13 Secrets to Successfully Taking in a Roommate

by Gary Foreman

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While having a roommate can improve your financial situation, it can hurt your living situation if you don’t have some ground rules in place. These tips can help make for a pleasant living arrangement for all involved.

You have a spare bedroom and your best friend is looking for a place to live. You happen to be short on cash, so your friend suggests he move in with you.

It’s a great idea, but anyone who’s taken in a roommate can tell you that there can be trouble. So let’s look at the 13 secrets to taking in a roommate successfully.

1. Discuss house rules before they move in.

Talk about kitchen and laundry privileges. Is either area off limits or only available at certain times? Are cleaning supplies shared? Are either of you allowed to leave clothes in the dryer?

2. Practice neatness in common areas.

If you’ve ever watched “The Odd Couple,” you know that a messy and a neatnik can quickly get on each other’s nerves. Discuss what an acceptable level of disarray is before your friend moves in.

3. Discuss rules for visitors.

How late is it reasonable to entertain? Talk about your tolerance for loud talk or music. Also discuss overnight visitors and how long they can stay.

4. Get legal.

Do a formal lease. You can get them online or at a stationary store. Chances are you’ll never need it, but just the fact that you and your roommate talked through an agreement will make things run smoother.

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5. Make the lease short.

You may be renting to a friend, but you never really know a person until you live with them. A short (as in three months) lease gives each of you an easy way out without ruining your friendship.

6. Discuss sharing.

Know what items you’ll share and which will be kept separate. Discuss everything from towels to orange juice in the fridge. Your friend might not mind if you borrow his toothpaste, but you might not feel the same.

7. Discuss timetables.

This is especially important if you’re sharing the kitchen or a bathroom. There’s nothing worse than being late for work and waiting on a roommate to finish showering. Five minutes can seem like an eternity, and the fight that follows could be eternal.

8. Take out the trash.

It’s the job that no one likes. Make sure you know in advance who is responsible.

9. Define your personal space.

Living with a friend can bring you closer together. Sometimes it’ll bring you too close. Decide now how you’ll tell your friend to get out of your personal life in a way that won’t break up your friendship.

10. What about pets?

Your friend may not have a pet now, but what would happen if you came home from work and found a pet food dish in your kitchen?

11. Will you share common expenses?

Adding a roommate will increase your utility bill. Is that included in the rent? Or will your roommate be expected to chip in?

12. Discuss tardy rent.

No one wants to think about a friend stiffing them on the rent, but it does happen, especially if someone loses a job. Decide in advance what the rules are if your roommate is tardy with their rent.

13. Make the deposit decision.

Will you require a deposit? Damage and accidents do happen. Will you or your roommate be responsible to pay for repairs?

Sharing an apartment or house with a roommate can be a great way to stretch your paycheck. Using these 13 secrets can help make the experience great, too!

Reviewed July 2023

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com.

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