Living with another person is never easy, but with rents increasing in many cities, it may be a necessity. Whether your roommate is an old friend or a stranger you met off of Craigslist, it can be hard to avoid conflict. Anticipating problems before they erupt can help keep your home life harmonious. Here are some of the top roommate disputes and how to handle them.
1. Rent & Utilities: Paying rent and utilities bills in full and on time is a must. If your name is on the lease, you can be responsible for the rent if your roommate won’t or can’t pay it. If your roommate is having trouble paying the rent on time, make sure that s/he understands the severity of the situation. Show him/her a copy of your lease, which is essentially a contract. The landlord can take you and your roommate to court if the rent goes unpaid.
If you don’t know your roommate well or have doubts about his/her ability to pay the shared bills, consider drawing up a roommate agreement, which can outline rent and other payment responsibilities, a system of chores, how much notice to give before moving out and any other issues you want to lay out up front. Verbal agreements are easily forgotten. This written document that you and your roommates sign will remind you to what you have all agreed to.
For tips on drawing up a roommate agreement, visit eHow’s article.
2. Dirty Dishes: The sink takes up relatively little space in an apartment, but it can be a source of real trouble. There are many different approaches to doing the dishes. Some people refuse to let them pile up, washing each dish as they use it. Others prefer to tackle an entire sinkfull at a time. The best way to avoid roommate fights over the dishes is to discuss expectations early on. You’ll be less likely to leave a plate in the sink for a day if you know how much it drives your roommate crazy.
What should you do if your roommate is the messy one? First, assess the situation. Is the problem the occasional glass or plate left in the sink during the workday, or does your roommate regularly leave piles of food-encrusted dishes for days at a time? Does s/he have a hectic work schedule that limits when s/he can wash dishes? If your roommate is making a real effort to keep the sink clean and is guilty of only minor transgressions, give him/her a break. You may find that when you have final exams or friends come to stay for a weekend, you’ll be guilty of the same thing. On the other hand, if your roommate plays video games while his/her dirty dishes overflow on to the countertops, it’s best to say something. S/he may have forgotten how much neglected dishes drive you crazy.
3. Social Issues: Other roommate issues can arise over different expectations about guests, significant others, and parties. Decide with your new roommates about what is acceptable and what is not. Can overnight guests stay on the couch for a few nights or will they be expected to get a hotel? Will your boyfriend or girlfriend’s frequent visits make your roommate uncomfortable? What is unacceptable behavior for a guest at a party? If you feel that your roommate has already crossed your line, be tactful when you explain your problem. Issues regarding friends and family can be especially sensitive. If the loud party your roommate threw last weekend upset you, identify exactly what bothered you. Was it the number of people? The drinking? The noise? Perhaps the party wouldn’t have been a problem if your roommate had consulted you first. Let your roommate know some things s/he can do next time around to make you more comfortable.
4. Property Disputes: Nothing can make you feel more uncomfortable in your apartment than knowing your roommate is using your things without your permission. Again, issues with personal property should be established early on to prevent disputes. It’s common for roommates to share dishes, utensils and kitchen appliances. While it’s your right to keep your kitchen belongings to yourself, you’ll have to make yourself clear. Your roommates probably will assume that they can use your blender and your steak knives. On the other hand, toiletries, clothing and other items you might keep in your bedroom are generally off limits. If you think your roommate has been exploring your closet or shoe rack, make your expectations clear. If the problem continues and you don’t want to live with a lock on your door, consider getting a new roommate.
5. Early to bed, early to rise? Different work and school schedules can mean that you and your roommate wake up and turn in at totally different times. This may be a good thing if it helps you avoid needing the shower at the same time. However, problems can arise if you or your roommates make too much noise while the other is sleeping. If there is a conflict over noise, the roommate who needs his/her sleep should generally win out. It’s reasonable to expect quiet in the late-night or early morning hours. The same expectation does not apply to weekend afternoons or Tuesdays at 7 pm. If your roommate regularly demands silence at these unusual times, you may not be the best fit for each other.
In general, most roommate fights can be avoided with a little foresight and an honest discussion. Nevertheless, a roommate relationship is not a marriage. If the arrangement is just not working, you can part ways. There is probably someone out there who will better complement your schedule, quirks and expectations. What are some problems that you have encountered with roommates and how did you solve them? Add comments below!