13 Critical Questions to Ask a Potential Roommate
Roommates can help with expenses, but it’s important to find a good match before making a commitment. These questions will reveal a lot about the people with whom you’re considering sharing your apartment.
Do you have a pet?
The rules at your apartment will apply here, but you also need to remember that IF YOU DIDN’T PAY A PET DEPOSIT or claim a pet when you moved in, you will have broken the rules. The apartment can make the person on the lease pay the deposit, pay any resulting fines, or move out . . . particularly if someone complains.
Are you in a relationship, and if so, what’s that person like, and how often do you see each other? What do you like to do together?
Don’t be squeamish about this. The lease is in your name, and you’re talking about your home, after all. You need to find out if the person you’re interviewing expects his or her partner to be sleeping over most nights… which means sharing your space at night and in the morning. Talk about limits you’ll both live by, and anything that makes either one of your uncomfortable. Problems areas might include noise, hours, language, cleanliness, food, or even politics.
What time do you normally get moving in the morning, and how late do you stay up?
If you’re a late sleeper, or an early riser, this could be the make-or-break question you ask a potential roommate. Ask it on the phone before you take time to meet in person.
How do you envision the whole kitchen / refrigerator / meals thing working?
If your new acquaintance just laughs, then you can expect zero help in the kitchen, no bonding time during meal prep, and the possibility of disappearing food without replacement. On the other hand, you might also get a great surprise, and discover you’re interviewing a wanna-be chef (in which case you should thank your lucky stars, and say you’ll be on clean-up duty). Talk about how to share groceries fairly, and how to share the refrigerator, and which equipment, if any, is expensive or requires special care.
What shows do you love to watch and how often do you watch? What about video games?
This one is HUGE. Quiet souls may not mesh well with video gamers who live and die by their X-Box. It depends on where the screens are, and how sensitive everyone is to volume levels. DVR recordings can help with late-night shows, but the best tool for in-home harmony is a great pair of headsets.
How do you relax at home in your free time?
Big difference between “playing my accordion” and “practicing yoga.” Find out if your potential roommate reads, cooks, works out, sews, paints, edits video, plays online games, plays electric guitar, roasts lots of Brussels sprouts, runs, practices tai chi, listens to head-banger music, or is rarely home. “Rarely home” can be a great answer, depending on when he or she might come back for sleep or fresh clothes.
How often do you think we should clean the bathroom?
The reaction you get to this question might say more than words.
How do you feel about friends hanging out… or staying for a few days?
If your cousin from another city likes to drop in a couple of times a year, will there still be room for him… and how will you feel about it if your roommate invites a friend or family member to do the same? What about a friend who comes by several nights a week? This could be tough in a small apartment. It’s a good idea to set limits on out-of-towner stays, keep a shared calendar to mark out-of-town visitors, and to reserve the right to ask someone to leave. But again, don’t set standards for your roommate you’re not willing to live by. You should also talk about what’s cool when you’re out of town and vice versa.
Do you have a way to pay for unexpected expenses or emergencies?
The nicest person in the world can become a real burden if they move in knowing they’ll have just enough money to cover expenses, but no funds for anything that goes wrong . . . because things go wrong. Make sure you won’t be asked for loans or to “float the rent” on a regular basis. Check with past roommates for references, if they exist.
Do you have any addiction issues?
Alcohol, drugs, gambling . . . you need to know what you’re getting into, so be brave, put on a serious face, and ASK. Many addicts come with baggage that’s tough on a budding roommate relationship. Addiction can affect harmony at home, as well as the bills. Also be sure to get on the same page about cigarettes, pipes, vaping, recreational or medicinal drug use, and the selling or storing of illegal drugs. (Remember, it’s your name on the lease).
Are you allergic to anything?
Cat hair, dog hair, down sofas, down pillows, peanuts… you don’t want a disaster during the interview or after someone moves in. Share your allergy issues, too.
What’s on your arrest record?
If they laugh, good. You want them to laugh, in a “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding” sort of way. If a sheepish look precedes a confession about public urination during spring break, you might still be okay. The longer the answer to this question, the less wonderful your prospects.
Do you like to keep the windows open?
Even something as small as a breeze can blow into a storm if one of you likes to keep the place wide open, and the other one hates street noise, pool noise, or allergens. Talk through your temperature tolerances.
Do you smoke?
You’ll probably smell immediately if a person smokes or not… but ask, just in case. And if you need to discuss where and when smoking can happen, then do it. If one of you is going outside to smoke, and the other one is always cold… (see #12).
What are some questions you would ask a roommate? Let us know below!