Successfully Living With Roommates
Sharing a House
Savings for Singles
House Rules for Roommates
Can Friends Live Together?
To help both of us meet expenses, I'll be renting a basement room to a friend soon. She'll have a six month or one year lease covering rent and utilities. I have questions about sharing the laundry room and kitchen (neither of us are home enough to cook much), and wonder what details I haven't thought of. Can anyone share from their experience?
Discuss It First
Friends are hard people to rent to. It's not that they just take advantage, it's that things are not discussed in full detail before the agreement is made. Everyone has their own ways and things that may seem not a big deal to some really become a problem to the other person.
Things that should be discussed before renting to the friend is food, even though you aren't home enough to cook you still have staples like milk, coffee, bread, butter and those sort of things. Set a fixed price that you both put in the cookie jar each week for the staples.
If you're sharing a single bathroom you know that you eventually start using each others items. You need to put aside a small amount of money for necessities for the bathroom. Toilet paper, toothpastes, shampoos and things that one needs for personal hygiene items. I know it sounds stupid but trust me these things become an issue.
The issue of pets should be discussed. Over night visitors should be also discussed. ( how long of a stay from an overnight visitor makes him/her another renter). I rented to a friend who hid her boyfriend for 3 months. That is an added expense that you didn't calculate. If your living on a budget the extra showers and linen and food is a big deal.
I found that the most important thing when renting to a friend is to remember that it is a friend and to allow them their own space. All too often friends that room together get way too involved with each others personal situations. Just remember that you have a life now while your friend is not living in the same house as you and you should keep some parts of your life your own and allow each other the opportunity to grow as individuals and to be friends but friends with a special respect for each others privacy.
We shared a house for 3 1/2 years with a friend and never had any problems. Designate shelves in the frig (door also) for each person's belongings. Label items that might be placed in a community area (large milk jugs, etc) with a permanent marker.
As far as the laundry room goes, each person purchases their own supplies. Place a calendar in the laundry room to sign-up on or just designate one day of the week for each resident (you have Saturday, she has Friday). Sharing a living space can be beneficial, financially and spiritually. It is always nice to have someone to watch a movie or share your day with.
Talk About Money First
I had a roommate for 1998 in a 2 bedroom townhouse where we shared all but bedrooms. Please make sure to charge a deposit (even if it is a friend) equal to the amount of your homeowners/renter's insurance deductible. I walked in one day to a dripping ceiling where she left the upstairs sink on full blast and then went to work. Needless to say, I was not happy. This will give you the monies so you are not left to come up with them yourself.
Also, decide on splitting the utilities, or allowing for them in whatever rent you charge. I did a flat fee, plus long distance. I still ended up paying some of the phone, so either have a second line installed, or put a long distance code on your line [eg. pressing 01 for your calls and she pressing 02]. This makes things very equal, as she frequently called friends and I send e-mail or handwritten cards.
For the past six years I have rented bedrooms in my house to students from a near by university. It is an interesting, and rewarding experience. They have laundry and kitchen privileges. Some things that I have found to make this work for me are:
- I have a month-to-month lease I use. It is very clear that a room is being rented not whole house privileges. This permits me some privacy.
- After a young man ruined some pans in the kitchen, I began charging a $100 damage/cleaning/security deposit. This is cheerfully refunded when the renter moves if there has been no damage, and the room is as clean as when rented.
- Sharing a phone didn't work out. Each renter can have a private line in their room activated if they wish. Renters had the lines installed originally and now it is just a phone call to activate if the renter wants a phone.
- I ask that they clean the kitchen when they are finished cooking so it is ready for the next user, and not leave dirty dishes in the sink. This has never been a problem, the kitchen is always clean, and you can always find the dishes you need. You are not sharing a house or into group living so you don't want to get into all of the negotiating that is required. I have found that making expectations clear at the beginning makes for a smooth experience.
- Finally, I furnish the laundry soap. Cuts down on congestion in the laundry room, we don't have to worry about others using our soap etc. In addition, I supply toilet paper, cleaning products, paper towels, light bulbs, and all utilities.
