Be upfront and friendly, right from the start
Usually, roommates are great. They help make off-campus living more affordable and they become your community. Ensure your roommate experience lives up to your expectations by following these simple tips.
It's your choice
- Have a clear list of priorities, requirements and deal breakers.
- Be upfront about quirks and expectations
- Take a look at the conditions of the apartment or house you’ll be living in – is it messy?
Talk, in person, regularly
- Plan time to talk to your roommate(s) in person every month to discuss issues and ideas. What is your idea of neat and clean? What annoys you? What are your study habits?
- Remember you might see things differently from others
- Ask questions and find compromises
Make rules & assign responsibilities
- Divide chores to share the load
- How will you split groceries?
- Will you have quiet hours?
- What is for sharing and what is private?
Keep finances separate
- Sign individual leases to limit your responsibility.
- If you cannot sign your own lease, make sure everyone’s name is on the lease.
- Rent payments should be secured with post-dated cheques for the duration of the lease.
- If you’re paying the landlord, make sure to cash your roommates cheques at least a week before the rent is due.
Choosing a Roommate
Things to Consider
Cleanliness – Most roommate conflicts occur because of differences in expectations around cleanliness and frequency of when chores and cleaning should be done. Agree on these expectations before you agree to live with someone.
Noise – This is another source of conflict. Do you need total quiet, play music 24 hours a day or something in between? Talk about it to see if you will be happy and productive with your roommates.
Visitors – What are your expectations about you and your roommates having friends over? How often? Extended stays? Overnights?
Sharing – food, sharing expenses, sharing kitchen items/furniture, cleaning products, your personal items (clothing, toiletries), and shared items (toilet paper, spices for example). Have a discussion, make some rules and stick to them.
Lifestyle – Do you like to party? Do you like to cook and share food? Do you prefer to get take-out? Do you smoke? Are you a rule follower? Do certain things make you anxious? What is your level and expectations around privacy? What are you expecting from the relationship (new BFF, just someone to pay half the rent? A cleaner? Your personal chef?).
Resources to help prevent conflict
- How to Handle 9 Typical Roommate Problems
- Consider a roommate agreement
- Consider a chore schedule. Here is an example, but there are others online:
Dealing with Conflict
- Learn your conflict resolution style
- Talk in person. Avoid using text. Definitely don’t post anything on social media about it
- Use “I” statements instead of blaming “you” statements
- Learn what being a good listener means and practice listening. Seek to understand their perspective
- Stay calm, be kind, assume they have good intentions
- Don’t swear, name call or have an emotional outburst
- Get support if you need it before hand
- Try not to address issues when angry
- Don’t involve others that are not part of the issue. (Landlords will not get involved in roommate conflicts).
Revisit Roommate Agreement. Treat it as a living document that may need revising and changing as the year goes on. Strive to have a win-win situation. You have agreed to live together, and you both want to be happy, so start there and see if you can come to a compromise or a place where you both feel your needs are being met.
Know when to call it quits.
- If you have been threatened, have been assaulted, fear someone you are living with, get immediate help.
- Check your rights by looking at Dal Legal Aid’s Tenant’s guide.
- Rely on supports available through Dalhousie such as the International Centre staff, Student Health and Wellness staff, Indigenous Student Centre Advisor, Black Student Centre Advisor.