For a lot of renters, roommates are a significant part of the rental experience. Roommates share your personal space and witness some of the most intimate moments of your life. As such, your relationships with roommates can make or break your apartment happiness. Given the importance of these relationships, we've compiled tips to keep your roommate bonds strong and keep your home a happy one.
Set Honest Expectations
Whether your roommate is a complete stranger or your best friend, having an honest conversation about each of your expectations as roommates before you move in is paramount for long-term apartment enjoyment. This conversation should occur before you begin your apartment search and cover all house rules, including having guests and significant others visit, social habits, cleanliness and pet policies as well as noise preferences both in the morning and evening. Conducting an open and honest conversation before moving in will help you avoid any surprises and ease tensions after you're settled in your new home.
If you have deal breakers, now is the time to mention them. And in order to set a precedent for an equitable relationship, for every deal breaker you mention, ask your roommate if s/he has one as well.
During these initial conversations, take note of how you behave as a roommate and make an effort to improve upon any shortcomings.
Be disciplined about living up to the expectations you and your housemates set prior to moving in. After all, you can't expect your roommates to keep the noise level down after 10 p.m. if you consistently partake in midnight kitchen dance parties.
If there are times when you know you may need to bend the rules, be upfront with your roommates and compromise on a solution. Building trust and mutual respect is key in maintaining a healthy a relationship.
Have measures in place for dispute resolution. Let's face it, you can't avoid your roommate forever in a 500-square-foot apartment. If there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed decide to grab a beer, cook a meal or do laundry (two birds, one stone?) together to hash it out.
If you need to furnish your apartment, be sensible about what "sharing" furniture really means. Unless you and your roommates intend to sell all your furniture at the end of your lease, chances are you're going to want to hold on to a few big ticket items. Rather than split the cost of each piece of furniture, try to divide the list evenly and make individual investments. For example, if you want a runner rug or a blender, decide up front whether those are items you'll want in your next home. If so, consider purchasing it yourself.
The easiest way to avoid a conflict and keep your promises to your roommates is to keep organized. Assigning specific chores, or maintaining a rotating chore calendar can assist in spreading responsibility evenly and making sure everyone is doing their part. Given people's schedules and routines vary, we recommend keeping a weekly rather than daily chore list.
If you know one of your roommates is consistently late with rent payments, set up an online payment system via Square Cash, Venmo or PayPal to ensure your monthly payments are on time. If your household pays by hard check, set up a calendar reminder five days in advance to give yourself a heads up and avoid late fees. You can also write a stack of checks for different months and keep them in a secure place. That way, you take care of all the busy work ahead of time and when your roommate asks for the rent check as you're heading out the door, you can just grab the matching check for the month.
Keep a log of apartment expenses on your refrigerator, or somewhere else that is clearly visible, so you can see exactly who restocked the milk or laundry detergent and have a reminder to reimburse them accordingly. Also, consider keeping a leftovers shelf in your fridge, so that food doesn't go to waste and so that you and your roommates can share one of life's basic necessities.
Saving all your important apartment documents in a shared folder online, such as in Google Drive or Dropbox, can also help your household stay organized and stress-free.
Patience Is A Virtue
We all have temporary lapses in judgment, so if your roommate happens to eat the last of your super-organic, super-expensive sea salt and caramel dark chocolate bar, remember the above adage, take a deep breath and move on.
Although it is not necessary to spend a lot of time with your roommates in order to establish a good relationship with them, finding some activity that you all can enjoy can certainly help liven up your home, facilitate a bond, and who knows, perhaps even form a lasting friendship. Even the most polar opposites can find some commonality; whether it is following your favorite local sports team, playing an epic game of Settlers of Catan, wine tasting, indulging in a romantic comedy, brewing homemade kombucha or simply making dinner together, spending even minimal quality time with your roommates once a week can go a long way.
Regardless of how many side interests you share with your roommates, you can always keep your home a shared interest. Small gestures go a long way, so every so often do something spontaneous like buying new batteries for your beeping smoke alarm or pasting a roommate photo on your fridge.