Today, sharing houses or rooms is more of a necessity than a luxury. Why? The reasons are pretty obvious, aren’t they? The movement of professionals to big cities searching for better opportunities and the housing rental rates have been directly proportional to one another. This, in turn, has increased the cost of living by alarming rates in larger cities, forcing people to move in with roommates just so that they can afford the expenses now that they’ve been halved, while saving a little for future investments and emergencies.
Living with roommates in rental houses or rooms can be exciting and daunting in equal measure. When two people from very different backgrounds and lifestyles are thrown together, there’s bound to be friction. But when you don’t have a choice, you need to find a way to make it work so that house sharing is conflict-free. How? Let’s look at 10 things you can do to make the living situation as smooth-sailing as possible.
Ensure everyone has equal rights
According to landlord-tenant laws, if the names of all tenants are on the lease agreement, the rights and responsibilities of a tenant apply to all of them. However, if only one name appears on the lease, then the onus of the rent and tenant duties lies with them. So, even if others live under the same roof, they can shirk their responsibilities as tenants and walk out at any point.
Therefore, be sure to include both your and your roommate’s name on the agreement to avoid complications, both in the living situation and legally. Remember to protect your rights and that of your roommates so that you’re not held accountable for dominating the roommate relationship to get your way.
Keep track of and make timely payments
Technically, the rent and the utilities are to be equally split between the roommates, so it isn’t rocket science! Nonetheless, you shouldn’t be surprised to find a roommate who doesn’t get paid on time or never has sufficient funds to pay the rent and utilities.
To ensure that the financial burden doesn’t fall on you, discuss and note down the exact amounts due for both of you and their respective due dates. The trend these days is to have an automatic payment system set up so that the rent and utilities are directly transferred from your respective accounts into that of your landlord’s on the due date. This seems to be the ideal way to make the payments so that by the time your roommate decides to make excuses, the money’s already been wired to your landlord’s account.
In the end, remember to discuss energy conservation practices with your roommates so that you’re on the same page when it comes to using the thermostat and the AC in winter and summer, respectively. That way, you won’t get into a conflict over paying electricity bills due to over or underuse.
The rental house or room belongs to both of you since you pay equal rent, so it’s your collective responsibility to ensure that you keep it clean, especially the common areas, such as the kitchen, the living room, and the bathroom. Use your common sense and intelligence to understand how you’d feel if you walked into a dirty house and were forced to clean it up yourself.
So, how do we deal with the situation? Leave your rooms aside, because you can clean them on your own time. Discuss and find chores that need to be done and those you and your roommate can take turns doing. Even better, put up a magnetic whiteboard in a common space and create a schedule highlighting the days, the chores, and those who own them. That way, you can each take care of the house without being repeatedly reminded.
Discuss arrangements for sharing food or cooking
You may or may not want to share food with your roommate, and your roommate may feel the same way. Likewise, both you and your roommate may want to cook, but have conflicting schedules and can’t work in the kitchen at the same time. Confused? Talk it out with them even before you start living together to avoid unnecessary issues later.
There are some great ways to deal with the food-sharing and cooking situation:
- It may be wise to share a few everyday items, such as bread, dairy, and condiments. You or your roommate shouldn’t have a problem dishing out a few bucks to buy these because they aren’t pricey.
- Conflicts may arise as far as sharing fridge and cabinet space go. To uncomplicate matters, split the shelves equally between yourselves, and maybe keep a common one for the items you’re sharing.
- If creating a cooking schedule doesn’t work, see if you can use a time of the day when your roommate’s sleeping, busy with something, or is out somewhere, and take some time to cook your meals, preferably for the week. You save a lot of time for other important things, and you end up using ingredients without worrying about whether you’ll find them when you come back home.
- Remember to find time to do your own dishes once you’re done cooking or eating. Your dishes are your responsibility.
Leave common spaces in a usable condition
It’s not just critical to keep the shared spaces clean but leave them in a condition to be used later by your roommate, and it works both ways.
