The worst roommate in the world almost never starts off that way. At the initial meeting, the roommate seems pretty cool. He or she promises to clean regularly, pay the rent on time and be respectful of your space. You start thinking, hey, we might end up being friends or at least acquaintances who benefit from splitting the bills and don’t loathe the sight of one another. But then it happens. Without warning, that normal-seeming roommate undergoes some werewolf-on-a-full-moon transformation and turns into a total monster. Your once picturesque apartment becomes a toxic waste dump where the trash is always overflowing, things from your room are going missing and there’s always someone you don’t recognize crashing on your couch.
No one places a roommate ad with the hope of bringing a feral animal disguised as a human being into their home, but there are ways to avoid ending up with the roommate from hell in the first place. The following are five strategic questions that are expertly designed to help identify several different types of bad roommates, from the sloppy to the sketchy. Ask your potential new roommate each one before you add their name to your lease.
1. What are you looking for in a roommate?
Start the conversation by turning the tables. You already know what you want in a roommate, and while you should absolutely express that both in your ad and in person, you should also take the time to find out what might be expected from you. Is this person looking for a BFF or someone who won’t bother them? Make sure you both want the same relationship, that way your roommate doesn’t feel left out when not invited to the bar or annoyed with your attempts at friendship. If both of your answers to this question aren’t similar, you’re a bad fit.
2. What do you think acceptable cleaning rules are?
House rules might make you feel like you’re living with your parents again, but they’re necessary if you want to share a space with someone. How someone answers this question is a very good way to determine what your living environment will be like should you choose them as a roommate. Most people will try to give off the impression that they’re at least somewhat clean, even if that’s not true. A person who gives you a vague answer to this (Example: “I don’t know? Keep common areas clean?”) will possibly be messy. On the other hand, if someone is specific (Example: “Clean the bathroom once a week, wipe down surfaces every other day, run the dishwasher as soon as it’s full.”), you can count on them to do their share.
3. How long is an acceptable amount of time to have a guest stay for?
There’s nothing better than a roommate who starts dating someone and then unofficially moves in with them, unless of course, that unofficial living situation is your apartment. Nobody likes a third roommate who doesn’t pay rent, whether that third roommate is a significant other, a friend, or—gasp—several family members. That being said, you should both be able to have a date over to watch a movie without your roommate glaring at you from the kitchen. Using the words “how long” when asking this question will get you an accurate answer so you’ll know whether that friend from out of town will be staying for the weekend (acceptable) or indefinitely (run for your life).
4. How much do you have to spend on rent AND bills?
At the bare minimum, your roommate exists to split the cost of your shared apartment, so make sure said roommate has a reliable source of income and make sure that source of income can cover more than just the rent. Your roommate should also be able to pay half of any other bill that affects the entire household including electricity and cable. By asking this question, you’ll avoid living with someone who is going to use the wifi without paying for it or worse, get your power turned off.
5. What’s the worst roommate you’ve ever had?
Not just a fun conversation to have over drinks (though it certainly is that), this is the ultimate question to ask when determining whether a potential roommate is normal or a total weirdo. We all have our quirks, but we also all have a threshold for what we consider to be completely ridiculous behavior. Everyone has had a WTF moment with a former roommate who had a strange collection of something in their room, a creepy boyfriend or insisted you follow some bizarre rule like never keeping the shades drawn at all times. Asking someone this question before you invite them into your home will show you whether they’re a normal, nice person or a psycho who will watch you sleep. After all, when it comes to roommates, there is no in between.