New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, so it’s not surprising that many apartment renters opt to combat sky-high rents by sharing an apartment with one or more roommates. A roommate share apartment can be a great way to save money and make new friends. By thinking over a few things before you dive into a roommate share, you can save yourself a lot of headaches. Living with a roommate requires a combination of compromise and consideration, with a healthy dose of both you can reap the benefits of this cost-effective solution to city living.
Before the Move-In
Being clear about what you are looking for in a roommate and being upfront about yourself and your habits is the best way to begin. In shared housing you can state a preference for a roommate based on sex or no preference if you are open to any roommate. Another big factor when it comes to living together is if the roommate is a smoker or non-smoker. Since a shared apartment will be your home for the term of the rental, if you have issues like allergies to animals, dust or certain foods be sure to mention them from the start. It’s important for apartment owners to state any specific policies or terms of rental upfront as well so potential roommates are aware and both parties can agree to the terms. Think about scenarios that could lead to conflicts and address them in your Roommate Agreement or House Rules. Some important topics to consider are:
When it comes to apartment cleanliness some people are neat freaks and others have a more laid back attitude. Generally when it comes to your own private room you can be yourself but when sharing common areas with others it’s best to know what is expected of everyone. Will the roommates split the bill for a cleaning person or take turns cleaning? Either way, it’s always good etiquette to clean up after yourself in common areas, take out the trash when full, clean pots, pans and dishes and tidy up the bathroom after you use it.
Supplies & Household Expenses
When sharing an apartment basic supplies will need replenishing along the way so it’s smart to address how they will be handled. Decide if the costs of supplies for common areas like toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent and light bulbs will be factored into the rent or those bills will be split each month among the roommates, as well as who will purchase them. Agree whether toiletries like shampoo, toothpaste and body wash are for personal use or shared. The same goes for food in the refrigerator – eating food that others purchased is often a point of conflict so stick to eating only what you have purchased unless you agree otherwise.
Get to know a bit about your potential roommate before moving in together. Are you a social butterfly that loves to socialize with roommates, go out together and have a sense of camaraderie? Or are you more of a loner that cherishes your alone time? Opposites can get along but it’s good to know what type of person your roommate is and their lifestyle habits to see if it will be a good fit and to understand what to expect and how to respect each individual’s personality type.
As brokers we can legally only extract certain information from either party to a rental, for example, we cannot ask someone’s race, religion, national origin or marital status etc because it violates discrimination laws. Similarly we cannot account for every individual idiosyncrasy of people so if you have a particular pet peeve, religious view, lifestyle choice or other issue that is important to you or is a “deal breaker” definitely bring it up with potential roommates beforehand. Someone who smokes occasionally may not consider themselves a smoker but to a non-smoking roommate one cigarette is one too many. A person who is a vegetarian might not want roommates who cook meat in the apartment, others may have specific religious practices that play a big part in their everyday lives like not mixing plates and utensils used for different types of foods or burning incense in the home, all of these may be a potential issue with a roommate so you should bring up any that concern you with potential roommates.
We all have friends outside of who we share an apartment with, but bringing over a never-ending stream of guests may rub some people the wrong way. Come to an agreement on a guest policy including whether guests can be brought to the apartment, whether overnight guests are allowed and how often is acceptable.
Are you in a band and like to practice singing or guitar during the day? Or do you need to write or study in total silence to focus? If you have a lifestyle you know not everyone might be into, be upfront from the beginning and decide on a noise policy. Designating quiet hours after a certain hour is a good way to make sure everyone can be themselves and still be considerate of other roommates.
Keep in mind if you are opening up your apartment to a roommate share situation you need to have a bit of an easy going and open attitude and be open to the differences among people that make apartment shares an interesting and fun living situation. Just remember nobody likes living in a prison of excessive rules and if your attitude is “my way or the highway” you might be best living in your own private apartment.
Some people may not be too keen on moving into someone else’s already established space. Luckily there are housing options that address that concern. If you prefer a neutral third party handles all the logistics or don’t want to live in someone else’s place but prefer to share a space with others where you are all equal roommates moving in on the same terms, consider a new concept in NYC called co-living. These are apartment shares where all the roommates are renting rooms in an apartment operated by a co-living company that furnishes the apartment with trendy decor, sets up utilities, cleaning and wifi services, curates events, matches roommates, and sets house rules to encourage mutual respect and a sense of community. They can also act as mediators to address issues in the apartment or between roommates. Some offer the option to transfer to another apartment within their network if things aren’t working out with your current roommates.
