Set Ground Rules with New Roommates

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Every time I’ve moved in with roommates, my parents told me to lay down ground rules – to make a roommate agreement. I laughed it off. I was moving in with friends, so everything was going to be fine. I was so sure we wouldn’t have issues that I never actually considered setting rules and expectations for the house. I assumed how I lived was not unreasonable and thought being a decent roommate would be a matter of common sense. It was easy to think that there wouldn’t be any issues because I didn’t honestly compare how I lived to how my roommates live. Every single time, I’ve come to regret not establishing ground rules. I am in the middle of regretting it right now. For your own sanity, do not write off a roommate agreement. It can save you a lot of time and stress.

Before anything else happens, rent and utilities need to be hammered out. Who is paying? How much? In whose name will the utilities be? Who makes the payments each month?

Think about how you live. Are you a neat freak or a bit messy? How dirty are you willing to let the house get before you go crazy? Can you live with sticky floors? What totally grosses you out? For me, it’s wet food. I can’t handle it. I had a roommate who could not stand hair around the apartment. Normally, falling into a comfortable routine with roommates goes neither automatically nor smoothly. Many times, roommates clash over simple household topics.

Before you consider moving in with someone, think about some deal breakers. If you want quiet study time at the house, you need to make sure you are not living with someone who likes things loud. Look closely at how you want your life to be in this new place. Think of your top few needs in this new place. What can you just not put up with or what can you not live without?

Once you have figured out how you want to live in your new home, talk with your new roommates to see what their ideal home is like. If you and your roommates don’t match up, talk about the disagreements in lifestyles. For every deal breaker you have, chances are your roommates have a corresponding pet peeve. What is crucial is that you talk about these differences, otherwise it will result in clashes.

Once the matter of lifestyle has been tackled, there is another area to look at. How will household supplies and chores be dealt with? Figure out who is buying what supplies and who is doing what chores. This might seem small, but when you are out of toilet paper and no one knows who bought it last, having a plan beforehand is a good idea. It’s the same with household chores. Who unloads the dishwasher, who mops the floors, who cleans the bathroom — these all need to be done to keep a house functional. Plan this out.

These are conversations that need to take place. These are things that also need to be written down. Writing a physical document for your new home might seem like overkill, but having a physical and irrefutable agreement comes in handy when tempers start to rise. Even if there isn’t conflict, having a document to reference, for whatever reason, is nice.

None of this is to say you won’t have great roommates. But realize no one is perfect. Living with someone is very different from being their friend or acquaintance. It might feel awkward having these conversations, but in the long run, they are absolutely worth it.

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