Need a Roommate? How to Find and Screen the Person Sharing Your House
It won't matter if you're saving on the rent if you don't get along with your roommate
As siblings through the ages can tell you, living with a roommate is not always easy.
There are advantages and disadvantages to opening your home to one or more people. Perhaps the biggest advantage is saving on the rent or, for homeowners, bringing in extra income.
Don't let this blind you to the things that could go wrong. Think it through before offering up your extra bedroom.
How to Get Ready for a Roommate
- Figure out a fair rent payment
- Get official paperwork drawn up
For many people, saving money is often the main reason they're thinking about getting a roommate in the first place. But you won't save if you don't figure out a fair price to charge. Sometimes you can just split your rent or mortgage payment in half, but this doesn't always work.
The amount you charge should be based on how much of your apartment or house you're willing to share. Are you letting them use every room or just one bedroom and a bathroom?
When it comes to utilities, think twice before putting "all utilities included" in your ad. Your roommate may use one or more utilities so much that the amount you save on the rent or mortgage is canceled out by the utilities bill. Split them 50/50 or divide them up based on the space the person is using to make sure that doesn't happen.
Always, always, always have a written agreement in place when you have a roommate, including—and especially—when that roommate is a friend.
If you base your living situation on an oral agreement and the other person doesn't pay, there's little you can do about it legally. Get everything in writing before the move.
How to Find a Roommate
If you don't know anyone personally who's looking for a place to live, start with your network. Post your vacancy on your social media networks. Ask friends and family if they know anyone.
- Personality compatibility
- Rules are (not) made to be broken
- Perform a background check
Sometimes roommates become best friends. Sometimes they don't. You should make sure that your personalities are at least roughly compatible before you sign on the dotted line.
Think about your personality? Do you prefer to go to—or host—loud parties? Are you a bookworm? Somewhere in between? Your roommate doesn't need to share all of these traits, but their schedule and habits shouldn't mess up yours.
Get together with the prospective roomie beforehand and get to know them. Talk about your lifestyles, personal preferences, and habits so no friction comes up unexpectedly.
When it comes to living situations, the landlord's rules are not made to be broken. In fact, the consequences are often harsh if they are. Establish your ground rules and make sure the other person knows about them and is willing to follow them.
Are you okay with pets other than yours? Smoking? Loud music in the early hours?
When you write your ad, clearly state what's okay and what's a deal-breaker. Include the rules in your written agreement, too.
Appearances can be deceiving. Criminals can seem like the nicest, most personable people you've ever met. Don't let yourself be taken advantage of or—worse—hurt by a roommate.
Do a credit check. Ask them to provide at least two months' worth of current pay stubs. Remember, if your roommate is late paying the rent even once, you still have to pay the entire mortgage or rent.
Also do a criminal background and sex offender check on each applicant. This will cost you, but protecting yourself and your home is more important. Each applicant should be willing to provide you with written permission to do a background check; if they don't, take them off the list.
Finally, call their references, employer, and any previous landlords and roommates. This may seem like overkill, but if another person is going to be sharing your living space, you need to know as much about them as possible.
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