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Why you need a roommate survival guide

Why pay over 50 percent of your income on rent when you don’t have to? Imagine paying only 25 percent of your income, or less? What would you do with the extra cash? You can easily cut your monthly living expenses in half by getting a roommate. Follow our Roommate Survival Guide to discover how to create a good roommate experience.

You may have heard roommates from hell stories, but bad roommates are avoidable if you take precautions and prepare for a good experience. Many actually enjoy living with a roommate over living alone.

Use our Roommate Survival Guide to help you learn how you can save money by having a roommate, how you can find a good roommate, how to get along with a roommate, and what to do if things don’t work out. We can even help you understand your legal responsibilities to your lease.

For many people, living with a roommate is an essential part of survival to afford a good neighborhood and stay out of debt.

Roommate Survival Guide: Roommate statistics

Increasingly, more people are living with roommates due to financial challenges. COVID-19 caused the numbers to soar even higher in 2020.

Having a good roommate experience starts with finding a good roommate. It is important to keep an open mind when looking for a new roommate. Sometimes your best friend or sibling may not be the best choice. Sometimes a casual acquaintance, a differently gendered person, or even one in a different age group might be a great roommate for you.

To find the best roommate for you, you need to look at your preferred lifestyle and what you want your home life to be like. Do you prefer a quiet evening at home or do you like to have friends over often? Is it tea and yoga at 6 am or sleeping in till noon? Do you work from home and need someone who can respect your boundaries? Once you figure out how you want to live, look for a roommate who can support your chosen lifestyle.

Economic factors alongside the world-changing pandemic have increased the number of people choosing to cohabitate. Many people of all ages are deliberately choosing to create co-living households. You should be able to find a good roommate who not only fits your lifestyle but who will also help you save a lot of money on living expenses.

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How much money can I save by getting a roommate?

On average, people live with a roommate for six years before buying their own home. This means, you can potentially save over $60,000 during this six year period.  This type of savings can help you save out of debt and save for a home.  

Living expense per monthAverage costSplit cost
Average rent 2-bdrm$1900$800
Electricity$50$25
Gas and heat$50$25
Internet services$60$30
Renters insurance$20$10
Total Savings$890

Saving nearly $1000 per month is a great incentive for getting a housemate. For some, it may not be a savings scenario, but a necessary situation to be able to afford a nice apartment in a much-sought-after neighborhood. And for others, it helps them afford the things they enjoy, such as traveling or expensive hobbies.

If you have decided to find a new roommate, you may be wondering what kind of questions you want to ask people to help you find the best roommate. Finding a new roommate is almost like a mixture of finding a life partner and finding a business partner. Your well-being and financial success partly depend on them, so it is critical to find the right match. 

After you describe to a potential roommate the apartment, how expenses will be shared, and the general terms of the lease, you’ll want to ask them a series of filtering questions based on your preference for a roommate. Such as,

  • Can you describe to me a typical workday for you? And a typical weekend?
  • Do you consider yourself to be social and outgoing or introverted?
  • Will you be working from home? If so, what hours?
  • How long have you been working at your job? Do you feel that it is stable work?
  • Do you smoke, vape or drink?
  • What are your cleaning habits?  Would you be open to having a chore chart?
  • Do you have allergies or a special diet? Would you want to share groceries?
  • Do you have pets?
  • How do you prefer to solve conflicts?
  • How long do you plan to stay in this apartment?
  • Do you have references? 
  • What do you consider your ideal living situation?

These are starter questions that will likely lead to an extended conversation. Take time with your interviews. Make sure to schedule enough time to get to know your potential roommate. There is no reason to rush the interview unless you meet someone and right away know — nope. You’ll want to conduct these interviews in person rather than by email or text, so that you can learn more about them through their mannerisms and body language. With good preparation, you should be able to find the perfect roommate.

What is the best way to find a roommate

Before looking for a roommate, the first thing to do is to sit down and define what you want in a roommate. It helps if you think about your lifestyle, what bills will be shared, and general housemate rules. This information will help you find a roommate that is compatible with your lifestyle.

You can find a roommate by,

Reviewing your contact list
Make a list of those you would consider living with and reach out to them directly. Your friends may not be looking for a new roommate situation, but they might be.

Using your networking skills
Consider contacting those in your groups, such as your book club members, gym class buddies, co-workers, or former classmates.

Visiting social media housing groups
You may be able to find social media groups of those who are looking for or offering housing in your area. However, it is not recommended that you put up a general post on your social media because you’ll likely get unwanted responses.

