Group House Living: Setting Up House Rules

You and your three friends have finally found a place to move in together, and everyone is excited about getting free of parents and dorm rules. However,  you realize very soon that a free-for-all is not going to work – you need to set up some house rules for your new place.  But how? So, everyone has non-negotiables, you need to know what they are, and go from there.

These are the types of items that typically go into house rules:

Money Matters

When does rent have to be paid. If it is late on the 6th then everyone should be required to hand over the rent money by the 3rd. Does one person deposit the money and write a check or get a money order for that amount? Who is that person? It must be someone who is on time and responsible. Same system goes for utility bills.


If there are certain times that your complex has quiet hours then that should probably be the limit set on parties. If you do not have quiet hours then set up a reasonable time for parties to end. How many guests are allowed at parties? You have to think about how many people can comfortably fit in your apartment. Even if your complex is cool with parties at some point rowdy parties get shut down. You don’t want to be known as the host that always overdoes it and everyone is asked to leave.


How often are overnight guests allowed?  How long can a guest stay? Is the guest allowed to stay if the host is not home? If groceries and food are shared, does the host have to pay for the guest?


You don’t want to be the roommate asked to leave, so make sure you are holding up your end of the bargain that all roommates have chores to do. So chores include grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, and cleaning the living room. Is there one person who loves cleaning the kitchen? Then the others will alternate the other chores. Is each chore always done by the same person on the same day? Is everyone ok without doing chores? If not, the apartment will become a mess, but you have to live with the decisions you make. If you want to keep your place clean make a chore calendar, so it is clear who is supposed to complete what chore and when. And decide what happens when people do not complete their chores.


If grocery shopping is one of the chores, everyone chips in for food. If no one goes grocery shopping, then you will probably eat way too much fast food and the food money goes to waste. There should also be a grocery list and everyone puts five must-have items on the list. No one wants to waste their time grocery shopping if no one eats the food. Maybe everyone shops for themselves or maybe it could be a group trip. Everyone would have to split the bill for the cleaning supplies, assuming everyone has agreed that you would like a clean place. (You should have already decided if you are going to have a clean place, just check back to the “5 Things You Need to Know about Your Future Roommates.” )

House meetings

In order to set up house rules, you must have house meetings. Set up a whiteboard on the fridge to let people list things for the meeting agenda. It could be things they are happy about or concerns they have. Plan the meeting once a month for a time when everyone is available. If things get chaotic, plan more frequent house meetings. It is important that you communicate with the people you live with about how the living arrangement is going, and if maybe someone has to leave or move on to other pastures.

When someone needs to move out

At some point if one person is not living up to their end of the bargain they have to move on. If they cannot pay their rent, do their chores, pay for groceries or utilities for two months it is time to begin looking for a new roommate. Make sure that is a very obvious agenda item in the next meeting. You may even need to call an emergency meeting for something as big as the rent. No one wants to go into debt paying someone else’s rent.

House rules help everyone know where they stand before any problems arise. By setting up house rules together you will have already thought of all the things that could throw a wrench in your Roommate Happily Ever After.

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Author My First Apartment

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Dana Kearney was born and raised in Oakland, Ca. and graduated from UC Davis. After moving away from home, Dana has lived in dorms, in a co-op, in apartments and more apartments. She spends her free time writing, reading, and designing clothes.

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