.