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Apartment hunting: Roommate issues

Preston Lobzun | Interrobang | Culture | May 26th, 2014

Living with anyone other than family can be a breeze, however, problems can (and will) arise eventually. Here are a few common issues students experience and solutions to make any living situation a walk in the park.

House maintenance
Keeping your house in order is one of the biggest turmoils that you may face when living with someone. No one likes to clean other people's messes and conversely, no one wants to be seen as a bad roommate. In a compromise, ground rules are needed to outline what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

With some housemates, it might be feasible to have a verbal discussion and come to a compromise that leaves all parties happy. In an unreasonable situation, seek help from your friends or family to get everything in order.

Once you can get back to where you started, your housemates might see this as a good indicator that they need to straighten their act. If not, it leaves you able to manage the mess as it appears and hopefully takes off one of the biggest burdens that come along with sharing a living space.

Clash of lifestyles
It's difficult to find someone who was brought up exactly the same way as you.

Fanshawe student Taylor Williams offered his outlook and experience with roommates. “It's funny how people interact. People have different upbringings. Sometimes those interests just conflict.”

Furthermore, you don't really have many ways to tell how someone's living style is going to be as there is a relatively small amount of people willing to admit that they're messy. Some people may be brought up to be more “relaxed,” others may come from households with strict cleaning habits.

Regardless, it's important to recognize that someone's upbringing may be different from yours thus, their behaviour may frustrate you but rarely is it done out of malicious intent.

Paying bills on time
People who live with more than one roommate can typically end up in situations where collecting rent becomes a game of cat and mouse. If there's one thing you can do to keep your landlord happy is pay your rent on time as most leases are going to note that your rent must come in on the first of the month and not any later.

One of the simplest ways is to do this is through automatic billing. Give your landlord a void cheque and away you go. The only problem with this is you risk the possibility of rent being taken out on a month that shouldn't be. My own personal experiences with a company proved that it's possible for them to take a full month's worth of rent out of your account and subsequently give you a run around until you give up. Ouch. Not doing that again.

With singular landlords, you may have to drop it off or have them pick it up from you. This means that everyone in your house has a collective responsibility to get everything ready on a specific day. Work around this by trying to collect next month's rent a week or more before. Don't wait until the day of to get everything ready because those happen to be the days where everyone is, by a stroke of luck, missing in action.

Sharing/using possessions
On the topic of using someone's possessions, Williams explained, “We sort of sit down, establish a system. These are the dos and don'ts.”

He described an example with dishware. “Some stuff would be communal. We would all split the bill. When it came to dishware, everyone had their own pots and pans they would use.”

Such methods are once again extremely important to bring up at the very beginning. If you're concerned about a particular individual, try to word your requests into ways that aren't so much a “rule” as they are just simple common courtesy. Your roommates should be more reasonable then.

In a living arrangement that includes a large group, Williams said that the biggest issue is general communication.

“In the beginning, no one was in a relationship. One of the housemates started dating one of our friends. She and him would come in and out. She would cook dinner and they would go out but she would leave behind a mess in the kitchen. We sat her down and said, ‘We would appreciate you clean up your stuff before you leave.'”

He went on to say that while this direct communication didn't work with this particular individual, there were other instances of using face-to-face where a conflict was resolved simply by talking about it.

Sometimes communication comes in the form of passive aggressive notes or texts if at all. These can lead to major conflict where people vent behind closed doors and will take to knee jerk reactions as a way of coping.

It is imperative that issues in a student rented space are dealt with directly and that all parties remain reasonable. Don't be afraid to make slight compromises in this situation.
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