Home checklist: Advice for college roommates: Get it in writing

Published: Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am

A new school year can mean a new roommate — or roommates — for many college students. According to Rent.com, that can get complicated in a hurry.

Rent.com’s researchers crunched statistics on the current off-campus student housing market surrounding major colleges in several cities and found some surprising trends. For example, living a little farther away from campus — often just 5 miles — can be a lot cheaper. For example, the study found UCLA students who chose to make a short commute instead of living in Westwood saved on average $611 per month on rent.

Two bedrooms (and fewer roommates) often was a better choice — and cheaper — than three bedrooms and more people, the study also found. Students who lived in a two-bedroom apartment instead of a three-bedroom unit or house spent 18 percent to 35 percent less per person on rent.

No matter the size of the apartment or house, issues can develop between roommates. To keep harmony from the start, Rent.com’s experts offered these tips:

•  Get it in writing: Make a list of do’s and don’ts. Although your lease covers the legal responsibilities you have to your landlord, you’re on your own with roommates. Take a few minutes early on to put into writing how to handle the basics such as household chores, overnight guests and grocery shopping. It may seem fussy, but it will go a long way to maintaining a peaceful home.

•  Create a daily and weekly chore chart: Don’t wait for your roommate to make a mess before problem solving. Write down a chore list and have every roommate sign off on expected responsibilities. If one roommate doesn’t live up to his or her end of the deal, you’ll be able to provide specific examples.

•  Take disputes outside: Your roommate can’t read your mind. If you’re arguing or need more personal space, take it outside of the apartment. Grab a cup of coffee and talk about your concerns. If you air your grievances where they lie, it will be harder to have a calm discussion, say the experts.

•  Sometimes 50-50 doesn’t add up: It’s ideal to split costs as much as possible, say experts. But for major purchases, it doesn’t make sense in a temporary living situation. For example, if you purchase a couch together and one roommate has to move out, it will be a headache to decide how to split that cost or who gets custody of the couch. Stick to inexpensive furnishings and settle future dilemmas (such as couch ownership) before they become disputes.

For more tips, click on www.rent.com.

– Debbie Arrington

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