Renting a private room in this innovative 4 bedroom co-living apartment share in Ridgewood, Queens is a great option for students or anyone on a budget. Bedrooms are private and common spaces such as the kitchen, living room and bathroom are shared among the roommates. There are also communal building spaces such as a resident lounge/recreation room where you can socialize with other building residents. The management of the co-living space handles all the details, and utilities and cleaning services are included. A curator assists with getting you settled, introducing roommates and organizing community events among the residents of the building and members of their co-living community throughout NYC. If you’re having an issue with a roommate they can field complaints and facilitate resolutions. If you’re a student considering this type of housing similar to a dorm atmosphere, you can learn more about it in our blog about communal living in New York City.
After the Move-In
No matter how well-prepared you may be, you can’t anticipate every obstacle when sharing an apartment. Brokers are not therapists or mediators when it comes to roommate relations and they can’t take sides in hashing out personal issues between individuals. The best advice when tensions start to rise is to be upfront about it – communication between roommates is key! Don’t let resentment build up until a major confrontation occurs, it’s best to bring up issues as soon as possible to work out a solution. Some people are timid about confrontation, scheduling a “house meeting” every month is a good way to check in with each other and see if anyone has any gripes they need to vent. This lets everyone know they can feel comfortable voicing their opinions instead of letting things fester until they boil over and it shows that you can accept constructive feedback as well. Don’t suffer in silence and then wait until after the rental to find your voice and leave a bad review. We can’t stress enough how many times one party to a rental only finds out about an issue after the rental ends and they always say the same thing – “Why didn’t they tell me about this at the time so we could have worked it out?”. Staying silent never fixes anything – address problems as they come up so people have a chance to correct their behavior. Opening the lines of communication can do wonders for roommate relations!
If it Just isn’t Working Out
Despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes living situations just don’t work out. Know the terms of your Roommate Agreement so you can end things properly. Failure to give proper notice can result in you losing your security deposit. Typically each party can end the arrangement with sufficient notice (usually a minimum of 30 days notice). If things just aren’t working, bring up the topic of mutually ending the living arrangement. Nobody likes to be shocked with a sudden change. With advance notice your roommate can plan their next steps to find another roommate or find a new apartment share, so be courteous and upfront about your plans.
If you really want to be rid of a bad roommate as soon as possible offer an incentive like refunding the remainder of the month’s rent and letting them out of the agreement with less than 30 days advance notice
Taking it to Court
If things really go downhill and you just can’t see eye to eye and need the help of a third party, take the matter to court. Which court is best depends on the situation. If there’s a dispute over getting your security deposit back or you think there are unsupported deductions from your security deposit or if a tenant owes you utilities or money for damages you can take them to Small Claims Court. If your roommate doesn’t seem to want to leave, you should start an eviction proceeding in Housing Court to begin the process of getting them out. You cannot take matters into your own hands and lock the roommate out or cut off water, heat or electricity, otherwise you can face severe penalties.
Court proceedings can be a time consuming process so it’s always best to exhaust all possible solutions before ending up in court as a last resort. Keep in mind you can’t take the law into your own hands, tenants who have been renting for 30 days or more have rights in NYC. If the person has violated terms of the agreement you should have a process server serve them with a 10-day notice to cure. This allows them to correct the transgression before you turn to eviction. For non-payment of rent the landlord has to give a 14 day notice or demand for rent. If the tenant doesn’t resolve the issue within the time frame indicated you can serve them with a notice of termination which gives them 30 days to move out. If they don’t move out within that time you can file an eviction lawsuit in Housing Court.
As we mentioned, ending up in court is not something anyone wants so it’s best to lay the groundwork for a stress-free roommate share by being clear on rules and expectations before agreeing to live together. New York Habitat’s agents ask each renter a series of questions in an effort to match compatible roommates. You can sometimes also communicate with or meet your potential roommate before committing to the rental. Apartment shares can be a great experience leading to lifelong friendships while helping you save on budget. Read our blog to find out more about our top five NYC apartment shares. If you follow our advice your road to a successful roommate share should be a smooth one. If you’re considering a roommate share apartment send us a request and let our experienced agents guide you in your search. You can also browse through our New York apartment share offerings to see all the great shared housing options we offer.