When considering a roommate, it is essential that you have a written, signed, and witnessed contract stipulating *all* house rules and etiquette. Include everything from cost of rent, security deposit, cable TV and 'extra' services, telephone/long distance, amount of utilities to be paid, the date monies for rent and other expenses are due.
Write out and include specifics, such as rules regarding private spaces (bedrooms), private property (borrowing or using a roommates belongings - clothes, jewelry,stereo, computer), consuming food and drinks.
What about using a roommate's computer or other technical paraphernalia? (I suggest you change over to Password Access Only!).
Chores, like taking out trash, cleaning the bathroom, mopping floors, dusting and vacuuming the common areas.
Labling and storing food. Will you freak out if your roommate doesn't put a lid on his tuna salad and it makes your yougurt smell fishy? When do you throw out 'green-fuzzy' food from the refrigerator?
What about storing or hording food in bedrooms - potentially attracting 'bugs'.
Smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs or other activities.
Guests and visitors - Who is allowed on the premises - who is restricted.
Overnight guests - yes or no? Family, friends, parents, boy/girlfriends, out-of-town visitors. How long can they stay? Where do they sleep?
What about guests staying in the apartment/house when you or your roommate are not there (if out-of-town visitors are there and you have to work)?
What about parties? How many guests are permitted in the space? Who is responsible for keeping order and cleaning up afterward? Does the party conflict with your roommate's schedule or plans for guests of there own?
Pets - are they allowed? What kind - cats, dogs, fish, tarantuals? Who pays any deposits or rent increases? Who cleans up after them? Allergies? Are visiting pets allowed?
Noise and quiet time - If you are into country and your roommate is into rock n roll, there could be a conflict. You need to determine when and how loud music can be played.
Also other noises such as video games, TV volume, loud or boistrous voices.
Property damage to the premises or your personal belongings. Replacement of such items.
Terms of late payments and fees.
Terminating your lease or agreement. Do you require a notice they are leaving? Can you evict them without notice? What are the laws in your state or Province?
If you are a primary Lessor, do you have written consent from your Landlord to Sublet/lease your apartment or a portion of it?
Abandonment - If a roommate leaves without notice. How long do you have to legally 'store' their property before it is considered abandoned?
Lock and key replacement - can this be taken out of the security depeosit? How is the security deposit utilised and how long do you have to return it if it isn't used?
These are just 'some' of the things you need to consider and discuss before handing over keys to a potential roommate!
You can make any rules you feel will be necessary, but there are never any guarantees they will be adhered to.
Set aside one day a month (or more often) to discuss the rules and your living arrangements. If any changes or compromises are made, be sure to attach them as an addendum to your original agreement and be sure all parties, including a witness, signs them.
If it is not in writing, you have no legal recourse in enforcing rules or collecting lost expenses incurred.
Be responsible. If a potential roommate does not agree to your terms or refuses to sign the agreement contract, just smile and close the door behind them. That is a huge red flag that they would have been trouble.
If you aren't sure how to write up an effective contract, write your basic rules down and have an attorney write it up for you. It usually costs a small fee, but it is well worth it in the long run!
Make copies so you will have extras in case you decide to change or add a roommate.
Finally, look at it as a business venture and not as "Oh, this is going to be fun!".
Good Luck! --FJW