If you are just starting off in your career, you want to lower your expenses. Housing is a major cost. Rents increased 2.7% from March 2015 – March 2016, well above the overall inflation rate of 1.02%. Consider these median monthly rents:
- Los Angeles: $1,930 for a one bedroom; $2,630 for a two bedroom
- Washington D.C.: $2,180 for a one bedroom; $2,990 for a two bedroom
- San Francisco: $3,550 for a one bedroom; $4,450 for a two bedroom
Even smaller cities like Colorado Springs, Co and Orlando, FL saw rents rise 11.4% and 8.9% respectively. Faced with these financial realities, you want to consider getting a roommate (or two) to split expenses. However, you need to take certain precautions so that a roommate does not end up costing you money.
Protect Yourself Financially
You can take steps to protect yourself from a bad roommate. Address these three situations before you move in with other people.
- Just Not Paying Rent- The first problem is the most obvious one. Your roommate, because of financial hardship or because he/she is a jerk, fails to make rent payments. You can be on the hook for costs and at risk for eviction. Consider these ideas:
- Ask the landlord for a separate lease. A separate lease spells out how much each person pays in rent. You are only responsible for the amount you agreed to in writing.
- Make a written agreement. Not every landlord accepts a separate lease. However, you can protect yourself with a written agreement that details when rent is due, how much is due, and a method of acceptable payment. This method is not as iron-clad as a separate lease, but you at least have something in writing if you need to pursue the matter legally.
- Damage to the Apartment- Ever wonder why fast food wrappers come with warnings to not put them in a microwave? The answer is that a whole lot of roommates in the world harmed microwaves through that action.
If your roommate damages any part of the apartment, it costs you some or possibly all of your security deposit. When looking for a roommate, take into account if this person has a lot of common sense. You might even consider running a background check if you do not know the person well.
- Theft- Unfortunately, not every roommate is too particular about who he or she brings back to the apartment. If your roommate likes to party, that person might bring home a thief who steals your property and possibly your identity. Make sure you secure your valuables and identification if you are out of the apartment and others are there.
Fewer Costs, Not More
A good roommate reduces your housing costs so you can focus on other priorities such as paying off student loan debt. It can be very beneficial to both people when done right. However, some roommates are prone to problems. Consider the aforementioned three situations to reduce the risk of having to deal with the expensive side of roommates.