Six Years of Experience
I have rented a bedroom and bathroom in my home for more than six years, and, luckily, to some very nice and amenable women. When I first started renting, my then-boyfriend had been a landlord for many years. I learned some things from him, and have developed some of my own techniques to make the roommate experience enjoyable.
Get Legal: Many stationery stores sell legally-correct rental applications and rental agreements for use in your state. Use these, even if (and maybe especially because) your renter is a friend. There's always the possibility that a friendship can turn sour, and legal agreements can help you sort things out. A legal rental agreement also spells out the terms for providing a 30-day notice if you want your renter to move, or if she wants to move.
Do Your Homework: Review the rental application and make sure that you are satisfied that your renter can, based on the information, pay the rent and meet her other obligations. One recent applicant for my space would have paid more than 1/3 of her monthly income, from a job to which she had to commute more than 20 miles one way, for the space. Since she also had a history of changing jobs frequently, I considered that this job instability, along with the high percentage of income she had to pay for rent, made a potentially bad combination, and possibly a short stay. I rented to someone else.
Define House Rules: Consider writing up some ground rules for who does what in the house. Who takes out the garbage? Who loads or unloads the dishwasher? Do you have some thrifty habits that you want your roommate to cooperate with, such as turning out lights and washing only full loads in the washer? What you do naturally in your house is not natural or obvious to a roommate, even one who may be your friend and have visited you in your house many times. What space and resources do you consider solely for your own use, and what can be shared? I have a short list that includes such things as locking the deadbolt and always wearing more than undergarments in the "public" part of the house. Then, I train my roommates about what's where and what's available to them and what isn't.
Then, sit back, knowing that you two have a firm foundation of understanding and agreement, and enjoy the financial and human rewards of having a roommate!
I've had several situations with roommates. The one solution that always worked was working out a schedule and posting it. By discussing it, and then writing it down, you can save a lot of misunderstandings. Here's some ways we did it:
- In the kitchen, clean up after yourself. Set a time and take turns to really clean the kitchen and the refrigerator. Cupboards and Frig: we divided them and marked them, to keep our stuff separate. If there was something we wanted to share, it was marked that way. Otherwise, we kept our food separate. Also, one roommate really wanted to be a Susie home-maker, and would make meals for us both....but not tell me, and was upset with me if I didn't show up! Talk about meals ahead of time!
- Set up a laundry schedule by days or times. Either purchase your own soaps, or work out how to take turns.
- To clean, we set up a schedule for any common areas. This was where some of the most difficulty fell. With a schedule that said person A is responsible to clean the living areas and person B cleans the kitchen/laundry areas, and then switch the following week or time frame, we eliminated the tension of who was doing too much work, and who wasn't.
- We took turns taking out the trash, but there would come the day that there just didn't seem enough trash to take out, and one would leave it for the next....and then we'd have to discuss what to do...so, depending on your trash level, set the turn to every other day or whatever.
- Keep communication lines open.
- And you need to figure out who is the "boss". Since you are renting the basement, then the friend needs to know that you have to be the "landlord". Make sure you have everything in writing, and have a plan in place in case there is ever something that comes up, like damage, back rent, whatever. After taking in the friend, it's very difficult to establish the landlord/tenant relationship. Set up the boundaries now. Also, what boundaries your friend wants in her privacy.
Use a Lease
To keep your friend a friend, I suggest that you both sign a contract, whereby your friend agrees to the lease and agrees to abide by the rules. You might want to establish rules whereby she has her own telephone line installed so that she is not always "borrowing" your phone.
Establish whether you want your mail collected (my former room-mate took it upon herself to open my mail until I put a stop to it). Agree to split the utilities, such as electricity, water and garbage (these items are too nitpicky to decide who used more or less than the other). If you don't decide ahead of time on these items, I can almost guarantee that they will turn into huge issues.
You'll need to decide whether you want to entertain friends, relatives, or boyfriends in your home. Establish reasonable hours/noise level that you can both live with. Determine what will be appropriate for the communal living areas. Do you want to see her sloppy boyfriend laying around in his boxers watching television? Or would you prefer separate television sets in your rooms so that you don't clash? Put these rules in writing into a contract that you both will sign. Make all of these decisions ahead of time and figure out if you can both live by these rules. If not, find another room-mate.
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Also In This Week's Issue
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