A necessary first step that comes with a new living situation is establishing a roommate agreement. Whether you’re moving in with your best friends or complete strangers, it’s impossible to know what everyone’s living expectations and preferences are unless you talk about it. It’s also important that everyone feels comfortable in their home.
Starting the conversation can be awkward. Especially when you’re living with close friends, you might be met with objections: “But we know each other so well!”
Even if you can usually read each other’s minds, you’re entering into a new contract together. It will undoubtedly present new challenges along with the awesome experiences you’re expecting, and a roommate agreement is a great way to be prepared.
Once you’re ready to write the roommate agreement, here are some topics to consider:
Conserving electricity and water is important, both for your wallet and Mother Earth. Discuss your expectations for things like the thermostat, air conditioning, and hot water, so everyone’s on the same page.
Health and Safety
Did you know that neglecting the lint trap in your dryer is the #1 non-electrical fire hazard? Use this section of your roommate agreement to discuss protocols for open flames like candles, accidents like broken glass, safe food storage, and of course, locking the door! Everyone should feel safe at home, and these topics can slip your mind until something happens.
Each roommate can keep their living space as clean or messy as they choose, as long as they’re not attracting vermin. But what about community spaces? How clean is each roommate expecting the kitchen to be? How often will you clean the bathroom, and how will you divide up the work? Discuss it before the messes start piling up.
Never assume your roommates are comfortable with a guest in the house, even if it’s a close friend or family member. Talk about different types of guests, how much notice you’ll need before their arrival, and any other boundaries before you start inviting people over.
While you probably covered this in the “Resource Management” section, it’s important to establish that rent will be paid on time with no exceptions. This is also a great spot to determine whether you’ll be sharing groceries, how you’ll split utilities, and your preferred means of settling debts.
It quickly becomes abundantly clear that everyone has different expectations for their living situation. Some things might transcend the categories above, so add a small section for these reminders. In our roommate agreement, the “Miscellaneous” section contains the “knock before opening a closed door,” rule, a reminder to ask before unplugging charging devices, and my personal favorite – “If you choose not to kill ants, spiders, or other pests, please relocate them outside.” It’s our solution to my crippling arachnophobia and my roommate’s incomprehensible affection for spiders.
This list is definitely not all-encompassing, but it’s a start! My house’s Roommate Agreement is a living Google doc with amendments, colors, and plenty of humor. It covers some serious topics, but making it our own helped break the ice and got us more comfortable talking about the tough stuff.
Adulting is, after all, an artful combination of responsibility and fun. So get down to business with your roommates, then order some pizza and gather round the Netflix for some bonding time!
Also published on Medium.