Moving in with a new person can be a daunting task. At first, it may seem like overkill to go all Sheldon Cooper on your new roomie with a legal roommate contract. But if you live in an expensive city and are sharing a home with several people, a contract is a must. Even if you’re just moving into a campus apartment with your bestie, you may want to initiate a few roommate rules just to keep the peace. House rules for roommates are less about punishment or “keeping people in line” and more about making sure chores are divided fairly, everyone’s getting their basic needs met, and everyone’s on the same page about expectations. Putting a few rules into place from the beginning of your roommate relationship can ensure a smooth transition for everyone and make sure your living situation stays peaceful.
Scheduling in Fun With Adventures From Scratch
After you lay down the house rules for roommates, it’s time to schedule some fun adventures together! Adventures From Scratch: Friends Edition has been specially created to help friends form deeper relationships. It’s loaded with more than 50 spontaneous scratch-off activities that vary from at-home crafts to weekend adventures. Plus, there are helpful conversation guides. It’s the perfect housewarming gift for your new roomies!
Benefits of a Roommate Agreement
If this is your first time living with a roommate, you might think the idea of a roommate agreement is unnecessary and paranoid. However, take a minute to think about it. You all have your own silly quirks, standards of hygiene, and sleeping patterns. They aren’t going to naturally sync with your roomies. Even if you’re getting a place with your bestest friend in the world, there are going to be surprises. In order for everyone to have what they need to live comfortably, basic ground rules are a must, and it’s best if you have them from the beginning. Planning ahead can keep you and your mates from running into difficult situations and even prevent major blowups. There are numerous benefits to creating a roommate agreement:
- A real roommate agreement is a legally binding contract, witnessed by a third party, that can be enacted in court if necessary. This typically applies when one party has endured physical harm or monetary loss that should have been prevented by adhering to the roommate agreement.
- Roommate agreements keep everyone on the same page and fully informed of expectations.
- Creating house rules together allows each roommate to express concerns and ensures that everyone’s top needs are taken care of.
- Having rules in place from the beginning, while not full-proof, can stop arguments from occurring at all or provide a quick solution, as everyone has agreed to the terms in writing.
- Written roommate agreements help insecure or nervous roomies feel more secure about the situation.
How to Create a Roommate Agreement
In most cases, a roommate agreement should be drawn up in conjunction with your roomies, not imposed upon them. The easiest way to go about the situation is to propose to your roommates that you lay down some ground rules in writing so that everyone has their needs met. Arrange a time that works for everyone, and meet in a place that is comfortable and appropriate for intimate conversation. Take our list of suggested categories, and talk through the details you want to initiate. Add any topics that your roommates are concerned about, and talk through them. When everyone is in agreement, draw up the contract. You can find roommate agreement templates online.
House Rules for Roommates
Whether you decide to do a contractual (legal) roommate agreement or just establish some mutual rules, here are a few basic tenants to include. Remember: This is just a framework, and you should have time during your meeting for each roommate to add topics to the list and work on rules together.
1. Rent Payments and Security Deposits
In a normal roommate situation, your rent will be set by your landlord. But if you are the landlord and have taken renters to help pay the mortgage, you’ll need to line out how and when the rent is to be paid. You’ll want to include a payment amount, how it will be paid, who it will be paid to, a payment date, and what happens if the rent is late. This may include a fee.
2. Utility Bills
You will need to have in writing who is going to pay what bills. You can choose to split all bills evenly, but the utilities will still need to be in one person’s name. So what does that look like? Will the other roommates write you a monthly check for all the utilities, or will you collect cash as the bill comes in? It’s up to you, but decide in the beginning, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
3. Household Chores
Aside from money, one of the most common areas of contention with roommates is dealing with cleaning duties. It’s highly likely that your standards of hygiene are going to be different from one or more of your roomies. For a smooth transition, it’s best to set up a cleaning schedule for major tasks, like vacuuming, mopping, cleaning the bathrooms, dusting, etc. For other smaller chores, you may have different agreements in place. Maybe if one person cooks dinner, the others will clean the kitchen. Or maybe each person is responsible for cleaning up their own messes after meals.
However you choose to divide it, make sure the list is fair and agreed upon by all roommates. When there’s a lapse in the agreement (which there will be), try to be patient, and give some grace. People have bad days. Don’t be passive-aggressive about it, either. After an acceptable grace period has gone by, directly ask your roommate to please deal with the situation. Always apply the golden rule, and treat your roommates with respect.
4. Rules for Guests
You likely know your roommates—or at least have interviewed them at length. You likely chose to live with them, but you didn’t choose to live with their significant other, party friends, or family members. Coming home to a house full of uninvited guests at the end of a long day is the definition of frustrating. These people don’t know the house rules and can be a real nuisance. It’s a very common problem. While your housemate has every right to have company, as do you, it’s important to respect shared spaces.
You may include ground rules on how many people can visit, visiting hours, spending the night, and use of common spaces by non-residents. The most common problem happens with romantic partners. How many nights can they stay the night before they need to start chipping in for expenses? Having more people in the house will eat into the budget of all roommates, especially when they’re going through mutually purchased items, like toilet paper, food, etc. Having some rules about extra guests is really important, even if the only rule is that you’ll inform your roommate in advance when you’re bringing someone home, which is just common courtesy.
