Roommates are a reality of student life and life after graduation. It can be a fun experience where everyone ends up as friends, or it can end on a sour note.
Conflicts can happen, but they don’t have to. It’s important to be friendly, but also set some basic rules and guidelines with everyone to minimize misunderstandings. This checklist will help guide you through everything you should do when you are starting into a new roommate relationship.
1. Have an honest conversation.
Before anyone signs anything, have an honest and open conversation with your housemates. Share your likes and dislikes, your pet peeves, your habits, your allergies, etc. Even if you are about to move in with friends you already know, it is still good to have this conversation. Some of this information may only come up when you are living together.
If you are rooming with a stranger, it can be uncomfortable to tell them all this information. However, making your stance known is a must if you are going to be living together. Moreover, the conversation may reveal this person is not someone you want to room with, saving you from a bad match.
2. Write up a roommate contract and sign it.
A roommate contract is not meant to be a legally binding document, but it should be a simple document that clearly outlines the rules of the roommate relationship. Make sure you include the following:
- How will the rent and utility bills be split amongst you; how will they be paid (cheque or cash), who will be responsible for which payment. (This may be outlined on the official lease, but it’s not a bad idea to outline it again, for clarity’s sake.)
- How the communal spaces (the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom) will be shared.
- How the housework will be split amongst you; who does which chores and when.
- How frequently will guests be allowed; how many guests are allowed; how much notice should the other roommate(s) be given before guests arrive.
- At what time “quiet hours” should begin.
Maybe only some of the above will be applicable to your roommate relationship, but it is still a good idea to talk to your roommate about all of these points in the beginning. You may think that this takes the spontaneity out of the relationship, but it prevents bad surprises down the road. When the document is complete, everyone should sign it and have it posted in a prominent place (for example, on the fridge).
3. Get to know each other.
As you are completing steps 1 and 2 of this checklist, you should already be in the process of getting to know each other. This step refers more to getting to know each other through various social activities. Being roommates doesn’t mean being best friends, but it is important to build a friendly relationship.
Examples of various group activities include seeing a movie together, going to a festival, or staying in for a night of cards or board games. It can even be something as casual as ordering takeout and having a friendly conversation in your kitchen.
4. Be patient and understanding.
Maybe your pet peeve is seeing dirty dishes left in the sink—don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that your roommate left them there to annoy you. It could be that he or she was just in a rush this morning and did not have the time.
Even though it may not necessarily be your responsibility, why not do the dishes yourself? Something so small is not worth ruining your roommate relationship. Do them a favour, be forgiving, and the next time you commit one of their pet peeves, you’ll find they’ll be less likely to retaliate with anger.
Roommate conflict prevention pretty much boils down to good communication. Begin your relationship with honesty and continue it with patience and kindness. It’s that simple!