Roommates have a lot of advantages: you only have to pay a portion of the rent; you get to live in a bigger place; and your life is instantly more social. However, having a roommate is not for everybody. The downsides include loss of privacy, having to deal with your roommate’s unpleasant habits, and disputes over the rent.

Bottom line: sharing a home with a roommate can be tough if you’re not prepared—just ask the 17% of people in a survey* who moved out of their rental housing because of roommate issues. According to the survey, renters say these are the worst roommate traits to have:

  • Leaving the living room or kitchen messy (35%)
  • Using another roommate’s things without asking (34%)
  • Blasting loud music (13%)
  • Always having a significant other around (11%)
  • Eating another roommate’s food (6%)

To keep your own living situation from getting to that point, learn how to stay on good terms with your roommates.

Finding Compatible Roommates and Setting Boundaries

Before moving in with someone, you should sit down and talk about your living habits and expectations. It’s important to understand each person’s lifestyle so you can understand if you will be compatible roommates, and if so, work out a plan for each roommate to get what they need from their living situation. If you’re a student who needs considerable quiet time to study and your roommate is in a rock band, there could be some big conflicts down the road. Make sure to set down rules and boundaries you can all live with in regards to cleanliness, sharing belongings, having guests over and acceptable noise levels.

When you talk, some questions you might want to address include:

  • Can a roommate enter your bedroom if you’re not there?
  • Are there groceries you are willing to share and others that are off limits?
  • Are overnight guests okay; and if so, how long can they stay?
  • How often can a roommate’s significant come over?
  • How long is it okay for dirty dishes to stay in the sink?
  • If a roommate wants to move out before the lease is up, how much notice do they have to give?
  • If you share a bathroom, who cleans it and how often?

Paying Rent and Bills

Dividing household expenses and making rent payments are two of the most common sources of roommate conflicts. Here are three easy ways to avoid money drama with roommates:

  • Make sure every roommate knows what the consequences are for late payments or nonpayment of your rent and bills.
  • Determine how much each roommate will pay for rent and shared household expenses. Do you spend most evenings on your laptop while your roommate is watching TV? Discuss whether to split some bills, like Internet and cable TV, based on usage, so nobody builds up resentment about having to pay for utilities they don’t use.
  • Decide who is responsible for remembering due dates, collecting the money, and mailing the check. You may want to make each roommate accountable for specific bills, or you can designate one person as the bill payer. As an added incentive for taking on that role, give that person a slight reduction in rent, first choice of parking space or another home-related perk.

Living with roommates can be a fantastic experience giving you a sense of security at home and adding a built-in social component to your life.

The survey was conducted online among 1,000 nationally representative American ages 18+

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