5. Quiet Hours
You may be living with someone who has a vastly different sleeping pattern, work schedule, or noise level tolerance than you do. The best way to avoid arguments about noise is to institute some basic rules on quiet time. For instance, no music in the living room after 10 p.m. You may place a limit on the surround sound level after a certain time or if all roommates are not in the living space. Most contentions in this area occur because one roommate just doesn’t realize their habits are loud or disrespectful. By laying out expectations from the beginning, nobody can claim ignorance.
6. Purchase of Mutual Goods
Who’s going to buy the food? Is everyone going to do their own thing, or are you going to shop together? What about toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and the Netflix bill? Since there are multiple ways to go about this situation, you may need to talk with all your roommates before the agreement is put in writing and decide what method everyone thinks will work best. Like all areas of a relationship, creating a roommate agreement that works for everyone is a matter of honest and open communication!
7. Borrowing Items
If you decide that each roommate will purchase their own goods, the next problem you will encounter is that housemate #3 forgot to buy laundry detergent, and they have no clean underwear. They’re going to want to borrow (or just take) your detergent. Once or twice is no problem, but what if it becomes a habit and flows over into other goods? You see how that could become very irritating in a hurry?
Lay out a procedure for borrowing a roommate’s stuff. It could be as simple as asking first, which sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s rarely adhered to. You could also keep a note system or log for when something is borrowed. You may even have a coin jar for each roommate, where you can throw in some change if you need to borrow toilet paper, etc.
8. Personal Space
In most housemate situations, you will be sharing a common space and have your own bedroom. An agreement should have stipulations about respecting others’ private spaces. Their bedroom is theirs, and yours is yours. Being a good roommate is allowing your roomies to have a personal space that fits their needs, as long as the smell isn’t permeating the apartment.
You will also need to consider personal space rules for common areas. For instance, each person gets a shelf in the refrigerator. Each person gets one cabinet in the kitchen for their food. Each person gets a shelf in the bathroom, etc. Nobody messes with the other person’s area. You may institute some guidelines for keeping these public areas tidy.
9. Common Space Schedule
In small spaces where you’re sharing a kitchen and bathroom, you might consider having a set schedule for shower time, dinner, etc. Obviously, there will be emergencies, but adhering to a schedule as much as possible keeps you or your roomie from being late for work!
10. Roommate Calendar
If you and your roommates like to entertain, you may consider having a schedule or calendar for the common spaces. That way, everyone knows when you’re throwing a garden party, having a movie night, or cooking a big meal, and they can make plans appropriately. Having a large visible roommate calendar is a good idea. You may even consider initiating a rule that all events with more than a few people have to be added to the calendar at least 48 hours in advance or whatever suits your group. Also, add doctor’s appointments, big work deadlines, or anything else that might affect your roommates.
11. Thermostat Issues
If you’ve never lived with a roommate, this might sound so trivial to you, but pretty much anyone who has had one before can attest that thermostats are a source of contention. There’s always that one roommate who lives under a blanket while the miser of the group refuses to pay a high heating bill. You might consider having a set agreement for all seasons and for daytime and nighttime temps. Set the thermostat on the agreed schedule, and then let it be.
If your lease agreement allows pets, you’ll need to create some rules around them. Take into account any allergies, safety concerns, responsibilities, areas of the home where pets are allowed, etc. Pets are part of the family for most people, and this can be a sticky topic, so approach it with care and an open mind.
13. Resolving Conflicts
It’s a good idea to have a formal way to deal with disagreements. All roommates should be involved. It should be at a time that is convenient for everyone. It should be handled quickly, within a day or two of the event. If the conflict is between two people, you may have another to be the mediator. It’s also not a bad idea to have a group meeting each month where concerns can be shared and problems addressed before they blow up.
14. Official Communication
With some roommates, you can talk until you’re blue in the face, but they won’t remember. Having an official communication system for important events is a game changer. It can be as simple as a texting app feed or a bulletin board that each roommate is responsible for checking. Any major events, quarterly bills, or concerns should be documented in writing so that everyone can refer back to what was said.
15. Moving Out Early
The last major point of interest in your roommate agreement should be how you will handle someone moving out early. Life happens, and major events can change the course of someone’s life on a dime. Alternatively, sometimes things just don’t work out between roommates, and it’s best if one person moves out. Clearly line out the process, including how much notice is required. Document when and how the security deposit will be returned. Will they need to find a roommate replacement or pay for an extra month?
The hardest part about forming house rules for roommates is approaching the initial conversation. The best way to handle the situation is to be honest. Express that you have everyone’s best interests at heart. Acknowledge that it may seem extreme to some people, but explain the benefits of such a system. Genuinely take all roommates’ concerns into consideration, and draft your agreement together. When done in a manner of common courtesy and mutual respect, everything generally plays out smoothly.
If you’re moving in with a relative stranger, take some conversation pointers from “Questions to Ask Potential College Roommates.”
To add a little fun to the mix, check out “The Best Activities and Games to Get to Know People.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Setting ground rules with roommates should be done in person, as a group. Each member should have the right to suggest concerns, and rules should be agreed upon by all individuals.
It’s easier to prevent major issues in the long run if you have a written agreement with roommates detailing the specifics of quiet hours, rules for extra guests, cleaning duties, and sharing of bills.
Getting to know new roommates involves engaging in targeted, meaningful conversation along with incorporating fun activities that focus on bonding and adventure.