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Six Questions to Ask a Potential New Roommate

William Paid June 1, 2010 Renter Resources 2 Comments

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Your BFF and roomie is jetting off to Europe for the semester so you’re going to have to share your apartment with a complete stranger.  Your current roommate may be more interested in covering her share of the rent than making sure that you are safe and have a good roommate.

While this could be the making of a good Hollywood thriller,  avoid the drama by asking the candidate a few not-so-simple questions.  After all, isn’t this situation somewhat like a job interview?  It’s not eight hours a day – it’s 24/7 and in your home.  Don’t ignore the warning signs or you could become a roommate horror story.

  • What is your means of support? Even if your old roommate is still on the hook for her portion of the rent, you are, too.  (There’s this annoying legal theory called joint and several liability that most leases have, making each roommate responsible for the full rent – and other financial obligations under the lease.)  Rent aside, there are utilities, food and other household expenses that this person will be responsible for.
  • Can I confirm it? If the persons means of support is a job, ask to call his boss.  After all, wouldn’t a landlord?  If parents will be supporting your new roommate, call them to confirm.  If there is hesitation, think twice.
  • Do you smoke/drink/do drugs? If these things matter to you, ask.  Don’t shy away because you are afraid of being perceived as ‘not cool.’  And, listen to the answer – if it’s “oh, a little” – follow up by asking what that means.  After all, this is your home.
  • Why are you looking for a place now? Find out why the person is looking for a place – is there a roommate issue lurking?  Did she not pay her rent?  If it is a weird time to be looking for a place to live – with total strangers, find out why.
  • Will you sign this? Get a roommate agreement and sublease, if necessary.  The roommate agreement, which addresses every thing from financial issues to house rules, will make things a lot smoother and can help ferret out whether you can (and should) live with this person.
  • Where’s your security deposit? Make sure that you (or your vacating roommate) receives a security deposit from the new roommate.  If someone isn’t willing to pay and/or be on the hook, they you should really think twice about whether this is the person for you.

Having a new roommate can be stressful, but it can also be a great way to make a new friend.  Just make sure that you are smart about it.

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About The Author

My name is William Paid, Esquire and I’m a serial personal butler with 40 years distinguished service, orchestrating exceptional living experiences for exiled kings, rockstars, supermodels, and even a few “young gun” Internet executives who are now woefully overleveraged and unable to employ my services. My role is to ensure everything runs smoothly for renters and roommates. I’m at YOUR service.