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There are a lot of exceptional reasons to live with roommates. Namely, splitting rent and bills for a two-bedroom apartment is often a lot cheaper than paying for a studio or one-bedroom space on your own. But living with a roommate you don’t get along with can be a terrible experience.
Even if you have your heart set on finding the Monica to your Rachel – a roomie who can also be your best friend and confidant – that may not be realistic. The most important thing when searching for a roommate is choosing one who's reliable. Here are six tips for finding a trustworthy roommate.
1. Ask your friends
It's pretty common knowledge that living with a friend can be risky. After all, what's going to happen to your relationship if you discover you're not compatible as roommates? But that doesn't mean the only other option is living with a complete stranger. A good way to find someone you can trust is to ask for recommendations from your friends or family members.
Start asking around and you may be surprised by how many come back with, "Oh, actually my co-worker may need a place to live," or, "I have a niece whose lease is ending soon." The best part? Even though you won't know someone personally, you'll be able to trust the recommendations of your friends and loved ones more than you would with a complete stranger.
2. Do multiple interviews
You should never offer a room in your apartment to someone after just one interview. Talk to several different candidates; then meet again with a few who seemed trustworthy and compatible. Make sure you meet the candidates you like most in person – meet them for coffee or drinks and chat for a while. That will give you the opportunity to get to know them a little better and keep your eye out for any red flags that may pop up.
3. Ask the right questions
While interviewing prospective roommates, of course you'll want to know about their likes, dislikes and lifestyle. These questions will help you figure out if you'd be able to coexist well. There are also specific questions you can ask that will give you insight into their trustworthiness.
First, ask what they do for a living. If they have a consistent job, that's a good sign of reliability. If they talk around the question, switch jobs a lot or don't appear to have one at all, that could be a red flag. If they're a student, this isn't necessarily a red flag, but you should make sure they have the income to afford rent and bills.
Next, ask about their recent living history and why they need a new place to live. Did they have roommates before? Did they get along with them? Are they looking for a new place because their lease is up and they like the neighborhood, or because they had a falling out with another roommate? Use your intuition to decide if they're being open and honest with you or giving you the runaround.
4. Be upfront about costs
Part of deciding whether potential roommates are trustworthy or not is making sure they know exactly what they're signing up for. Give them at least an estimate of what they can expect to pay each month and what your expectations are as far as splitting bills or food costs.
5. Ask for references
Just as every landlord or property manager will ask for references, you have every right to ask for references from your prospective roommates. Ask to talk to a previous landlord and roommate – often, even just a person's reaction to that question can tell you all you need to know about him or her. Someone who's trustworthy will understand and be totally willing to give you that information.
Remember: If you want to be extra cautious, background and credit checks are a very official confirmation of a person's reliability. If someone can't provide references, a credit check may be the way to go.
6. Make sure everything is in writing
No matter how much you feel you can trust your chosen roommate, it's important to get him or her onto the lease or into a sublease agreement. That way, instead of relying on trust, you both will have legal backup if one of you can't pay rent, causes major damage or does anything else that may make the other person financially liable. You'll both feel happier making it official.
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