The Roommate Nobody Wants to Live With

Tips for Sharing a Home With a Roommate

Avoid finding a bad roommate
You'll save yourself a lot of grief if you screen the roommate before the roommate moves in. © Big Stock Photo

Not a person alive wants to end up with a bad roommate. Decades ago when I was a new homeowner, I took in my share of roommates. Basically, I don't like living with anybody, so for me to put up with the roommate nobody wanted to live with was an exercise in patience and creativity. It's a miracle I ever got married.

Lots of homeowners think about going the roommate route when paying the mortgage gets tight.

A roommate can knock off anywhere from 1/4 of your mortgage payment to 1/2 of your mortgage or more -- providing the roommate pays on time and doesn't cause you any trouble. Not causing any trouble is key. In fact, some first-time home buyers plan on finding a roommate after closing to ease the burden of homeownership.

The first roommate I let move into my home turned into a nightmare. He was an old friend who played in a band. He promised he would work nights and be on the road most weekends, so it sounded perfect to me -- a roommate who would never be home when I was home. Except, a few weeks after moving in, he lost his gig. Now he was around the house all of the time. 24/7.

Here are some of the crazy things this roommate did to drive me insane:

  • He would leave his bass guitar on the front steps and the front door unlocked at night.


  • When eating in the kitchen, if the phone rang in his room, he'd stash a plate full of food into a cabinet and forget about it until the next day.


  • His room was a pigsty, filled with dirty dishes, half-eaten bags of potato chips and clothes strewn about everywhere.


  • He would use the bathroom without flushing the toilet, even though I taped a note above the toilet reminding him to flush.


  • He'd sometimes turn on a faucet and leave the water running, and regularly forgot to turn off lights and the AC when leaving.

    And those were his good days. The only way I finally got him to move out was to wait until his lease with me was about to expire and then put into full swing my last home improvement project: new carpet. I called in the carpet installers to rip up the carpeting and replace all of it. That meant my roommate had to move everything out of his room and out of the house. I gave him a 30-day warning, a 2-week warning and a 24-hour notice, and he still had a hard time lugging his stuff out of my home.


    How to Avoid Rooming With the Roommate from Hell

    First, take a look at your own routine. When do you leave for work? When do you go to bed? Very important: how many full bathrooms are in your home?


    • Put together a list of things that you do on a daily basis and when. Compare that list with your potential roommate's activities to determine if the two of you will mesh.


    • Establish how much rent you can expect a roommate to pay and whether the roommate will be allowed full access to your home or restricted to a room. Some people just rent out a room. Others share the whole home.


    • Sign a rental agreement. Even if the roommate is a friend and a person you have known for years, put the terms of your rental agreement in writing. Include whether you allow guests to visit or pets to live in the home.


    • Discuss what happens if your roommate is unable to meet his or her financial obligations to you. Consider a security deposit.


    • If the roommate is not a person you know nor referred to you, run a police report on the individual and check the roommate's credit report. You can hire a screening service to help you find a roommate and check out the roommate's background.

    At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

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