Searching online roommate boards
You may be able to find a good roommate using services such as Craigslist, RommieMatch, Diggz, Roomster, Roomie, or Roommates.com. Most sites are free to use.

Related article:

How to find a roommate

Questions to ask potential roommates, search apps, roommate agreements, and how to avoid conflicts.

Once you have found a roommate, you’ll need to decide on how you plan to divide and pay the mutual bills. Bills that most roommates share include, heat, electricity, internet, streaming subscriptions, HOA fees and cable TV. Some also share the cost of consumable goods like toilet paper, cleaning supplies and paper towels. If diets vary greatly, most choose not to share the cost of food unless it is a special event such as a summer BBQ that you are both hosting.

You’ll also need to decide how the bills will be paid. You may decide to pay each other using cash, a mobile app or by direct bank deposit. When bills are due is another detail you need to figure out. Some decide to settle up weekly or monthly.

Related article:

How to split expenses with roommates

Learn how to fairly split mutual expenses such as rent and utilities.

Should I move in with my best friend?

Moving in with your best friend may seem exciting, and it works well for many renters. But like most living arrangements, it does come with challenges. You’ll want to carefully consider the pros and cons of living with your best friend.

Living with your best friend pros:

  • Unlike living with a stranger, you already care about each other and can be supportive and empathetic.
  • You already know them, including their financial history, lifestyle choices, temperament and trustworthiness.
  • Best friends are like family. You should feel like you are coming home to a safe place where you can be yourself even after a bad day.
  • You have someone you like to hang out with to make daily activities more fun like shopping, cleaning and preparing meals.

Living with your best friend cons:

  • You may find that 24/7 contact with your best friend begins to wear on your relationship, and conflict may arise.
  • Friends tend to be lenient with one another in terms of finances and house rules, which can quickly turn into a negative situation.
  • Challenges to your relationship may pop up if you want your private space, start dating seriously, or want to spend time with others.
  • Your friendship may be tested if either one of you experiences financial difficulties that pressure the ability to maintain the lease terms.

Pros and cons should be considered carefully before moving in. And, like any other roommate situation, you should establish house rules that you both agree to adhere to.

Related article:

Easy to understand roommate template agreement

Access a free roommate agreement contract.

Now that you have found a roommate, how do you ensure that you get along? Many roommates find success by creating and following a set of house rules. Early after move-in before any bad habits set in, you should set down with your new roommate and create house rules.

House rules should be built around what you and your roommate agree to be the ideal living situation. You and your roommate may be extroverted and social and want to have a home with guests, dinner parties, and fun events, or you may want a quiet home that is a nice respite from the outside world. Either way, build your house rules based on what you want your home to be like.

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How to establish house rules for roommates

Any group of people who live together need to follow a few house rules to get along. Establishing apartment rules for roommates helps housemates respect each other’s privacy, belongings, and work schedules. 

The first thing that most roommates establish is how mutual bills will be paid. While this may be considered the most important “house rule,” there are many other issues to consider. 

To establish good list of house rules, you and your roommate might want to consider:

  • How will the house chores be shared?
  • Will we establish quiet hours?
  • How do we feel about guests?
  • Do we need a bathroom schedule?
  • Will we share the grocery bill or buy separately?
  • What happens if we have a conflict?
  • What items will be shared?
  • Should we split the cost of consumables?
  • What happens if someone wants to move out?

Once you establish your apartment guidelines, you can print the list and post it in a community space, or to a private group page online. You may need to update the rules periodically, but it is important to establish them.

Related article:

Should my roommate be named on the lease?

If you are thinking about getting a roommate, you may also want to consider adding them to the lease.

Achieving success with your roommate is easier to obtain if you build a plan for how conflicts will be resolved. Even the best of roommates, will have to deal with issues from time to time. Perhaps one roommate’s friends are over most nights of the week and eats your snacks or one roommate is failing to keep up with their assigned chores and bills.

Despite your best efforts, sometimes things just don’t work out. Maybe your roommate has turned into a roommate from hell. Or, perhaps you simply don’t want a roommate any more or want to move your partner in. Whatever the reason, there may come a time where you have to ask your roommate to move out.

You will need to consult your lease as well as the local housing laws to make sure that you adhere to local housing requirements when starting the process to remove a roommate.

How do I ask a roommate to move out

Sometimes things don’t work out. Or, your life situation changes, and you may no longer need a roommate or you may want to move someone else in. Whatever the reason, you may be faced with having to ask a roommate to move out.

