How to manage multiple roommates (don’t miss the final tip!)

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With the start of a new year, you may be considering expanding your housing options to larger apartments that can accommodate multiple roommates. Whether you and your prospective roommates are all friends from work, school, or you’ve just met recently, it pays to work out your housing agreement before you start looking for that perfect shared home.

Or, if you’ve already moved in together and are beginning to feel the strain, gather your roommates together ASAP and discuss these five recommendations (and don’t stop until you work out answers to the following questions that you all can support!)

1. Decide who pays for what

In many apartment homes, landlords prefer a single rent check no matter how many tenants occupy a given unit. That means one of your group will have to take charge of collecting rent payments, depositing them into an account, and writing the combined rent check. You can set up a separate checking account for this, or one roommate can choose to be the payer for the apartment through their personal account, but this is a huge decision to work out ahead of time.

You’ll also need to establish how you’ll pay for shared expenses like electricity, gas, cable, and internet. Once again, if all of you will be splitting the costs, then you’ll have to get individual checks to the roommate making payments, in plenty of time for them to pay the bill! To make this process smooth and hassle free, consider setting up due dates and reminders either on your phones or in a central place in the apartment.

2. Identify the House Rules

Sharing space with multiple people can be a wonderful experience, but it can also become very stressful if there is no clear understanding of what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Don’t just assume your roommates understand your preferences! It’s best to lay everything out in writing so that everyone can sign off on an agreement of shared living space. Some areas to include in your House Rules are:

  • Kitchen Activities: set rules for things like food prep and clean-up, with a priority that no dirty dishes or open containers of food are left out. Nothing appeals to bugs and rodents more than food they can get to easily!
  • Noise: identify designated quiet times for the apartment—including entertainment streamed in your room. Chances are, your roommates can hear it!
  • Space: identify how to divide up space in common areas—kitchen cabinets, bathroom areas, closets, etc.
  • Chores: list all the chores you want to split evenly, and set up a schedule. Those could include doing dishes after a common meal, vacuuming, dusting, taking out the trash, etc.

3. Establish a Plan for unexpected situations

What happens if one of your friends needs a couch to stay on, or one of your roommates wants to adopt a puppy (and your apartment allows pets), or if one of your roommates decides to move out? You can’t predict everything that will happen, but you can set up a plan to handle it. For instance, you could establish a monthly meeting (maybe when you hand over your rent check to your designated payer) and use that time also to go over anything that needs to be discussed, such as any decision that will affect your living situation.

4. Be prepared to compromise

Living with multiple roommates can be an amazing experience, but you should know going in that you and your roommates are all very different people, with different expectations and preferences. By talking out as much as possible in advance, you can head off a lot of problems and misunderstandings before they begin! But rather than thinking of these conversations as opportunities for you to ensure you get your way all the time, look for ways that you can accommodate others’ preferences. That will often make them far more likely to accommodate your preferences as well.

5. Most important of all: Communicate

Nearly every failed apartment-sharing situation has its roots in faulty communication. Don’t let yours be one of them! Set regular times for you to check in with your roommates (even the shy ones!) and make sure everyone is on board with the house rules as well as unexpected changes. Things WILL happen that will require you all to work together to maintain a happy living situation, so expect it! By keeping the lines of communication open, you and your roommates can handle just about anything.

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