Finding a new place to live, whether you’re moving from a dorm to your first apartment or somewhere with your new BFF can be overwhelming.

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Photo: iStock/izusek.

Living independently for the first time will offer its fair share of surprises, including the challenge of living with others – and don’t worry – it’s common to feel a little nervous at the prospect of rooming with a friend. Remember that you’re not alone and expressing how you’re feeling is one of the best ways to avoid misunderstandings.

It doesn’t really matter exactly how you find your roommates: Everyone will come across the same types of issues – how to pay the bills, the way you’ll treat communal space and what behaviours are going to be acceptable. Mundane as the details might seem, they have the power to make or break your living situation.

Here are 6 tips for anyone preparing to rent with their friends:

  1. Never be the sole account holder

If your name is the only name on the lease, the rental is your legal responsibility. If your roomie leaves without paying their share, you can end up holding the full rental amount. Know this and plan ahead. Split up the tasks of setting up the accounts when you move in. Another method is to keep your bills in a visible place (such as the fridge) with the total amount and the due date written on the outside. It’s important to be transparent: As long as everyone is clear on who owes what and why, you run less risk of people getting upset.

  1. Set the ground rules for plus-ones

We’ve all seen this situation: A roommate’s man sleeps over every night for three months, but he won’t pay up because he “doesn’t technically live there” and the bills stay unchanged. It’s not really fair. Decide in advance how often a significant other is allowed to sleep over before they have to help out with the rent, and how everyone’s share of the bills will be affected. Even if you think this is unlikely to happen, discuss it with your roommate at the outset and put the decision in writing.

  1. Have a back-up plan

Make sure the people you think are moving in with you are actually moving in with you. It’s always a good idea to come with a contingency plan. Is there anywhere else you could crash short-term if you can’t find a new place before your old lease ends? Would you be happy to find a room for rent with strangers until your situation changes? Knowing the answer to these questions can save you from hastily making a bad decision if your plans change.

  1. Communication is key

No matter whether you’re going to live with your best bud or your partner, keeping your communication lines clear is the best way to avoid potential conflict. Be open and respect others’ opinions, including any thoughts they may have on the way you live.

  1. Keep your common areas clean

Moving out offers you a sense of freedom and adventure, but it comes with some added responsibilities.  A slob and a clean freak are unlikely to be a rental match made in heaven. It’s important to figure out what is an acceptable level of disarray in your common areas before your friend moves in.

  1. Know each other’s living habits

Is your friend a shift worker who will want to be up until the wee small hours partying while others sleep, or vice versa? Will they want to study whilst others don’t? Consider the practicalities of each persons’ living habits. You may be good mates, but you never really know a person until you live together.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help

NO matter if you’re moving for the first or the fifth time, renting can be a stressful experience for everyone. Check out our article on seeking help here.