Finding a Roommate

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

Do you want a roommate? That is a real question that should be pondered with intent. It doesn’t hurt to do some self-reflection and make sure you actually want a roommate before beginning your search. Some people prefer to live alone if it’s financially feasible.

However, if living with someone sounds fun (it can be!), required (at some colleges), or essential to your financial survival, consider the following before you commit.        

  • Determine your budget and what you expect financially from your future roommate. Arguments, if they are going to happen, usually result from financial disaccord. Money-related stress is a beast, so know your budget and that of your potential roommate before you sign on the dotted line.
  • Many people find a roommate within their existing sphere of influence. Ask around. See if anyone you know is looking for a new living situation. Social channels can also be a good place to scout for a prospective fellow renter but remember that nothing you share on social media is confidential.
  • Some websites and apps exist to help match future roomies. The site roomster.com includes postings for roommates, rooms for rent, and apartments/houses for rent. It is searchable by a variety of filters. The app Circle for Roommates has been around for at least two years and is rated at 4.4 stars at the time of this publication.
  • Do a background check, even if you utilized a roommate matching service. The site https://www.intelius.com/background-check is a tried-and-true resource. It is also advisable to review your county’s sex offender registry before committing to a new roommate or a new location. And if your future roomie finds it creepy that you’re doing a background check, you could offer to provide one on yourself as well.
  • Sign a roommate agreement. This is a simple document that could theoretically hold up as a legal contract. The roommate agreement spells out all the big things and even some of the little things that go into cohabitating. Who pays what and when, who cleans what and when, how loud can the music be, whether friends can sleep over, etc. Basically, the roommate agreement is a pledge that you will both try your best to be good humans.

Various topics could be covered as part of a roommate agreement. Some of the basics include the exact amount or percent of rent and utilities to be paid by each party, sharing of the cleaning duties, and how to handle disputes. You can draft your own agreement or use a template to get you started. Try nolo.com or wonderlegal for ideas on what to include.

  • Make sure your landlord knows that they have more than one tenant. Sometimes all residents will sign the lease, a.k.a. rental agreement, and sometimes just one resident is listed on the lease. (The lease/rental agreement is a completely separate document from the roommate agreement.) In cases where only one person signs the lease and therefore accepts responsibility, you’ll need an additional document called a sublease. The sublease indicates that one roommate is financially responsible to the other. (A lease is signed with the landlord, a sublease is signed between roommates but should be disclosed to the landlord.)
  • Consider a short-term lease or sublease. If you and your new roommate don’t have much experience and your chemistry is still unknown, rent month-to-month if you can. That way you’ll both have a simple way to end the arrangement within thirty days if things don’t work out. If your living arrangements do prove copacetic you can sign into a longer-term lease in the future.

Finding, selecting, and committing to a roommate should be a well-considered event. This relationship may last a year or more and will directly affect your quality of life at home. Remember that you can always decline the opportunity to live with someone if things don’t feel right. Better to have the awkward conversation now than regret signing into a lease for the next several months. If you are genuine in your search and apply the golden rule, sharing your living space can be financially and socially rewarding for both parties.

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