Avoiding Roommates from Hell

It’s kind of amazing, how many bad roommate stories are out there. Everyone who’s ever lived with someone seems to have one and few topics bring about the kind of unadulterated hatred and self-pity than those of horrible roommates.

Jezebel recently came to us, asking if we had any tips for how to avoid roommate strife that they could share with their readers and, yep, we sure did!  You should read the full social minefield article and also check out the over 400 bad roomie stories within their comments section.  Here’s more of our roommate survival tips.

How to handle roommate drama

“… I have never hated anyone as much as my roommate’s girlfriend!! The worst part is that my roommate is also family!!!.i hate her! It’s starting to effect my relationship with my cousin!!!! i hate her!! i hate her!! i hate her so much!!!!”

The above excerpt is from a comment to one of our most popular posts about telling your roommate that his girlfriend is a problem. It really shows how combustible relationships can get when roommates stop communicating.  In this situation, it sounds like this guy needs to talk to his roommate AND FAST, before things turn really ugly.  He’s clearly about to lose it and while sharing on a blog may sooth his anger temporarily, the only way this situation is going to get resolved is through dialogue.

How to avoid roommate drama in the first place

The best way to avoid roommate drama is establish ground rules from Day 1 while picking your best roommate match.  We actually have a roommate match-up checklist that covers most common conflict areas (Food,$, Visitors, etc), so that can be helpful when assessing.

Maureen Dowd wrote a column in the NYT this summer, stressing that social media roommate matching programs were detrimental as they don’t push college students to expand beyond their current social horizons.  It was like she forgot that college is one big mishmash of diversity and new experiences. We responded with a post titled, For the Love of God, Pick a Roommate That You Will Get Along With.”  Life’s hard enough without purposely living with someone who enjoys a different lifestyle than you.  So, clean with clean, messy with messy — and make sure that everyone has the same understanding of what those words actually mean. Also, set clear boundaries. Some roommates like sharing food and shampoo. Others prefer space.  Either works well as long as there’s open communication.

How to salvage a roommate relationship that’s going south

The first step in deciding how to handle roommate drama depends on just how bad the situation is — and whether the relationship is worth saving. Salvaging a relationship going south is delicate, and takes careful finesse. Admitting together (you + roommate) that there’s a problem is the first step.  I lived with a roommate who insisted on putting her name on post-its throughout the apartment (even her toothbrush! yuck!) because she didn’t want me to use her lunch Tupperware.  A brief chat, explaining her needs would have worked so much better. At the end of the day, trying to psychoanalyze why someone acts the way they do is exhausting and, in the end, not terribly successful.

As hard as it may be, try on to ask your roommate directly about your problem issue. It doesn’t hurt to order in some takeout and make it a more friendly conversation, if things haven’t crossed the border yet. Killing a roommate with kindness tends to work quite well on the road to compromise/getting one’s way.

How to protect yourself against deadbeat roommate

Kicking a roommate out if they aren’t paying rent is really, really hard, which is why it’s doubly important that you understand your roommate’s financial situation. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. But, understanding where rent money is coming from at the beginning of your relationship is vital. If you think your Craigslist roommate is spotty, be sure they have a guarantor. Sounds like a cold-hearted broker talking, but in this city of seven million, it’s often hard to know who’s reliable. Your landlord won’t care who pays the rent, as long as it’s paid, so it’s important to protect yourself.  If you’re not comfortable suggesting a guarantor but also aren’t comfortable with your roommate’s money situation, consider opening a bank account where both of you put an extra month’s rent and give access to an impartial third party. Think of both of these options like a roommate prenup. We hope you’ll never have to use it, but it’s there should the worst occur.

Got a bad roommate story? Spill below!

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Author My First Apartment

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I've lived in apartments in 6 cities (including 2 foreign countries). Does that make me an expert? As of now, my ceiling isn't leaking and I don't have rodents (knock on wood) -- so I'm going to say yes . . . but ask me again tomorrow:) These days, I'm enjoying life Chicago style, but my years in Brooklyn are never far from my mind. P.S. By day I work at Cars.com, but these opinions are totally, 100% my own.

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