Michael Hochman
dog and cat

The internet is overflowing with thoughts and advice on how to get along with your apartment roommate. There are thousands of words written about all the roommate rules you're supposed to follow. How to do this, how to resolve that, what you should put down in an agreement and what should be on your lease.

But what about good ol' mutual decency? We have enough rules in our lives. What we need is more common sense. How to live your life in a civil society, how to commune with your fellow man without being a jerk. There's what you have to do, and what you should do.

We want you to be a good roommate, not because of rules, but because of you. These are not rules – this is Roommate Etiquette 101, the path to being good roommates by doing what's right by others.

Be decent in the bathroom

bathroom mess

Keep the bathroom clean because nobody likes a dirty or smelly bathroom. Clean toothpaste and hair off the counter. Put your toothbrush and hairbrush away. No one wants to touch those.

If you pee on the toilet seat, wipe it up. If you back up the toilet, plunge it. If the toilet bowl needs attention, brush it. Clear your hair out of the drain in the shower. Don't take too long in the shower and be considerate of not using up the hot water when others are waiting.

And for goodness sake, replace the toilet paper when you use up the roll. Bonus points for putting it on the right way up, too.


Ask before you borrow

borrowed clothes

Don't borrow anything from your roommate without express permission beforehand. If you've asked before, even if the answer was yes, ask again. And if you do borrow something from your roommate – clothes, hairspray, juice, whatever – return or replace it as soon as you can.

Party smart

party mess

Don't throw parties unless every roommate agrees it's OK. If you get permission, be considerate and kind. Don't go too late if people are trying to sleep. Clean up and toss out the trash. Put everything back where you found it. Don't be so loud you disturb the neighbors. If your roommate wants to come to your party, let them. If they don't want to join in, don't be offended.

Your SO isn't an extra roommate

significant other

If you have a significant other, be respectful of everyone else in the apartment. Your SO shouldn't stay too often or too long. They shouldn't regularly use common areas alone. Your other roommates might not feel comfortable hanging out with them. They should never be at the apartment alone – they aren't a roommate.

Don't let them be a drain on utilities like using up water if they shower over every morning. Anything they dirty, they clean. Anything they use, they replace. Anything they break, they fix. And keep your adult activities respectful.

Do your chores

sweeping the floor

Yes, you probably should have a plan to deal with common chores. Share them equally and when it's your turn, do them. But start with focusing on your own messes. If you eat or cook, clean up, don't pile up. Do your dishes. If you make a mess, pick it up. If the trash is full or smelly, take it out.

See what chores you can split. If one of you loves to cook, the other should clean. If one of you doesn't hate vacuuming, the other should do the laundry. Make it fun!

Take care of your pet

dog waiting for dinner

If one roommate is the primary owner of an apartment pet, that roommate is primarily responsible. If the other roommates like to take care of the pooch, cool. But it's not their job. You make sure they eat, you make sure they go out, you make sure messes are cleaned up. Don't pawn off the responsibility of your pet.

Watch your volume

girl playing drums

Always be respectful of quiet hours. If your roommate wants to sleep or needs to study or work, keep it down. And you may think you're Casey Kasem, but not everyone loves the music you love. Headphones are your best friend.

Hands off the food

leftover food in the fridge

The best advice is to share as little as possible. Buy your own food, even if your roommate buys the exact same thing. Don't touch their food. Just don't. For anything that's common property like kitchen utensils, plates or silverware, it's easy – if you dirty it, clean it. If you finish it, replace it.

And if you take water from the Brita or ice from the tray, refill it immediately.

Everyone's safety and privacy is your concern

woman looking in peephole

If your roommate's door is closed, don't bug them. Only knock if it's 100 percent necessary. Text them first. If they're watching TV in the common area, be considerate and let them enjoy.

And your safety is also your roommate's safety. Be sure you close and lock all doors and windows when you leave. Turn off the lights when you're not using them and always double check the oven and stove are off.

Some like it hot

hot guy and cold girl

This one might sting, but the roommate who likes the thermostat set lower wins. The roomie who gets cold can always put on more clothes, grab some sweats or curl up in a blanket. The hotter roomie can't strip naked. Be considerate and try to find a happy medium, because gramma's quilt is really cozy.

Don't get everyone sick

sick person on couch

If you're sick, stay away from your roommates. Remain in your room if you can. Cover your mouth. Wipe anything you touch with Lysol. If you're nice, your roommate might heat you up some chicken soup.

Be fiscally responsible

rent jar with coins

Pay your half of the rent and utilities in full and on time. Period.

Be honest

honesty is the best policy

Always be truthful with your roommate. If you break something, cop to it. If your boyfriend or girlfriend needs to stay longer than you expect, ask first, not after. If you're going to be late with the rent, discuss it sooner rather than later. If you violate any of the above suggestions, apologize.

And if you feel someone isn't following Roommate Etiquette 101, don't get all in a huff. Be sensitive, because what's a big deal right now might not seem so big in a different light.

Do unto roommates

happy roommates

The bottom line for all of this is to follow the Golden Roommate Rule – do unto your roommate as you would have your roommate do unto you. It's pretty simple. How would you want to be treated? Do that to your roommate. And they will show you the same consideration in return.



About The Author

Michael is a Philadelphia-based writer with a variety of interests, including music, TV, politics, travel and sports (Fly Eagles Fly!). His background includes a decade as a programming executive in network television, six years as a marketing executive at a technology company and time at two magazines and two advertising agencies. He also sits on the board of a non-profit law firm that assists veterans with disabilities. His work has been featured in nexxt.com, Ale Street News and Radio TV Interview Report Magazine. Michael is a proud Syracuse grad (Newhouse) who has lived in Kansas, Chicago, Saratoga and beyond, and can be found at @phillyparttwo.