This totally makes sense: forewarned is forearmed — especially if you have a roommate. Living with someone, much like moving in with a significant other, may just as well be called taking the plunge. Finding the right roommate is quite a challenge. It does not matter whether you’ve been friends forever or total strangers because the rules, expectations, and frustrations do not change. Those sit-down-let’s-talk moments are always awkward, bordering on creepy, but it always helps to have one. Loosen up, be honest, talk about habits, and deal breakers.
Before signing that lease or contract, here are the things to discuss with your potential roommate/s that will both save you sleepless nights, awkward moments, catfights, and mean status updates on Facebook.
Hey, what do you do again?
This is an easy way to start a conversation. Talk about what you do for a living — it’s impersonal, non-committal, and expected. While you are at it, you will get a glimpse on how much each one makes and whether you are both financially capable to pay the rent, utilities, and other expenses.
This will also give you both an idea on your schedule. It helps to know what time your roommate leaves your apartment or condo and what time he is expected to return. That way, you know when someone is home, when it is empty, and when it is best for you to do your more personal and private stuff.
Love it or hate it
Play a game of sorts and take note of each other’s favorites, pet peeves and deal breakers. If you share a bathroom, this is even more necessary. Find out how long does one take in the bathroom, is it okay to leave toiletries there, etc. You should also find out things like: is loud music allowed, can you crash on your roommate’s couch, can you borrow his computer, can you clog the DVR with Game of Thrones episodes, or lights on or off in the living room (or in your room if you are sharing one). Decide what things are communal.
Remember that some pet peeves are beyond our understanding but they have to be respected nevertheless. Among the habits you should watch out for are: slamming doors, putting feet up the table, leaving hair on the bathroom floor, loud walking, and so on down the line.
Mean to clean
As a rule, you both should agree to keep your place tidy. But if either one of you believes that cleaning is not necessary until living conditions are sub-human, then you are most certainly to have a problem.
You absolutely do not want to be like your mother reminding everyone to clean up their mess. Your roommate surely doesn’t want you to. So have a conversation about who is going to take out the garbage, clean up, when and how often. A chartered cleaning schedule posted on the refrigerator is not necessary. Just agree on a schedule and make sure you won’t skip yours. You may also just agree on having a cleaning lady drop by every so often.
Oh yes, the bills
This is a hard topic to discuss with your roommate but the sooner it’s out there, the better. Ideally, you split everything down the middle — rent, water, electricity, subscriptions, and association dues if any. If you use the air-conditioning or the heater more, maybe you should discuss that too.
Next question is who gets to pay them and how. Remember that bills have varying due dates so maybe it’s better if you split the responsibility of paying bills depending on schedule and availability. Another issue to be resolved is whose name should appear on the bill. Having one’s name on the bill poses potential hassle so be very careful and considerate about this.
Share the cart or not
Decide if you will chip in with the groceries or would rather buy your own. Getting on a basic budgeting checklist with your groceries will save you money. However, remember that sharing a shopping cart can spell trouble.
Among the signs that it is better to split it up are: if one is vegan and the other is not, if you have absolutely different tastes in food, and if one prefers eating out and the other one likes to cook. If you decide to do the groceries separately, it is a must to identify which items are fair game for everyone and those that cannot be touched.
Who let the dogs in?
If you are bringing a pet into the apartment, this should absolutely come up in the discussion. If either one of you is scared as hell of dogs or has a throat that closes up at the mere presence of cat hair, then you have every right to not welcome pets in your place.
Who let these people in?
Be courteous enough and let your roommate know when your family and friends are coming over. Even when your roommate says he is okay with anything, don’t believe him. No one is. Ask your roommate if he is comfortable with having other people around. Let him know how many guests are spending the night or the weekend and for how long. Remind your guests with house rules and what puts off your roommate.
When partying ain’t cool
Throwing parties is more complicated. Most people are cool with parties but parties inside your own apartment are a different story. Before you invite your friends, make sure your roommate is okay with every detail: friends, sounds, and booze.
Sex (or lack of it)
Roommates try not to talk about it but this private matter could just be the dealbreaker. In your most friendly tone, find out if your roommate has a significant other or have many others that are not very significant.
If you don’t discuss this, a girlfriend or a boyfriend might gain the same privileges without paying rent. It is best to get it out once and for all — how often will the significant other visit, will the significant other spend the night, etc.
Whatever you do, just be honest. Apartment living is best enjoyed with people you are most comfortable with, those you can talk to, and ultimately those you can trust with the most absurd things. For all you know, you may have bargained for a right roommate but end up with a best friend.
Our contributing blogger, Aby League, is a qualitative researcher and a passionate writer. She mostly writes about health, psychology, home improvement and technology. You can follow her @abyleague