If you can afford to live alone, good for you. This article was written for those who need to split the rent and bills with a roommate. That’s not only an advantage of living with someone; people are often inclined to compromise just to afford to live somewhere.
There are some deal-breakers. Having the wrong type of person move in with you can be nothing short of devastating.
All you really need is a financially responsible person whose cohabitation values and habits align with yours. You can check if a roommate candidate is this kind of person by doing proper research and asking the right questions. Here’s how to properly research a roommate in a few easy steps.
Give It Time
You need as much lead time as possible, whatever the case may be, even if you’re urgently seeking someone. Sufficient time lets you interview several people, ask around, and make a decision without rushing. The rental market and your location may determine the amount of time to set aside.
Ask Around, use Social Media
Ask coworkers and friends, and you might learn they know someone who wants to move or whose lease is expiring soon. You can rely on a good friend or a reliable coworker’s recommendation. You can also look on Facebook. Most cities have special groups for roommate and apartment searches. Try a neighborhood association page, Nextdoor, or a college class page.
Know Your Deal-breakers
Before you begin to look, have a list of what’s most important for you. It might be financial responsibility if someone burned you in the past. Maybe you can’t tolerate someone who never cleans and cooks. Or you’re a vegan and don’t want to smell meat cooking. You’re allergic to cats or dogs. The list goes on.
Make a list of your non-negotiables and deal-breakers, and hold on to it as you interview contenders. It will help weed out people with a significant incompatibility. If you’re tied on two people, making a note of nice-to-haves can help you choose. An example is if they love cats as much as you.
Getting the Details
You want to perform a background check once you’ve gotten it down to three people. This is especially the case if you talked to someone already and something seemed odd, but you don’t want to reject them over a thing like intuition. Background checks and credit checks are good indicators of trustworthiness.
How to Collect Info
You need their name and current address as a bare minimum. It’s a good idea to have information about their employer. Financially reliable people are usually gainfully employed. Watch for red flags in responses when you ask what they do. Those include skirting the question, being unemployed, or having a series of short-term jobs.
Even if them having a criminal record is hard to imagine, never rely on first impressions when it comes to choosing a roommate. The local courthouse will have information about any crimes or lawsuits they were involved in.
The US government’s justice organization, the National Center for State Courts, will help you find the court department you need. For this, you require only their first and last name.
Scoping them out on social media is another option. Yes, it’s snooping, but posts can be telling of their personality, interests, and habits. You could check LinkedIn for information about their education and employment.
The Best Questions to Ask
Start by asking them why they’re searching for a place to live. You’ll probably get a reasonable answer like their lease has expired or they like your neighborhood. You might learn they had an argument with their previous landlord or roommate or even that they got evicted for not paying rent or the bills.
Here are some more helpful questions to ask:
- How long will you live here?
- What are your cleaning habits?
- Have you ever had roommates before?
- What’s your daily work schedule like?
- When do you get up and go to bed?
- How often do you cook?
- How much of the time are you usually at home?
- When do you shower?
- How do you spend your weekends?
- Do you have any hobbies?
- Do you have pets or pet allergies?
- Are you concerned about accessibility for any reason?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have any dietary preferences I should know about?
- How often will you have visitors over?
You need to know in advance if they throw big parties often or their partner is practically going to be living with them in your apartment.
Ask for References
Like any landlord or property manager, you have every right to ask a potential roommate for references. Ask to contact their previous landlord or roommate, even if you only want to see their reaction. If they can be trusted, they will give you the contact information.
Be Honest About the Bills
You’re expecting honesty, so offer the same. Don’t lie about the bills because they must know what they’re signing up for. Usually, utility costs are not set in stone, so tell them approximately how much they can expect to have to pay.
Set expectations for food costs if you’ll be splitting those.
Put Them on the Lease
Even if they seem trustworthy, their name should also be on the lease. If they cause damage or can’t pay their share, you will need legal protection. Make the tenancy relationship official.
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