Your Guide To Dealing With Your Horrible Roommate

A 2018 survey from Pew Research Center found that almost one in three U.S. adults is "doubling up," an arrangement in which they share their living space with non-relatives or someone with whom they're not romantically connected. This phenomenon has a number of causes, with financial stress being a major one. For anyone who's flown the nest and is struggling with housing affordability amid skyrocketing rents, bulking up with a roommate appears to be the most viable option. When you have a roommate, you can lower the cost of your rent and utilities in half. Theoretically, cohabiting makes your housing expenses cheaper and significantly lightens the financial burden. Practically, it's easier said than done.

Turns out, despite the long list of candidates you can get from PadMapper, Craigslist, or your alumni network, finding a good roommate is no different from chasing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Unresolvable discrepancies in perspectives and lifestyle habits can make cohabitation unbearable. That's why having a roommate agreement with explicit rules and guidelines is one of the wisest things you can do to buffer the potential damage your roommate might inflict on you, per LegalZoom. However, taking legal action against your roommate from hell should be the last resort, and f you're having trouble with typical roommate issues, here are some actionable tips to help you get out of misery.

A roommate who takes your things without permission

One of the most annoying roommate problems is having a roommate who's constantly borrowing or taking your things without asking. Of course, it's okay to excuse your roommate and try not to come across as a cheapskate if they only borrow things from you once or during emergencies. But if they're always trespassing on your territory, swiping your essentials like laundry detergent and groceries, or using your makeup, you can't let them off the hook. The way to fix the issue is to be direct and ask your roommate to stop using your things so often, says psychologist Ramani Durvasula (via Realtor).

Since your essentials are bought with your hard-earned money, tell your roommate to ante up if they want to continue sharing your stuff. Meanwhile, Moving suggests approaching your "borrowing roommate" in a gentle, somehow casual way that's not accusatory or likely to lead to a conflict. You can open the conversation by voicing your observation that half of your leftover sandwich was missing and asking if your roommate knows anything about it. If your roommate says he or she ate it, then get to the point with a "Would you mind asking before you borrow anything from me? Thanks." That's the politer version. If they keep repeating the same offense, tell your roommate bluntly that it's bothering you and you're not interested in loaning out things. You can also lock your things up in your cabinets so nobody can swipe them.

A roommate who always has friends over

There's nothing wrong with having a socially oriented roomie, but it can be annoying if they always have guests over. If this is a persistent issue and it's bugging you, find a time to calmly let your roommate know how uncomfortable and inconvenient it is for you when they bring their friends and lovers over too frequently, per Rent. For instance, it's difficult to concentrate on your homework while your roommate and their friends are constantly chatting loudly. Or perhaps you want to watch Netflix in the living room on a Friday night, but your roommate is always watching sports on the couch at that time.

To reach an agreement, let your roommate know your preferred frequency of visitors and whether you're okay with having an overnight guest, per Square One. If necessary, make a schedule, so both of you know when is the accepted time for visitors. For instance, if you often go to the gym from five to seven every evening, your roommate and their visitors are welcome to use the apartment during that time. Actually, discussing how to handle visitors should be covered in your roommate interview and the roommate agreement so that they are aware of what they have signed up for when they move in with you. 

A messy roommate

If you're a clean freak or simply a tidy person, the daily sight of filthy dishes piling up in the sink, clothes scattered from the bedroom to the living room, or clumps of soaking wet hair strewn over the bathtub can give you a nightmare. In this case, what you need to do is to approach your messy roommate and calmly air your grievances, per Roomsurf. Rather than coming off as accusatory with phrases like "You are," make your complaints more about how you feel by using more "I feel." For instance, "I feel uncomfortable waking up to unwashed dishes loaded up in the sink." or "I can't sit down to watch TV when your laundry is strewn over the couch."

Speaking of which, you should also have a candid conversation about which areas of the shared residence are personal and communal. For instance, each person should keep their clothes and personal care items in their bedrooms instead of on the dining table or the shared bathroom. Meanwhile, you can also make a chore chart and ensure everyone does their fair share of keeping the living space clean, ApartmentSearch advises. A chore chart can include daily and weekly tasks like trash picking, floor cleaning, and cooking. Not only is a chore chart a great way to set up a household-organizing system, but it also inspires a sense of responsibility and gives each party an increased sense of ownership over their living space.

A roommate who's always late paying rent

If both of your names are on the lease, you are both responsible for paying the whole amount of rent due to the landlord. Late payments can cause you to be evicted. Any form of lease violation on your record can impact your credit score and reduce your chances of being accepted for a new rental unit. You can give your roommate a pass if it's a one-time slip-up on rent. But if it's a recurring problem, you need to bring up the issue and discuss viable solutions. As you try to figure out why your roommate is constantly late on rent, try not to come across as confrontational and get into a heated conversation, says clinical psychologist and financial coach Dr. Eric Dammann (via Money). If your roommate takes the issue lightly despite your explanation of how their disregard for due dates affects you, it's time to inform your landlord and start finding a new roommate.

If your roommate didn't sign the lease or a sublease but only a roommate agreement, which doesn't involve the landlord, you can still take your roommate to court, Nolo advises. The reason being is the financial aspects in the agreement, which spells out the amount of money your roommate is obliged to share, are still enforceable in a small claims court. Always create a separate roommate agreement between you and your roommate aside from your lease. This document will serve as your best legal defense if things go wrong.

A roommate who's always making nosies

After a busy day at work, most people want to return to a quiet home where they can put daily hubbub outside the door and recharge. However, if your roommate is always playing guitar, singing, or live-streaming games on full volume at night when your living space is divided by paper-thin walls, you'll have a hard time concentrating on your self-care routine. Since elevated noise inside the home can do a number on your mental and physical health, you need to address the issue head-on. More often than not, some loud roommates aren't even aware that they're upsetting people with the noises they make.

According to Norhart, you should tell your roommate how you feel when they make noises and set some ground rules on how loud the volume should be at different times of the day and when is the time for the grand silence. For instance, it doesn't hurt to put on headphones when listening to music or watching movies instead of using stereo speakers. "Don't wait too long to speak up," psychotherapist LeslieBeth Wish tells Elite Daily. "Waiting raises your anger level because your sense of control over the situation goes down." There are numerous perks as well as downsides to having a roommate. The best way to remain on good terms is to keep an open line of communication and make the ground rules explicit in writing.