This is the first in a multi-part series focusing on resolving conflicts with roommates. This article examines methods used to establish expectations and responsibilities when moving in with someone in an effort to prevent conflicts.
The team here at ArbiClaims has both personal and professional experience handling roommate conflicts, and through the years, we have witnessed which strategies are most effective in creating a peaceful living situation. Cohabitating with others is a uniquely personal experience, and dealing with arguments and clashes makes you dread coming home. Whether your roommate doesn’t clean the kitchen after cooking or destroys a piece of your furniture, conflicts can come in a variety of sizes.
It may be tempting to brush aside a contentious atmosphere, but there are severe consequences to experiencing problems with your living situation. In a 2011 study, researchers found that 43% of students that withdraw from college do so as a result of roommate conflicts. Avoidance leads to escalation, which slowly diminishes the possibility of peacefully resolving problems. So what can be done before things get out of hand?
Here are several techniques you can use to lay the groundwork in the first week of living together to create a respectful, calm living environment:
Collaborating with your roommates to create a “roommate contract” sets behavior expectations and outlines the consequences of broken promises. If you want to limit the number of nights guests can stay, set “quiet hours,” or designate chores and responsibilities, a roommate contract gives each person a clear understanding of what is expected in the living arrangement. Financial expectations should also be included in the roommate contract. How much each individual pays in rent, what the common items are that each person contributes to, and what percentage each person pays in utilities should all be outlined.
An often overlooked but necessary component of the roommate contract is consequences. You will know what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable, but what will happen if you break the contract? What will be the consequences if a roommate is late paying her portion of rent? How will you deal with a roommate who does not respect quiet hours and invites the bar back to your place after last call? Consequences of bad behavior should be clearly listed so that no one is upset when a late fee is charged on a missed rent payment or sanctions are enacted when overnight guests outstay their welcome. Listing the consequences also makes things easier when discussing problems. If you all collaborate to create the contract and agree on consequences, it is simple to bring it up and point out the rules of the house.
Setting monthly meetings to discuss house matters is a great way to foster open communication. Whether you have a concrete agenda in mind or have a loose set of ideas to talk about, a regularly scheduled meeting gives everyone the opportunity to talk about any issues that they have and concerns that have arisen in the past weeks.
One way to ensure that these meetings are productive is to talk about any upcoming important dates that month. Does a roommate have a stressful exam or a work project that requires a few extra quiet hours? Is there an out-of-town guest visiting for a few days? Bringing up significant moments keeps everyone abreast of what’s going on and prevents people from being blindsided.
After crafting the roommate contract and deciding when monthly meetings will take place, determining specific spaces where activities take place is the last step in preventing conflicts. Where will meetings be held? Can people eat in the family room? Where does personal grooming take place? Where will overnight guests sleep? Deciding where specific actions occur helps keep the peace and saves you from confronting your roommate in the middle of an unwanted action.
Although you may be tempted to believe that your shiny new companion would never upset you, it’s important to remember that building a strong foundation in the beginning can go a long way in preventing conflicts in the future. With various upbringings and experiences, our living styles are different, and discussing our wants and needs in the beginning of a living arrangement gets everyone on the same page.
We took a deep dive into roommate contracts and shared the ArbiClaims Roommate Contract with you in this post. We’d love for you to download the free contract and modify it to fit your specific needs.