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What are Some Common Problems with Roommates?

Leaving a mess for others to clean up is a source of friction between many roommates.
Forgetting to replace used food items can cause roommates to quarrel.
Using common space for personal storage is poor etiquette for roommates.
Roommates sometimes eat each other's food.
Privacy can be a concern among roommates.
Noise, particularly while one roommate is trying to sleep is a common problem between roommates.
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  • Written By: Devon Pryor
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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Having roommates can sometimes be a challenging experience, and many people experience problems when living with others. It is common to have problems with roommates regarding noise, food, and space. It can be said, though, that nearly all of these issues are based on the lack of consideration of one roommate for another.

Generally, consideration is a quality in people that either does, or does not, come intuitively. In other words, considerate people usually have consideration for others simply because it seems like the best the thing to do. On the other hand, people who are inconsiderate of others usually don't think of themselves as such, and it can be hard to explain to these people that they are acting in an inconsiderate manner. Lack of consideration on the part of one or more roommates can cause major upset in the ambiance of a household.

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One of the most common problems with roommates has to do with space. In the shared areas of the household, problems can arise in terms of how much space one or another roommate claims for himself. For example, if there are three roommates, and three shelves in the bathroom, it would make sense that each roommate would keep his things on one shelf. A roommate who is inconsiderate will spread his things all over and leave no space for the others. This kind of space issue is often repeated in the refrigerator, the pantry, and other areas where each roommate needs an equal amount of space.

This brings up another common problems: sharing items purchased for personal use. Whereas roommates may share the cost and use of things such as dishes and electronic devices, there are certain things that roommates may decide not to share, such as personal hygiene items and food. The level of rigidity in this may vary as well. For example, if one roommate has run out of shampoo, it doesn't do much harm to use another's for a day or two. If one roommate has run out of milk, he might use another's milk for his coffee, and buy more the next day. Problems arise when one roommate excessively uses the items purchased by others and does not offer to replace them, or uses the last of something that does not belong to him.

Another common problem with roommates is noise. If each person in the household has a different daily schedule, it can be hard to coordinate a time for noise and a time for quiet. For example, roommate A might get up early for work, and roommate B might work late. Roommate A will probably disturb roommate B in the morning while getting ready, and roommate B will likely disturb the sleeping roommate A when coming home to make dinner. One roommate may want to study, and the other may want to relax and watch television or play music. One roommate may have friends over for a drink when the other is sick and trying to rest.

This is where the concept of negotiation comes in very handy. A discussion is the best way to express one's issues with the actions of the other roommates, and to negotiate a system that is convenient for everyone. Although not all problems can be overcome easily, having discussions can sometimes prevent an issue from becoming a major point of tension in the household. For example, sometimes the solution to a problem with space is as simple as verbally expressing the obvious. Although it may seem intuitive to one roommate that each of the three roommates should use one of the three shelves in the bathroom, sometimes it is necessary to point out this logical idea verbally.

Negotiating times for activities that are noisy and another time for activities that require silence can greatly contribute to the ease and pleasure of living with roommates. Another solution for the issue of food sharing can be to make a list of the things all roommates use, such as salt, pepper, milk, cooking spray, and other things that everyone uses. After all, it might be a little silly to have three bottles of olive oil or three boxes of coffee filters. A common list of items can be bought with an equal contribution of money from each roommate. This activity may also help to clarify those items which are not for common use.

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anon330291
Post 5

I let a friend of a friend move into an extra room I had with the understanding that the adjoining bathroom (the only downstairs one) would be kept clean and available for guests/drop-ins. It's not. This lady never leaves, she's here 24/7, which gives me little privacy.

I clearly asked her not keep any drippy cars on the property, so she had a her derelict car towed onto my driveway, leaking fluids for days, until I pitched a screamfest to make her get rid of it. She does pay her rent on time. To make her leave, I'll probably just move in with a neighbor.

anon210673
Post 4

One common problem I had with roommates in the past was unexpected and sudden moves. You might find a decent apartment for $800 a month and think "Oh, if four of us move in, the rent will only be $200 a month for each of us." That may be true for a few months, but then one roommate starts dating someone and decides to move in with that person without talking it over with anyone else. Now the rent per person is closer to $275 a month, but that still may sound reasonable and affordable.

Another roommate graduates from college and gets a job in another state. Now the rent is $400 a month, plus all of the other expenses are no longer divided into fourths. The lease isn't even up yet and already the rent per roommate has doubled. This kind of thing happens a lot when young college students or twenty-somethings decide to rent an apartment together, so it's important to make sure everyone understands their financial obligations to the other roommates and to the landlord if they move out before the lease is up.

Another problem I've encountered in a roommate situation is bad blood between former roommates. Sometimes an advertisement for a roommate will appear in a local paper and the tenant will seem like a decent enough person. His or her roommate has just moved out without much notice, and he or she can't afford to pay for the entire apartment alone.

You could move in right away and set up your living space, but then the other shoe will drop. The real reason the former roommate left was that he or she had a bad argument with the tenant and left in a huff. Now the old roommate has had time to cool off and wants his or her old space back. This can obviously be problematic for the new roommate, since the tenant didn't exactly inform them of the real situation. Since the new roommate's name may not be on the lease, there is often little legal protection if a former roommate wants to push the issue.

I'd suggest making sure that all parties in a roommate dispute were satisfied with the voluntary move-out before agreeing to become the new roommate.

icecream17
Post 3

Moldova -I understand that many people need a roommate in order to makes ends meet, but If you have not moved out on your own yet, but thinking about it it might be better to wait until you have the money to rent the apartment by yourself.

While having a roommate can be fun the endless roommate problems will make it a headache to deal with and could possibly destroy a friendship.

Unless it is someone that you are used to living with like a college dorm roommate or a brother or sister I would not opt for a roommate.

You can always rent a smaller studio apartment and save yourself some money and some headaches as well.

Moldova
Post 2

Anon35497- You bring up a lot of great points. Having a written agreement is crucial because you are bound to have disagreements and it is better to settle potential disagreements before they happen when you are both cordial to each other.

It is a good idea to look into a service that will help you find roommates online like Christian Roommates.

Many of these services screen those in their database but it is always a good idea if you are sharing the finances of an apartment to have a credit check and background check to ensure that the person is not only credit worthy but safe to live with as well.

anon35497
Post 1

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.

Renter's Insurance!

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 gonna be fun!".

Good Luck! --FJW

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