Moving off campus? Tips for choosing a roommate

While most people have experience with roommates before deciding to move off campus, apartment living can present unique challenges to the roommate relationship. While questions of dirty dishes and space allocation may persist, off-campus roommates must also navigate issues of rent, utilities and leases. Whether you’re living with your best friend or virtual strangers, consider some of these points with your potential roommates before committing to an off-campus relationship:

Determine a fair way to divide rent - While many roommates choose to divide rent evenly, complications can arise when rooms are not equal in size or amenities. Some roommates are willing to pay more for a room with a better view or more windows, but be sure to discuss these issues before the rent is split. Consider having an objective discussion about the pro’s and con’s of each room before selecting rooms. Setting the rent for each room beforehand will allow tenants to consider their own budgets when deciding which room to select.

Discuss who will pay for utilities - Paying for utilities is one of the big differences between living on and off-campus. In addition to rent, most tenants will also need to cover bills for water, electric or gas, cable and internet. While some apartment complexes include certain utilities in the cost of rent, many expect these costs to be covered independently.

Not paying utilities on time can negatively affect your credit score if the utilities company reports delinquent payments and a negative entry from not paying your utilities could impact your payment history calculation, which accounts for 35 percent of your total credit score. Be sure to coordinate with your roommate about how utility costs will be divided and how you will ensure that payments are submitted on time.

Carefully consider who you add to your lease - Landlords operate leasing arrangements in different ways. Some may offer the option of choosing one roommate as the primary leaseholder with all other tenants considered subleesees. In this situation, the leaseholder has sole responsibility for upholding the lease agreement and can generally evict subleesees who do not abide by the terms of the lease.

Other landlords will require all roommates to sign on as co-tenants, sharing equal responsibility for the lease. If one co-tenant does not pay rent or breaks a rule, the landlord has the right to evict all roommates. If offered a choice, carefully consider which options best fits you and your roommates.

Keep the lines of communication open - Use the conflict resolution skills you learned freshman year! Conflicts between tenants are often inevitable, but the more thought that goes into planning and negotiating prior to moving in, the more comfortable all roommates will be. When problems do arise, address them calmly and directly.

Consider your phrasing–rather than addressing the issue in an accusatory manner (“You always turn your rent in late and you keep making excuses”) try talking about how you feel (“I’m afraid we may lose our apartment if we don’t get our rent in on time”). Since you can be evicted based on a single roommate’s actions, get the landlord involved only as a last resort.