Bad Roommates: Your Guide To Identifying, Avoiding Them

Published: October 17, 2013 8:09 pm

Woman Washing DishesThis is the moment you’ve been waiting for: the sweet, sweet freedom of your own apartment. You’re so caught up in your daydreams of days spent pantsless in front of the television with home-cooked meals and alcohol, without the hassle of dorm monitors or freshman, you’ve almost forgot. You still have the problem of locating an acceptable roommate.

If you search bad roommates on Google—go ahead, we’ll wait—you’ll find a sort of train wreck waiting for you: horror stories, some even complete with pictures. Suddenly, you’re not sure if you want to traipse into the land of shared-living: it looks terrifying.

Don’t worry, we’ve compiled everything you need to know right here:

The Hunt

Finding an acceptable roommate may not seem too hard, until you begin to consider your expectations: Are you a night person, or a morning person? Do you have a specific routine? Do you plan on frequently having people over? Now, you suddenly need to find someone that can pay their half of bills and groceries, doesn’t smell, and doesn’t mind if you watch Mad Men like its religion. That’s a tall order.

Begin by making a list of what you can—and can’t—live with. If the friend you were considering is locked around his girlfriend, you can bet she’ll be around your apartment frequently. Craigslist may seem a reliable option, until you consider the possibility of alcohol and drugs—and how you’ll handle that. Having a clear idea of what you’re looking for in a roommate is a great thing to have before you begin searching.

Choose your search area wisely. There are services out there that can match you to a roommate based on similar interests and lifestyles, which may be the way to go if you’re really worried about conflict. Although your best friend may seem like the best candidate, remember that a great friendship doesn’t mean they will make a great roommate. Whether you place an ad or begin by asking around, be prepared to ask the tough questions to get an idea of who you’ll be living with: don’t be shy about asking for a work history or background and credit checks. This can tell you more about a person than simply interviewing them will.

Come to an agreement on all of the big decisions before you sign your lease together. This means how the rent will be divided and paid, who will occupy what space, how you’ll split food and chores, noise, et cetera. In addition to signing a lease, you may want to create a roommate agreement. This is another binding legal document that essentially puts all of the big decisions on paper, in case of an argument that arises later. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

It goes both ways, too. Make sure you’re not being the bad roommate by being aware of what you’re doing. Your roommate is not your family—who has to love you no matter how much Nutella you eat: they can, and probably will, judge you based on your living habits. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re not the one making the living situation impossible:

  • Be respectful of their time and space. If they have a major test in the morning, keep the volume low while you’re playing HALO. Don’t just walk in and leave your shoes, purse, and coat in the middle of the floor, either: you have a room for that.
  • Do your share of the dishes and taking out the trash. It isn’t fair to have a roommate that eats all the pizza, and leaves the evidence all over the kitchen.
  • Your guests are your responsibility. If you invited your rowdy girlfriends over and they broke your roommate’s stereo, it’s going to be your responsibility to replace it and make amends.

Unfortunately, the hardest part of living with someone else is dealing with the arguments as they arise: unlike other living situations, there isn’t a parent or RA here to mediate. Since you’re all grown up now, it’s all on you. But don’t worry: even the rank gym socks your roommate leaves around the apartment doesn’t quite take away how sweet your own space is.