So, whenever you’re using the living room, the kitchen, or the bathroom, be sure to clean up after yourself, rather than waiting for your roommate to do the job. For instance, when you’re using the living room, don’t leave it littered with your stuff or leave the remote scattered somewhere on the sofa where your roommate might not find it. As far as the bathroom goes, remember to keep the bathtub clean and scrub the toilet bowl after you’re done using them. After all, if you’re not into cleaning, think about how you’d feel if your roommate decides to return the favour.
Set boundaries for noise and guests
It’s always a great idea to openly discuss what issues are likely to crop up before living together. It might be painful and awkward, but it can make your living situation more comfortable and peaceful.
Noise levels are a problem area, so keep your voice down when talking to someone, either on the phone or in person, when your roommate’s in the house trying to get some work done. Replicate the process while watching TV.
The other problem area is inviting guests to the house, including family members, friends, boyfriends, or girlfriends. Once again, talk it out with your roommate about the frequency and duration of stay of your loved ones, and everything can go wrong while they’re around. Take care of the concerns so that your roommate isn’t inconvenienced due to a temporary stay, and it impacts your relationship with them in the long run.
Finally, if you wish to have a party at home, check whether your roommate has any plans of their own or they’re fine with having people over. Introduce them to your friends and include them in conversations. Set an example so that you can expect the same behavior from your roommate when the time comes.
Set rules for having pets
Either you or your roommate might want to get a pet or even have one. Either way, while having pets is an excellent stress-buster, the onus of looking after and cleaning up after it lies with the pet owner, whether that’s you or your roommate.
Remember that you or your roommate shouldn’t have to live in a house that remains filthy, smelly, or chaotic because of a pet. Straighten things out through discussions and document a few key rules about having pets before moving in together.
Spend time with each other
Relationships form because of communication and break because of lack of it. Agreed? So what? So, set aside a couple of hours at least once a week, and do something together, even if it’s just lazing around over coffee. Since you both have to live in the same house, spend time getting to know each other, so it doesn’t feel like you’re living with a total stranger! Solving issues will become that much easier because your comfort level with your roommate will increase.
Some things you could consider doing together include:
- Cooking a meal. You can do everything from chopping to eating to cleaning dishes together! It’s a great way to break the ice and bond.
- Shopping for groceries. You both need these to survive the week, don’t you? So, hang out by shopping for groceries together.
- Getting a beverage. It’s ideal to bond in a different environment than what you’re used to living in. So, go to a cafe or a bar and share stories.
Consider issues worth fighting over
Your roommate’s just had the last of your bread that you’d kept to make a sandwich, and you’re mad! The usual thing to do is react and get into a fight with your roommate. But stop for a bit and ask yourself whether a reaction, followed by an argument, is the right way to go in this situation. If the answer’s no, then maybe the perceived issue doesn’t deserve your time or attention or isn’t worth losing sleep over. Perhaps it was a one-time thing. Check nicely with them and you might be surprised to hear an explanation you weren’t expecting.
If you find something taking away your peace and happiness, you might need to have a candid conversation with your roommate. Else, stop for a second and rethink the ‘issue’ before disturbing the balance in the house. After all, when you live with someone, a few compromises are crucial to survival.
Ask before you use your roommate’s stuff
It may so happen that you’re a little short on cash, so there’s a shampoo you wish to buy or a food item you want to consume but can’t. You see your roommate having both and are tempted to use them. Should you?
We can’t speak for others, but we believe if you want something badly, you should first work toward getting it. You want the shampoo? Ask yourself where you’re spending all your money since you’re sharing a greater chunk of your costs, and work on curbing other expenses. This will allow you to spoil yourself once in a while.
Even if these things don’t matter to you, ask for permission to use or consume their stuff. Would you like it if they used your items before checking with you first? And more importantly, if you’ve used up all of it, ensure that you replace it with the same product.
So, does house-sharing look scary anymore, or do you think you can handle it? Of course, you can. Be sure to respect your roommate. Regardless of the situation, behave with them the way you’d want to be treated. Remember that before being your roommate, they’re human beings with feelings and emotions. If you want them to empathize with you, ensure that you take the first step.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.