LIVING WITH ROOMMATES FOR THE FIRST TIME
If you’re like most people, you’ll probably end up living with roommates when you first leave home. You and your best friend may have even gotten accepted to the University of Florida and decide to be roommates in an apartment in Gainesville, FL. Whether the experience is something you enjoy or simply endure depends on how well you communicate before you start living together.
To head off conflicts, sit down with your roommates and discuss your concerns. As you resolve each one, make notes, then draw up a written agreement that each roommate can sign. That way everyone will know what’s expected. Here are some typical issues you might want to consider.
- Noise. What’s acceptable when one of you is studying or sleeping? Is it OK to have music playing or the TV on? If so, how loud can the sound be? What about noise from people who are visiting? If noise is a concern, you might want to set limits, say, no TV, music or visitors after 10pm on weekdays.
- Messiness. Dirty clothes on the floor, dirty dishes in the kitchen, gobs of toothpaste in the bathroom sink. They’re a way of life for some people; for others they’re as irritating as a nail scratched across a piece of glass. To prevent problems, set some limits for the common area of your apartment, and leave a little flexibility so the guilty party doesn’t feel oppressed. For example, you might write a rule that says the person who dirties the dishes has to clean them before the end of each day. That gives the person some flexibility to do the job when he or she wants to.
- Borrowing. It’s one thing to share space with roommates, another to have the person mooching your food, your clothes, your hairspray and shampoo. Define limits at the beginning. Maybe you want to simply say that nothing can be borrowed without first asking permission.
- Money. When you’re sharing costs for rent, utilities, common supplies and such, it can be a pain to get everyone to pay their fair share – and to pay it on time! One solution: Open a joint checking account and have each person contribute an equal share to be used for common bills.
- Music. It might seem petty, but if you love top-40 and your roommate is into hip-hop, you’ve likely got a conflict brewing. One solution: Try alternating CDs so each person gets a fair share of the sounds they like.
- Lifestyle differences. If one of you is an early riser and a roommate is a night owl, what can you do to keep from disturbing each other? Maybe you’ll want to establish a block of time each day when you both agree to limit noise.
- House Rules. What, if anything, is acceptable in your apartment? And how will you handle things if someone who’s visiting starts violating house rules?
- Overnight visits by a boyfriend or girlfriend, or others. How often are they OK? And if the visitor is spending more time at your place then theirs, should he or she be required to contribute toward the rent and other costs?
- Cleaning. How will you divvy up tasks like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming the carpets and taking out the trash? How will you make sure the work gets done?
Try to calmly work through these issues and others you may raise, and come to agreements before tensions flare. If you still run into problems, agree to speak up and let the other person know in a nice way. And feel free to ask you apartment community for help. Many communities have a person dedicated to resident relations, who can help mediate disputes.
You may have known each other since grade school, be best buds and decide to room together in an apartment in Gainesville, FL but you and your roommates should still create a roommate contract to protect your rights. Otherwise, you could end up facing financial problems if the relationship goes wrong.
What goes into a roommate contract? A basic agreement will detail each person’s specific share of costs for such expenses as rent, utilities, security deposit and other fees. It also should make clear that if a roommate moves out early, the person (or the person’s parents) will remain accountable for rent and common fees until he or she is replaced.
UF’s Dean of Students Office provides a sample roommate contract on-line. To check it out, go to http://www.dso.ufl.edu/offcampus/pdfs/Roommate%20Agreement.pdf.
With Apartment Hunters’ help, you’ll have a better chance of finding a roommate whose lifestyle is compatible with yours, whether you prefer cooking together at 2am after the clubs close, or grabbing a quick bite bright and early before heading to school.
Printed with permission of Insite Magazine.