Let’s face it: It can cost plenty of money to keep a roof over your head, and housing costs are going up all the time. If you’re having a hard time covering your monthly rent or mortgage bill and swinging all your other expenses too, here’s a time-tested method for slashing your bills in half: get a roommate.
Even if the notion of doing this initially strikes you as unappealing, consider reading on anyway. This could be a potential answer to any money woes that may be weighing you down.
The following tips can help you choose a good roommate while protecting both of you financially.
1. Compatibility is key. Conduct an honest self-appraisal by asking yourself how assertive, flexible, sensitive, able to compromise and able to communicate you are. Also reflect on your habits, quirks, interests and pet peeves. This should help you recognize what kind of roommate you could tolerate – and vice versa.
2. Ask important questions. Don’t be too polite to ask your potential roommate questions such as: Are you financially able to pay your share of the rent? Do you consider yourself to be a responsible person? What kind of schedule do you keep? What kind of entertaining do you plan to do?
3. Put it in writing. It may seem like an awkward – or even an unnecessarily extreme – step, especially if your roommate-to-be is a friend, but it’s important to clarify how your bills and chores will be divided. You can find a sample roommate agreement at this Nolo Web site. You also can find a wealth of additional roommate-related advice here.
4. Make sure your written agreement addresses specifics. Specify who lives in which room, who handles which bills and chores, what must be done to get the security deposit back and how to proceed if someone must leave before the lease expires.
5. Your lease matters. Ifyou’re renting a place, take the time to read your leaseoverand understand what it means. Each of you can be held responsible for the entire rent, as well as any damage that occurs. What’s more, if your roommate turns out to be undependable or outright irresponsible, you can’t have him or her evicted. Only landlords can do the evicting.
6. Be upfront with your landlord. If a new tenant moves in, be honest about it. You might be tempted not to reveal that information, since the landlord might increase your rent or alter your lease terms. But if the new tenant damages the unit, you’re the one who stands to be evicted – and the one who could lose your landlord as a reference when you need to move on to your next rental.
7. Don’t put all the bills in your name. If you trust your roommate to pay a bill that has your name on it, and he or she pays it late or doesn’t pay it at all, guess whose credit rating gets damaged? Yours and yours alone. Put all the household bills in different roommates’ names so you each end up paying roughly the same amount.
8. Be especially wary about the phone bill. If you have a phone plan that doesn’t allow you to make unlimited long-distance calls for a set price, then this one bill can cause huge fights and even wreck relationships between roommates. To prevent this, make the switch to a more forgiving plan, or ask the phone company whether the roommates in the home can be assigned different codes for making long-distance calls. Or, you could forego having a land line altogether and each be responsible for your own cell-phone bills.
9. Figure out what to do about food. Another common source of contention: Fights over “food sharing.” It’s easy to feel annoyed over having someone else eat food you purchased. To avoid anger and confusion, address this issue in your written agreement.
10. Keep your senses about furniture. It probably isn’t wise to buy a whole bunch of furniture together. Instead, understand which piece of furniture belongs to which roommate at the outset in order to avoid problems when you go your separate ways.