You might be reading this blog because you are a college student and I am a college lifestyle blogger. Being a college student is hard. If you’re just entering your freshman year, then you’re nervous and excited and a bundle of nerves. If you’re a returner, then you’ll probably be excited, dreading the course load a little bit, but overall happy to return. One thing is for certain: if you are living with a roommate, you’ll need a roommate contract.
A roommate contract is very simple. It’s a set of agreed upon terms and conditions that you are roommate will abide by for the duration of your living arrangements. This can be used for either living in the dorms or living in an apartment/rented house. In this contract you should also include consequences if the conditions or terms are not met. But why should you have one? You’ll be rooming with your very best friend from third grade. You don’t need to have a written agreement about living together.
You should have a roommate agreement whether you are rooming with said best friend or a complete and total stranger. This puts limitations on your behavior with someone you will need to get along with for the next several months. So if you have a habit of taking out the trash everyday and you’re appalled your roommate only does it once a week, you can hash it out via the roommate agreement without putting your relationship at risk. It can also be tricky and downright hard to live with someone in close quarters, especially a dorm room, so having that roommate agreement there to back you up if something is amiss can be a great weight off your back.
For example, you are uncomfortable with the opposite gender staying the night in your shared room. After talking about it with your future roommate, you agree that the opposite gender can stay in the room until 12 AM (because compromise is key), but must leave at that point and may not sleep over. One morning you wake up to find that your roommate’s friend ended up staying the night without your knowledge. Even if you’re rooming with your best friend or total stranger, just pointing out, “Hey, we agreed not to let any boys spend the night in our roommate contract. Per the contract, you have to clean the bathroom for the next month,” will make it so it doesn’t ruin your relationship while still allowing you to set and keep boundaries. If you’re uncomfortable doing that, then you can bring in your Resident Assistant, Hall Director, Community Assistant, or neutral friend to aid you in confronting your roommate for the broken rule.
And just as a side note, this goes both ways. If you break the contract, then you need to honor the rules and boundaries your roommate has set by apologizing, promising not to do it again (and mean it), and then completing the consequences written in the agreement.
There are several different things that you and your roommate should agree upon. From how noisy the room can get to the amount of guests you can have over at once and cleanliness and who gets what drawer in the fridge, there can be a lot to talk about. When making this contract, be honest with one another. If your really don’t like the lights on when you go to bed, don’t tell your roommate you won’t mind. It will just cause friction between you two.
And again, compromise. This is such a big one. In the example above about an opposite-gendered friend staying the night, maybe there was a sudden blizzard or tornado that required them to stay indoors for the duration of the night. Sure, it isn’t ideal, but be flexible and try to see it from your roommate’s point of view. One thing to do to help you compromise is to separately write up your own rules and regulations for the roommate contract, then bring those together and see what you agreed upon and disagreed upon and take it from there.
If you’re in an apartment/house and have to pay rent, make sure you have a WRITTEN AND SIGNED agreement from both you and your roommate, and have copies and PDF files saved on your computer of when you will pay rent and how much you will contribute each month. This can save you thousands of dollars in the long run if you accidentally room with someone who isn’t the greatest and is always late on rent (or flat out doesn’t pay it). In this legally-binding agreement, you should also include how you’re splitting the utilities if you have any. If your school has a legal department, see if they provide any housing or rental services free to students; my school does and the lawyer there will go over leasing contracts with students (FOR FREE!!) to make sure they aren’t entering into a bogus deal.
The consequences of breaking this contract can range from funny (have to run around campus like a chicken if you don’t take out the trash on your weekend) to more serious (next month’s utilities are all on you because you didn’t pay last month). The severity needs to reflect the rule that was broken. Make sure you talk about and agree upon the consequences as well as the rest of the contract before signing it.
Before you run and use all the wisdom I have bestowed upon you, I have included two resources below that can give you better ideas of what should be included on the roommate contract and will be very beneficial to you and your future roommate.
Her Campus: Her Campus, one of my absolute favorite blogs, has not only a free roommate template that you can look at and taper to your needs, they also include a post over why you should have one and certain things that you should talk about even if you decide against having written rules.
Prep Avenue: Prep Avenue has a basis for what should be in your roommate contract. It’s a simple guide on what you should include in your roommate contract. It isn’t as detailed as Her Campus’, but I like that it gives you the freedom to come up with your own ideas about each topic.
I hope you and your future roommate find this post beneficial and can use it to reduce any fights or arguments that will occur! Let me know if you find it useful in the comments below.