Choosing a Roommate c

Choosing a Roommate

Living together in a roommate situation is an important part of your college experience. It takes commitment, involvement and work to benefit from school. These same qualities are needed if you want a good, productive relationship with roommate(s).

COMMUNICATION: It is important to talk honestly and openly with your roommate. In so doing, roommates can quickly come to an understanding of each other's needs regarding life styles and living situations. Mutual agreement at the beginning can avoid many problems in the future. Here are some suggestions of things you and your roommates should consider, discuss and decide together.

  1. RENT: How will rent be paid - one check or separate? What if someone is late? Can the roommate afford the rent? If your roommate doesn't pay the rent, you are legally responsible for their portion of the rent.
  2. SMOKING, DRINKING and DRUGS: If you are a nondrinker and your roommate is a party animal, conflict is inevitable. If these habits are evident before you sign a lease, there is no reason to believe that they will change come August. What about friends who smoke, drink or do drugs when they visit?
  3. STUDY HABITS: What is the academic situation of each roommate? Does your course work require you to study every day and, if so, for how many hours? When and where do you like to study? Do you need absolute quiet to study? Is someone on academic probation? If your roommate flunks out of school, you will be stuck with their rent or stuck finding a sublessee.
  4. GUESTS: How do you feel about each other's friends? How about overnight guests?  Where can they sleep? How often may they come? How long may they stay? How about parties--how often? Do you want any house rules? Who will provide food/drink? Who will clean up? 
  5. MALE FRIENDS/FEMALE FRIENDS: Are friends allowed to spend the night and how often? At what point do they stop being "overnight guests" and become additional roommates who must share in the rent and household duties? To become additional roommates, do they first need the approval of the other roommates?
  6. FOOD: Do any of you have strong feelings about food that will affect your roommates? Will you have household meals, or eat separately? How will you divide shopping, cooking, and cleaning duties? May one roommate use another’s food? If so, how soon must it be replaced or paid for?
  7. HOUSEHOLD DUTIES: How clean should the place be? Who is responsible for cleaning the areas that you share? How often? How should you divide up the work? (Under Illinois law, roommates are "jointly and severally liable" for damages caused to the premises as well as for the rent itself.)
  8. PRIVACY: What are each roommate's needs for privacy?
  9. NOISE: At what hour should loud noise end so roommates can study or sleep?
  10. SHARING and BORROWING: May things like stereos, TV's, kitchen equipment, bikes, and motor vehicles be shared?  Or are they off limits? Are there any rules about their use? May roommates borrow each other's clothes, books, CD's, etc? Must they get permission each time? Some people have trouble lending out stuff at all.  So be sensitive.
  11. SECURITY: Should doors be locked at night? When no one is home? Where will you keep an extra key? Should anyone besides the roommates have a key or know about the extra key?
  12. MOVING OUT: Is everyone going to be available to clean the apartment before you vacate? Should the roommate(s) who cleans up the apartment receive monetary credit for the work if others don't help?
  13. UTILITIES: How are utilities going to be paid? If some roommates have cell phones, will they continue to have access to a household phone? What about cable or internet service?
  14. ALLOW YOUR ROOMMATE TO BE UPSET: At some point, if your roommate is like most people, he or she will be angry, hurt or frustrated, or simply in a bad mood. A relationship break-up, an incident at work, or a bad grade can cause emotions to flare. Allowing your roommate time to calm down and deal with his or her problems can prevent making things worse and will help build a stronger relationship between you.
  15. WRITTEN ROOMMATE AGREEMENTS: It is advisable to write down the agreements you and your roommates arrive at regarding your living arrangements. This will help: (1) ensure that the agreement is clear and acceptable to everyone; (2) encourage roommates' commitment to them; (3) prevent faulty memory from causing disagreement about the arrangements; and, (4) provide a basis to enforce the agreements legally if necessary. Students' Legal Assistance, located in Campus Life Building 120, has a form available called Roommate Agreement for this purpose. Or, you may obtain it online here.