When money is tight, it's not unusual to start thinking about splitting the rent with a roommate. In fact, even homeowners sometimes get roommates to cover the cost of bills, expenses, and the rising cost of property taxes. A roommate is another adult with their own source of income who can help you cover household costs while possibly sharing some expenses like meals, transport, or child and pet care.
Getting a roommate can be one of the most sensible and even rewarding financial decisions you make this year. However, as the countless roommate horror stories on the internet will tell you, this is also a decision you don't want to get wrong. The wrong roommate will drive you crazy, damage the property, fail to pay rent, or just eat all your food without buying more. The right roommate will help you with chores, take turns buying groceries, and maybe even become a friend.
So today, we're here to share six practical tips for choosing a roommate to split the rent with.
1) Start With Family & Friends
The first place to look for a roommate is with people you already know and trust. Not to mention people you know you can stand to live with. Check to see if your close friends are looking for a new or more affordable place to stay. If you're close with your siblings, check to see if they want to team up for a while.
Of course, if there's a friend or relative who drives you nuts, pass on that invitation. You already know that pairing may not be a good fit.
2) Prioritize Lifestyle Similarities
The most important thing to look for in a roommate is someone who shares your values and has a similar or compatible lifestyle. If you're a morning person, a night-owl roommate could become a problem. But if you're also up all night, a fellow night-owl could be a match made in heaven.
If you need a neat and tidy home to be happy, be careful about rooming with a disorganized friend. And if you sometimes leave laundry on the floor, be sure you're not pairing with someone who won't be driven crazy by that.
Personal values also matter, like responsibility for money, chores, or trustworthiness with your kids or pets.
3) Background Check Strangers
If you do decide to make a stranger your new roommate, it's worth it to conduct a landlord-style background check. For around $30 to $50, you can find out if someone tends to pay their bills on time or has a ton of pending debt. You can find out if your soon-to-be roommate has been evicted in the past or has a pristine rental record. You can also find out if your roomie has a criminal record worth mentioning.
While most people are likely to come up clean, you want to know before you share a home and bills with someone who is irresponsible or has a shady past. Of course, if something does come up on the check, you should also always give your potential roommate a chance to explain any special circumstances like medical debt or personal tragedy.
4) Ask to See Their Current Place
One interesting way to know if a potential roommate is really a good fit is to drop by where they're staying now. Take a peek in the kitchen to see if there are weeks of dirty dishes in the sink or shiny clean counters. Pop into the bathroom and discover if the cap is on the toothpaste or if there are clothes on the floor. A quick visit can tell you a lot about how someone you're about to room with prefers to live when on their own.
5) Clear It With Your Landlord
If you have a landlord, never get a roommate without telling them. This is a new resident in your rental home, and your landlord will likely want to get them on a lease. Subletting may be permitted in your rental home where you can become the new roommate's intermediate landlord, or you can get the roommate on your lease as a co-renter.
Just make sure that your landlord is aware of the new tenant and that they are satisfied that all legal bases are covered.
6) Get It In Writing
Finally, make sure to have your new roommate sign a lease that holds them to all the same responsibilities you are held to. Whether you sublet or share your lease, your new roommate needs to be legally bound to treat the house with respect, to take responsibility for any damage they cause, and to agree to the landlord's (and your) house rules.
If you sublet, you have the freedom to write an even more specific lease including rules you want to enforce with the roommate that may go beyond what is written in the lease with your landlord. You may include details like a pet limitation, a code of conduct, or even a requirement to participate in the chore rotation.
Getting a roommate can be a very practical plan for reducing your costs of living without reducing the quality of your housing. With a roommate, you don't have to move into an efficiency apartment or a shoebox home. But you do want to make the roommate decision very carefully. Only room with someone you know you can trust, and even so it's best to have them on a lease that holds them to the same tenant responsibilities (and grants the same tenant rights) that you have. For more everyday financial insights, contact us today!