  1. Review the terms of the lease. Your lease will define why a renter can be evicted and what kind of notice may be required.
  2. If you signed a formal lease with your landlord, you’ll need to follow the lease and local laws. 
  3. If your roommate is not on the lease, you may be acting as the landlord and have to follow the local eviction laws. 
  4. Take time to try to resolve issues fairly. Have you discussed your plans?  In the long run, you are better off talking to your roommate and getting them to voluntarily move before taking legal action, which could get messy and destroy your friendship.
  5. Consider moving out yourself. Due to eviction laws, in some cases, it might be easier for you to move out after finding another person to take over your part of the lease agreement.  

Asking a roommate to move out is usually not easy. But if you communicate well and follow the local housing laws, you should be able to complete the process without trouble.

Related article:

How to deal with a bad roommate

Talking to – or getting rid of — a roommate

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Take this 2 minute quiz:

How good of a roommate are you, actually?

Roommate Survival Guide: FAQs

How do I get out of a lease with a roommate?

The first two things you’ll need to do is to review the terms of the lease and the local housing laws to see what your options may be. The next step is to talk to your roommate about moving out or having them move out. Then talk to your landlord. Your landlord will likely give you a few options to consider, such as moving out without penalty,  a release from the lease if you find a new renter, the option to pay off the rest of the lease, or the option to pay off part of the lease. 

How do I find a pet-friendly roommate?

If you have a pet, or many pets, you need to make sure that you advertise that when looking for a roommate. You may find some potential roommates who are pet tolerant but perhaps not animal lovers. When interviewing roommates, you’ll want to ask them a few questions about their experience with animals, and eventually, you’ll want them to meet your animals. If they also have pets, you’ll need to ensure that they get along. Ultimately, you are looking for someone who will be kind to your pets, even if you are at work or away on vacation.

How do I get a roommate background check?

In most situations, you can request a background check on anyone with their permission. If you are looking to review public records, you do not need permission. Either way, for the sake of the roommate relationship, it should be disclosed and permission given. You can use a service such as PeopleFinders or Intelius. To avoid potential legal issues, some choose to ask the potential roommates to supply the reports themselves.

Can I sue my roommate for breaking the lease?

Maybe. First, as always, review your lease and local laws. If your roommate moves out and leaves you left high and dry with a bunch of bills to pay, you may be able to sue them. You’ll need to prove that they had a legal obligation to pay those bills, and you’ll need to provide a record of them paying the bills. You may also be required to prove that you tried to resolve the issue using other means, such as a written request for payment. In most cases, you will file your case in your local small claims court.

How do I add my roommate to the renters insurance?

You may be able to add your roommate to your existing renters insurance. Or, you may need to start a new policy together. If you have an existing policy, you may need to log in to your account and add their information. The rate will likely not increase. If you do not have a current policy, look for an insurance company that can provide you with affordable coverage. You can easily start a new policy together and terminate it when needed. 

Do I need to tell my landlord about my roommate?

In 99.9999999 percent of the situations, yes. To know for sure, review your lease. The lease should tell you if you need to notify the landlord about someone else moving in and whether they need to be added to an existing or new lease. If you move someone in and do not tell your landlord about it, it could violate the lease and be cause for an eviction.

How do I get my security deposit back from my roommate?

The first step towards ensuring that you get your deposit back is to take pictures of your room and common areas before moving your things in. This way, you can prove if something was damaged before you moved in if an issue arises. If you have your own lease with the landlord, they will be the one processing your deposit payment according to the terms of the lease. Most leases require the payment to be sent within 30 days. If you have a lease agreement with your roommate, they will be the one processing your deposit payment. To help keep a record of your communications, send a formal security deposit refund letter. If you have a dispute, try to get it resolved on your own. If you cannot solve the dispute and it goes past 30 days, you can file a claim in your local small claims court.

Can I pay rent using my credit card?

Many like to pay rent using their rewards cards as a simple way to earn reward points. While some landlords do not accept credit card payments, they may use an online payment system that processes cards or they use a credit card payment processor in the property management office. If your landlord does not accept credit card payments, you may want to consider using a third-party app such as RadPad.

Should I pay my roommate’s rent if they can’t?

If you are the only one on the original lease, you are responsible for paying the rent regardless of your roommate’s financial situation. In this case, you may have to pay it to avoid late fees or eviction. If your roommate has their own lease, they are responsible for their part of the lease agreement. If you want to pay the rent for them as a loan, make sure you can afford to even if they don’t pay you back.

We are here to help you become an informed renter and to save money. Check out these additional resources to help you meet your renting goals.

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