Welcome back to the MailBag, everyone. A couple of weeks ago, we dove into our very first advice topic and helped one reader with her question about “when to begin an out-of-state apartment search.” Today, we are taking a different route — we’re addressing several issues and many readers at once. Here’s why: Since My First Apartment first launched, we’ve had numerous readers come to us with many different questions, concerns, and sticky situations. The forerunner among them all has been how to to navigate conflicts with roommates. Whether it’s how to set ground rules about responsibilities, splitting the bills, and cleaning up messes or how to confront a roommate about his/her significant other, we’re never short on comments and emails from apartment-dwellers asking us for help addressing the awkwardness of apartment/roommate drama. So, that said, let’s talk about ways to prevent and respond to issues with your roommate(s).
When you move in with anyone, whether it be a group of your friends, strangers you’ve never met, your significant other, or even a family member, it’s imperative that you talk about ground rules from day one. This means sitting down and talking about how bills will be split, who will take care of what chores and who will handle certain cleaning duties, the overnight guest policy, what’s okay to do in the apartment (a.k.a throw parties, use drugs, etc.), and general all-inclusive rules about what each of you will and will not do. Tackling these sometimes awkward conversations early helps set a standard, so when issues come up later it’s easier to refer back to your agreement and talk about your concerns. In fact, to get started, we suggest you check out several blogs over in our roommate section. There’s all sorts of handy advice there for avoiding and facing roommate complications.
Obviously, we are aware that not all roommates are awesome and will follow the guidelines you set together at the beginning of your lease. In fact, from all the horror stories we’ve heard, it apparently happens all the time. If you end up in one of these situations, here’s our advice for confronting your concerns and complains with tact:
First of all, ignoring the problem WILL NOT make it go away. Actually, if you take the “maybe this problem will go away” route, your roommate will likely think you’re okay with his or her behavior and actions. If you’re not, then bring it up immediately. No, this doesn’t mean you attack your roommate with accusations and approach your roommate with a “ready for a fight” attitude. This means that you should collect your thoughts, come up with compromises and solutions, and THEN talk to your roommate in a level-headed manner. When it’s the first time, make it casual — order pizza, tell them you want to hang out and talk about some stuff, and then bring up your complains. We aren’t saying to sit your roommate down and then start listing everything he/she has done wrong or every rule he/she has broken — we’re simply saying to treat it like a open-dialogue; give your roommate time to speak and share his/her concerns too, offer solutions, talk about ways to compromise, etc.
If after many conversations, the situation does not improve (and is bad enough and your end lease date is far into the future), then we suggest looking for ways to legally evacuate the apartment or have your roommate evicted. This could mean subletting your room, consulting with an attorney, consulting your landlord, or talking to the local police if you suspect your roommate’s actions are illegal and all else fails.
Follow our tips about setting ground rules early, talking to your roommate in a tactful way, and hopefully you’ll never have to face the challenges of our last resort options!
Wishes for happy roommate living,
Audra & The My First Apartment Team