How to Create an Effective Roommate Agreement

By Elana Goodwin on February 16, 2017

This article is brought to you by Kaplan, the leader in test prep for over 90 standardized tests, including the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT.

When living with a roommate or multiple roommates, there may be issues or challenges that arise — which is natural when you’re sharing a space with other people. To make living with roommates go more smoothly, it’s a good idea to have a roommate agreement.

A roommate agreement or contract is basically a set of rules you and your roomies come up with together that you agree to follow and abide by throughout the year. While roommate agreements may not encompass every guideline to living together in harmony, it should cover the basics of what’s expected of each of you and what you’ll both do or not do in order to be a good roommate.

So if you’re ready to set some ground rules so you and your roommate can head off some issues before they come up, here are some tips on what to include to create an effective roommate agreement.

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1. Quiet Hours. An important rule to include in your roommate agreement is about quiet hours. Most dorms usually instill quiet hours after 10 or 11 p.m. on weeknights, but you and your roommate can decide what quiet hours mean to you and when you want them to be in effect. When you live with other people, noisiness can become an issue. Some noises, like showering, opening and closing drawers, doors, or cabinets, cooking, etc., can’t be helped, even if it’s during quiet hours.

But other sounds, like music blaring, the TV, and your voice while talking on the phone, can be moderated. Set a time with your roomies that will be when quiet hours start, perhaps making it be later on Friday and Saturday nights. During finals week or when one of you is studying or writing a paper, you can also both agree to wear headphones when listening to music or watching something on your laptops and to trying to keep the noise level down in general.

2. Cleanliness. It’s not fun to live in a messy place so having some expectations stated in your roommate agreement about cleanliness will help ensure your place doesn’t look like a sty. Your home will probably not be OCD-level neat but you shouldn’t have to come home from class to dirty dishes piled in the sink and a pile of shoes by the door.

Decide on some general rules you both can live with about cleaning up after yourselves, how many personal items you can keep in communal spaces, and set up a chore chart and schedule you’ll both adhere to in order to keep your apartment or house clean.

3. Guests. You and your roomies are equal when it comes to having people over — and you should, of course, feel comfortable inviting guests to your home. But having people over all the time — even if they’re people your entire household likes and enjoys hanging out with — can be annoying to your roomies.

Establish some rules in your roommate agreement about how many guests a person can have at a time, what sort of advance notice you’ll give your roommates when possible about people coming over, and the policy on having overnight guests.

4. Sharing Items. Living with roommates means you’ll end up sharing certain items — besides bills and a home — so it’s best to decide in your roommate agreement what things you’ll share no questions asked and what items will be individual. Certain products like eggs, milk, cleaning supplies, etc., will be things you’ll likely want to share with your roomies and take turns buying. Other items, like shampoo, clothes, and certain foods, you’ll want to keep for yourself and not share.

Set some guidelines on what things you’ll be okay with sharing with your roomies and how you all will handle sharing the buying responsibilities for those items, and which objects you want to be hands-off to your roomies unless they ask permission.

5. Bills. Besides including buying responsibilities for household items in your roommate agreement, you’ll also want to cover other financial obligations, like bills. Your utilities and rent need to be paid, and if one person is doing it, they should count on being paid back by the other roommates in an orderly fashion.

You can set up the utilities in one person’s name or split them up among the roommates (one person for gas, one person for electricity, etc.) so there isn’t only one person responsible for making sure all the bills are paid on time. If one person wants to take that responsibility on, include in your roommate agreement who that person is, the payment they’ll oversee, and how and when the other roommates will pay them back.

You don’t need to go overboard with your roommate agreement like Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” — but having some simple rules and expectations laid out that you and your roommates are responsible for adhering to is a good idea and will help make your living situation be that much better.

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