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Although settling into one’s own apartment after college often marks a new chapter, exorbitant rentals have many people seeking roommates to offset the costs.
Following 2020’s coronavirus pandemic, renting is cheaper than owning a house in three-quarters of the United States. However, renters are also paying a year-over-year increase of 13.6% for a two-bedroom unit, according to Realtor.com’s 2022 June Rental Report.
While having a roommate provides plenty of benefits — rental assistance, shared housework and company — living in tight quarters may lead to unwarranted conflicts. Unfortunately, resident advisors (RA) are no longer available to assist in finding solutions to common cohabitating challenges.
Living together doesn’t mean roommates must become best friends — but it does require respectful communication, compromise and adhering to one another’s boundaries. Here are four ways to deal with roommate problems effectively.
1. Create a Communication Strategy To Deal with Your Problems
A toxic roommate is enough to ruin anyone’s good mood. However, “adulting” requires an effective communication strategy to work through sticky situations.
The key to dealing with roommate problems is to cool off before approaching them. If you attempt to speak to your roommate while angry or irritated or if they’re in the middle of something important, they may feel ambushed. Instead, choose a time that fits everybody’s schedules for a sit-down.
Talking in person is also much better than email, texting and airing your dirty laundry on social media. In a survey conducted by ApartmentGuide.com, 72% of roommate conflicts were addressed through in-person conversations. The ability to observe body language and facial expressions makes face-to-face interactions preferable.
Actively listening to one another and coming into the conversation with solutions is a practical approach to mediation, especially since creating suggestions beforehand may open doors for mutual decision-making and resolves.
2. Develop a Plan for Shared Living Space
Landlords often have roommates sign a joint lease to ensure all parties are equally responsible for following the apartment complex’s rules and regulations. However, a joint lease doesn’t cover the basics of sharing a living space with another person.
Developing a plan and putting it in writing is a practical approach to protecting oneself and personal belongings. While it may not hold legal value, a comprehensive plan informs each person of one another’s expectations for agreeable living conditions. Items a roommate agreement might include are:
- Messiness and cleaning schedules
- Timely rent payments
- Pet policies, if your complex allows animals
- Handling sleeping arrangements and rules for guests, visitors and significant others
- Quiet hours
A roommate agreement might also cover the finer details of sharing living space, such as what temperature the thermostat should be on, rules for borrowing items and covering the costs of other essentials, such as groceries and utilities.
3. Address Problems Sooner Rather Than Later
While discussing roommate problems and disagreements is hard, waiting may worsen the circumstances and complicate the living situation even more.
Conflict management deals with rifts in a healthier, timely manner. Knowing that not everyone will always see eye to eye, it’s crucial to let enough cool-down time pass, but not too much time that tensions escalate and widen the divide.
Recognizing when a problem is developing and getting into the habit of addressing it early on is more efficient for shared living than not saying anything at all.
4. Set Hard and Soft Boundaries
Roommates who set boundaries have a greater chance of successfully cohabitating and respecting each other’s essential needs. Boundaries can be split into two categories — hard or non-negotiables and soft or aspirational.
Consider hard boundaries as needing immediate action with little to no compromise. For instance, a hard boundary might include paying rent on time every month or always asking permission to use something of the other person’s. Perhaps another hard boundary promises no large gatherings during the work week.
On the flip side, soft boundaries are a bit more flexible. Taking into account one’s communication preferences or decorating tastes are prime examples. A small apartment may not offer a lot of room for private conversations either. Agreeing to give each other much-needed space for personal calls and FaceTime — or quiet time in general — is essential.
It Takes Two to Effectively Deal With Roommate Problems
There may be a long list of problems that need addressing, but conflict resolution requires that both parties hear one another out and make the necessary changes. Living together means working together to ensure fewer problems.