10 Important Questions to Ask Potential Roommates

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Are you looking to find a roommate? What questions should you ask a roommate? You must be cautious.

While there are several reasons one might have a roommate, the most common one is to have someone to share the rent. By pooling your money, you may be able to afford a larger place in a better location.

Whatever the reason, choose carefully. You need someone whose lifestyle, hours and habits are compatible with yours. And don’t assume close friends make good roommates. Living up-close-and-personal can endanger an otherwise good relationship.

Here are ten questions you could ask a potential roommate.

1. What’s your typical schedule during the workweek?
Are you a nine-to-fiver? Maybe they work from home and plan to work out of the apartment. Do they like to party during the week? If they go to bed early, are you going to disturb them if you’re a night owl? Also, ask them when is there work week. Don’t assume they will work the same days as you.

2. What’s your lifestyle like during the weekend?
Do they spend time out with friends? Do they want to have parties? Do they have family in the area who will be dropping by? Maybe there’s a significant other who will be visiting on weekends. How compatible is all this with your weekend plans?

Also, discuss entertainment: What kind of music do they like? Do they spend weekends watching TV? Will they have friends over to watch sports?

3. Do you have pets?
There are several aspects to this question. If you have a pet or want one, you need to know if your prospective roommate is comfortable with that. Are there allergy problems? Just a personal preference not to have a pet? Similarly, if the roommate has or wants a pet, find out what kind of pet they want. If they want a cat or dog, you need to know what the rental agreement allows and whether there will be a charge or pet deposit. Even if the apartment allows pets, there could be a weight and/or breed restriction.

4. Do you smoke?
Having a roommate who is a smoker could be challenging. If you don’t smoke, then you may want to avoid the smell and second-hand smoke. You’ll also need to know whether the building you want to live at is smoke-free or not.

5. Do you have any food restrictions or allergies?
If you both expect to eat in a lot and share the cooking and kitchen privileges, then you need to talk about food. In case of religious restrictions or food allergies, see if you can agree on common ground that respects and protects one another. Do you like to cook a lot? Do you clean up after cooking or do you typically wait to clean up?

6. What are your plans for the next six months to a year?
Finding and interviewing roommates is a time-consuming job. Plus, if the rent is more than you can handle alone, going months between roommates could be a financial hardship. Therefore, it’s best to know how long you can count on a prospective roommate to be there.

Life can change unexpectedly. Work may lead to a sudden move. But at least have some idea of the person’s plans and intentions upfront. Discuss what would happen if either of you moves out and how much notice you each need to give each other.

7. How would you describe your cleanliness habits?
Unless you want to end up living like the Odd Couple, you need to talk about cleanliness. If you share the kitchen and bathroom, you need to know whether your prospective roommate will be piling plates in the sink for a week or leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor.

If you’re a neatnik, a slob will drive you crazy. If you both tend to be messy, see if you can commit to working hard to keep the common areas—kitchen, bath and living room—under control.

8. How would you like to delegate responsibilities?
While on the subject of cleanliness, you should agree on a plan to divide up the cleaning responsibilities. Maybe you can swap chores on a timely basis. Or perhaps you can find a division of labor that suits you both. If your prospective roommate doesn’t mind vacuuming, maybe you could commit to keeping the dishes washed and taking out the trash.

There are other responsibilities you need to discuss. For example, who will make sure the rent is paid on time? Who will be responsible for paying the utilities, the cable bill or, if needed, extra parking fees? And if you’re planning on sharing a house, what will you both need to do to keep the outside raked, weeded, groomed and, in winter, shoveled? If you’re renting inside an apartment building, this later part will likely be covered by the property manager. Check your lease.

9. Will paying the rent on time be an issue?
You need to have an honest discussion about income and ability to pay the rent. You may find a person who is ideal in all other ways, but if they’re always scrambling to come up with rent money, you’ve got a big problem.
Pro Tip: Find out how your landlord handles the financial responsibility divided between two or more unrelated parties. Are you both named on the lease or are you subletting? Be advised that if the rent is not paid, all of the individuals named in the contract could potentially have their credit damaged (assuming the Landlord obtains a judgment for non-payment of rent). That could be the case, even if you make partial payments. After that, you could have a stain on your credit history that follows you for years.

10. What’s your most significant concern if we go through with this?
Choosing a roommate is serious business. You’re going to be sharing many aspects of your life. Not only do you need to be reasonably compatible with your habits, but you’re trusting this person to pay rent on time, honor commitments and respect your personal property.

Now is the time to talk about anything you feel is critical. Share your concerns, and ask your prospective roommate to do the same. Air it all out.

There are no guarantees when selecting a roommate. But if you take the job seriously and dig down to the essence of the person you’ll be sharing space with, you have a better chance of success. Allocate enough time to interviewing. Outline your questions in advance. And if you think you’ve found the right person, consider spending some time together. Go out to lunch. Watch them interact with others. Just observe them for a few hours. You might be surprised what you learn. This article is just a start. There of course are other items you will want to address and research before deciding to room with someone new.


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