Moving in with someone is a big deal whether they are a best friend, acquaintance, boyfriend or someone completely new! There are some key things to know about your new roommate before you move in that will help things go smoothly and make sure you don’t have any surprises!
Communication is Key
It is very easy to make assumptions about what your roommate was thinking when they left wet laundry in the wash or forgot to close the windows when leaving the house on a rainy day, but what’s even easier, is just talking about it!
Communication in any relationship is essential and the one you have with your roommate is no exception! The key to maintaining a healthy relationship with your roommate is to make sure that you can address issues while they are still little.
Both you and your roommate should set a precedent that nothing is off limits to talk about when one or the other is frustrated about something in your living environment. If you are worried about not communicating something properly, don’t be shy to write it down first. Most fights originate from simple misunderstandings and it is easy to jump the gun when you’re stressed with school or tired from a long day at work so make sure you are always ready to listen and stay open minded.
Respect each other’s privacy and personal space
Treat your roommate just like you would want them to treat you! Remember that even though you share a common living space your rooms are still your private space. Even if you are best friends, it’s a good idea to ask first before you borrow a shirt, extra pair of socks or even used their computer for the afternoon. If you maintain a mutual respect for each other and your things, you are a lot less likely to have disagreements or build tension at home. If you ever feel like you are having problems with setting ground rules for personal space or privacy, revert back to tip #1 and talk about it, it can’t hurt.
Here are some things that you can avoid disagreeing on later on by talking about them before you move in together!
1. Who is bringing what?
Maybe you both have everything you need to move in or maybe some purchases need to be made. Bedrooms are fairly simple as they are private areas to furnish, however a kitchen or living room can sometimes get complicated when both roommates have nothing to contribute or they both have a lots of furniture. Make sure that you talk before moving day to determine if there are any necessary purchases to be made or if someone will have to store items or sell before hand. When making purchases for the home, try to avoid dividing costs of individual items and have one roommate buying a table, the other buying a TV etc. This way when you won’t be living together any more you won’t be forced to buy each other out, remember the prices of items you bought or split objects.
TIP: Use our ‘’First Move Checklist’’ tool to help you.
Does one or both or you smoke? You should come to an agreement as to whether or not you want to allow smoking in the house, including situations where you may have visitors over who smoke.
3. Lifestyle & Habits
What is a daily or weekly schedule like for you and your roommate? What are normal hours of coming and going? Are you both working full time or in school? Different lifestyles could mean conflicting schedules or make it hard not to wake each other up etc. Does your roommate like cooking meals late at night? Do they have an early morning workout session planned in the living room? Are you both late night partiers or like to have people over often?
4. Borrowing or sharing
What is off limits for borrowing or sharing between you and your roommate? Are you okay with lending them a shirt, your iPod, or laptop? What about shampoo, laundry detergent or other consumables? These are all little things that are important to agree on ahead of time.
5. Bills and other expenses
It is normal that expenses such as hot water, electricity and rent are divided equally amongst roommates however there are other things to consider. You may or may not choose to equally split costs such as groceries or internet depending on use or preferences. You should consider whether both roommates put their names on bills or if one will reimburse the other. It is a smart idea to set a routine for when payments will be made, who will be responsible for paying which bills and from which account the payments will be made so you can avoid cheques bouncing or lack of cash flow.
TIP: Keep in mind that whoever’s name is on the bills (hydro, internet, phone, etc.) is ultimately responsible for their payment and will have their credit rating affected negatively if the bill is not paid on time.
6. Space Allocation
If you are moving into a new apartment for the first time you will need to divide space between you and your roommate. The big decision is picking bedrooms. There are other considerations such as storage space, closets and bathroom cabinets. Some people try to find an apartment with two fairly equal size bedrooms. If this is impossible, you may arrange that one person will pay slightly more than the other. Other examples of when space allocation might change the way rent is split include the use of a parking spot, a private bathroom or walk in closet.
7. Ground Rules for House Guests
It is important that you and your roommate have the same expectations about houseguests and that you let each other know when visitors are expected. There is nothing worse than a roommate feeling uncomfortable in their own environment because an unexpected houseguest catches them off guard. Keeping communication open about visitors can also help overbooking the futon or extra couch because both roommates were planning on having someone sleep over. Make sure you also have an understanding on overnight visitors and when a guest turns into a third or fourth roommate; i.e.the difference between staying over 2-3 nights or weeks at a time.
8. Groceries and Eating Habits
Will you and your roommate be doing groceries together? If you have the same routine and tastes in food it might be easiest to buy food and cook together. If you have radically different eating habits then it is important to clearly divide your consumables or arrange purchase patterns and division of costs.
Who has a pet? Can they live in your new building? Is your roommate allergic? Also a smart discussion to have is whether or not during your time living together you are open to having a pet and if so who is responsible for its well-being.
Both you and your roommate will have keys to your apartment. What is your policy on lending a key to a friend, having an extra made to leave at a parent or neighbour’s house? Sometimes something as simple as how inclined you are to always locking the door when in the house, is relevant in your roommate relationship if you have different perceptions or needs for security.
11. Financial Situations
Your roommate’s personal finances are their business, however it is important to make sure that before making investments in new furniture, upgrading the internet or cranking up the AC that you are aware of your roommate’s financial situation. It is important to make team decisions when dealing with money so that everyone is comfortable with costs and never caught off guard with a grocery bill or unexpected fees you have to split. It is also nice to consider when planning activities together like ordering in, having a party or decorating so that no one feels like they are not contributing equally. Financial stress can cause anxiety and tension in any relationship. Don’t let it come between you and your roommate.
12. Divide Tasks
Beware the reality of up keeping a home. Taking out the garbage, cleaning the bathroom, sweeping, vacuuming and dishes all have to happen on a regular basis. You and your roommate should discuss who is responsible for what tasks or if tasks alternate. This way no one gets left with all the “chores” and there is no resentment created.
13. If someone has to leave
Before you decide to move in together, you should discuss what happens in the case that one of you leaves the apartment permanently or for an extended period of time. This can happen when one person gets a new job out of town or goes on a long trip. You should both know if the person staying will expect to absorb extra rent, if they are open to letting their departed roommate sublet their part of the rent and if so to whom, etc.
Understand what normal “noise” is expected in the apartment. Maybe your roommate is used to blasting music in the morning when getting ready or is going to watch TV until 3am. Leveling expectations before moving in together means fewer disagreements and fewer surprises down the line.
Remember to discuss all 14 items above. Enjoy!