Renting with a Roomie? The Zen Guide to Sharing an Apartment Successfully
Deciding to share an apartment with a roommate is a big one! Whether you've been friends forever or are complete strangers, you can make your roommate sharing experience a positive and successful one with these simple – but often overlooked – tips.
The most important thing when you're sharing an apartment or house with a roommate is to understand the kind of changes it will have on your life. There are many advantages to getting a roommate, and saving money is a big one of course. Going at it the wrong way, however, can land you with the roommate from hell, and a lease that binds you together for the rest of the year or even longer!
So before you sign on the dotted line of your lease agreement, read this article to make sharing your rental accommodation a successful experience.
Deciding whether to share your rental apartment
Apart from sharing the costs of the rent, getting a roommate also means that you could probably look for a bigger rental in a wealthier part of town, or one closer to your university or workplace.
A roommate is also a warm presence when you come home, someone to share the cooking with, and if you get along, someone to go out with. Sharing the costs of renting an apartment with a roommate will leave you with more money to save or spend as you wish.
The disadvantage, of course, is that you have to compromise on nearly everything, including your privacy! Your lifestyles may differ, so if you're looking forward to a quiet night in and your roommate has invited some friends over for a dinner party, this could cause friction.
You may not have the same tastes in furniture or decoration for the common areas. You may not even have the same ideas about responsibilities for keeping the place clean, when to pay bills, or even what TV series to watch.
Of course, there are solutions to these issues. You can nip them in the bud before they start harming your peaceful roommate relationship.
How to find the right roommate for your rental apartment
So how do you protect your peace of mind as well as your credit rating when you share an apartment with a roommate?
A good place to start is friends and word-of-mouth. You can use social media like Facebook or Twitter to ask friends to refer you to good roommate candidates. If you're lucky, they'll refer someone they know well or have previously lived with, which will make the whole experience much simpler.
If the social route fails, try university campus billboards on online sites.
The next step is crucial. You need to ask the right questions when you have a prospective roommate candidate. Hanging out with a friend can be quite different from living with them and seeing them 24/7, so even if a candidate is someone you already know, don't skip the interview!
What kind of questions should you be asking? Try these, but keep it light and informal:
- How long would they like to share accommodation?
- Have they ever lived with anyone before?
- Why did they leave their last rental apartment?
- Do they have a job or enough savings to take them through the length of the lease?
- Do they have pets or allergies?
- Do they smoke?
- What's their work/play schedule like?
- How do you both feel about the significa nt other spending a lot of time at the apartment?
- How many nights a week do you plan on socializing (parties, dinners, etc.)
Protecting your finances when sharing accommodation
Another key to success is getting the landlord on board. The last thing you want is your credit rating to take a hit because your roommate is not as rigorous with rental payments as you.
So how do you protect yourself? Make sure both your roommate and your landlord are willing to assign individual leases, rather than a joint-lease. This way, if your roommate doesn't pay their share, the landlord can only hold them responsible, rather than both of you. Each province differs, however, so if you're planning on sharing accommodation with a roommate, consult your province's rental board first.
Obtain separate tenant's insurance, but try to go with the same insurance company to simplify your life and get a better deal.
You should also determine together how to separate or share the bills for utilities. Whoever's name is on the bill is the person responsible for the amount; the utility company won't care if you're sharing and your roommate hasn't coughed up their part yet – they'll expect payment in full or interest will be charged.
One way to make this equitable is for each of you to have your name on one bill, even if you'll be splitting the costs. Determine in advance how preferences for heating will affect the bill, and who takes care of the bills when another is away (do you continue to split the bill)?
Discuss the roommate guest policy and if they should contribute something if one of you has guests staying at your place often. Ask each other if you want to buy your groceries entirely separately or if there are some things you can share.
To simplify the sharing process, you can set up a virtual sharing jar for common items that you buy together or for bills. Try www.splitabill.com or www.billsarein.com. You can even find apps for your smartphone that track bills and items for roommates.
Roomie harmony in shared rental apartments
Roommates who've lived successfully together say that patience and respect are paramount to a harmonious roommate relationship.
Open communication is also key. Determine in advance everyone's responsibilities, and talk about accountability if one of you doesn't pull their weight with the bills or chores.
If you have to furnish your rental accommodation, then make sure each of you buys individual items (don't split the cost of a single item, in case one of you moves out, and for insurance purposes).
It's natural that the person who has the better room (bigger or with more sunlight) should pay a small premium.
If you want to stay in roomie nirvana, don't mess with each other's property or privacy. Put your agreements in writing to avoid any possible misunderstandings. Discuss potential obstacles to a good relationship in advance so they won't surprise you when you actually find yourself in that situation.
Lastly, just like you would resolve disputes with landlords, keep the lines of communication open with the roommate. If your relationship breaks down bring in a neutral third party to help you resolve your differences. Do everything you can to avoid breaking the lease and getting yourselves in a mess.
With the right person, commitment and effort, you're bound to have a very pleasant roommate experience. Remember it takes two to make a bargain!