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25 Unwritten Roommate Rules to Live By

Posted on Monday February 20, 2012 by Staff Writers

One of the hallmarks of young adulthood and college revolves around learning how to get along with other people who just so happen to share the exact same living space. Roommates run the gamut from best friends forever to abusive nightmares, but all of them have to follow the same protocols. In order to avoid spiraling downward into someone else’s horror story, keep the following rules – all of which should probably be common sense by now, but, of course, aren’t – in mind at all times.

  1. Clean up after yourself

    Even if all parties agree that living in filth is perfectly acceptable, it should be each roommate’s responsibility to clean up their own petrified spaghetti and sweaty, decrepit socks when (if) the time comes. Or at least trade chore duties equally.

  2. Don’t drink from the carton:

    It has nothing to do with aesthetics or perceived slobbishness (hey – you gotta drink when you gotta drink) and everything to do with reducing your chances of becoming the CDC’s worst nightmare (after zombies).

  3. Don’t schtupp your roommate’s romantic partner

    Unless they’re in an open relationship or into cuckolding, anyways. Otherwise, consider romantic partners off-limits; exes technically aren’t, but why instigate drama?

  4. Cars shouldn’t be automatically considered communal property

    Designated drivers and emergencies aside, don’t just assume your roommates’ motor vehicles are at your disposal. Always ask first and be sure to top off or reimburse the gas in return.

  5. Exchange emergency numbers beforehand

    Yes, that sounds ultra paranoid and waaaaay to “adult responsibility” for the average college party animal, but seriously, kids. Trade a emergency contact information for a few trusted family members and friends shortly before moving in together – just in case.

  6. Avoid screaming fights

    Butting heads is going to be an inevitability, whether with your roommate, intimate partner, friend, family, or study buddy. Don’t let it escalate into a glass-shattering cacophony of accusations and insults; stay quiet out of courtesy for other peoples’ eardrums and feel free to kick out any non-roommates (or just leave if the fight is with one) before things get to that point.

  7. Settle finances beforehand

    In some instances, an even split just might not work for some roommates with unequal incomes; there’s nothing the matter with such an arrangement, of course, but the prudent thing to do is work out bills and rent ahead of time. And, of course, sticking to the agreement and only altering when absolutely necessary.

  8. Don’t eat food without asking

    Some roommates agree to certain communal foods, which is a perfectly acceptable (and logical and sometimes cost-effective) arrangement. But when living with those whose parents send them special treats from home or who enjoy whipping up gourmet lunches for themselves, be a dear and don’t nibble or nosh without an explicit “yes.”

  9. Everyone should be OK with parties before throwing them

    Because it’s just the polite thing to do, of course. Unless all parties in a living arrangement agree, don’t throw any bacchanalian shindigs – especially if they have work or school obligations keeping them awake or forcing them to get up early. Myriad compromises are available to make sure everyone’s needs get met.

  10. And if a roommate isn’t around for one, police his and/or her stuff

    If an absent roommate consents to party time! excellent!, show some respect and keep his and/or her room off-limits. Regularly watch guests to make sure they honor this wish and everything remains unbroken and – more importantly – unstolen.

  1. Keep illegalities discreet, but open

    Except in the case of felonies and violent crimes, of course, all of which need to be reported immediately. College inevitably means encountering underage drinking and weed, and even those who don’t partake might still wind up living with those who do. It’s best to disclose these habits before agreeing to move in together, and those without caveats might still like to be notified ahead of time so they can leave if they feel uncomfortable. For roommates all about passing the blunts and under-21 beers, be polite and keep the noise down out of courtesy so innocent parties don’t wind up in trouble, too.

  2. Be open about weapons

    Roommates with illegal weapons should proooooooooobably be a dealbreaker, but the ones who follow all the possession laws should take the initiative to make sure everyone else residing with them knows about what they have. And, of course, how they plan on properly storing them. Some might not even want to live with even a safely stowed away handgun, for example, and would appreciate knowing this ahead of time so they can bow out.

  3. Don’t let guests touch the A/C

    Unless they plan on paying the difference, of course, in which case let them go on with their bad selves. But how many guests would honestly be OK with making up for fiddling with finances?

  4. Common areas aren’t great for make sexytimes

    Roommates consensually comfortable with such things – or fancying a bit of exhibitionism/voyeurism – should obviously disregard this rule. Everyone else needs to keep it in the bedroom. Or the shower, but only if they promise to clean up after.

  5. Wear clothes in common areas

    Once again, roommates who genuinely don’t mind seeing one another naked should consider themselves exempt from this rule, although they really should follow some tighter hygienic codes. More persnickety types should suit up in at least some shorts.

  6. Make sure to know everyone’s allergies

    Discuss serious allergies before signing anything, particularly those involving food and animals, to ensure every roommate feels safe, healthy, and secure. Anyone who might end up in the hospital because of proximity to peanuts, for example, should not live with someone unwilling to accommodate this restriction.

  7. A pet’s owner is fully responsible for his and/or her fuzzy friend:

    And, of course, should ask ahead of time if other roommates are fine with l’il Fido or Muffins hanging around. Being OK with pets and agreeing to care for them, however, should not be considered the same thing. If you must have a non-collective animal, you should act as its exclusive caretaker.

  8. Eat stinky food outside

    Never be ashamed to enjoy a durian, block of limburger, or a generously garlicked meal – just take your roommates’ olfactory needs into consideration. They might not appreciate the lingering smell as much as you.

  9. Don’t borrow clothes without asking

    Really, this rule ought to be considered a no-brainer, but it keeps happening and keeps needing saying. It doesn’t matter how adorable you look in your roomie’s bright pink Betsey Johnson miniskirt, snatching it from her closet without asking is rude. Not to mention just ASKING to have every meatball sub and glass of red wine in a one-mile radius gravitate towards your quavering thighs. Karma!

  10. Let everyone know when you’re running low on toilet paper, paper towels, soap, etc

    For community nonperishables necessary to creating an (ostensibly) clean space, make sure to always keep track of what needs refilling.

  1. If someone makes your roommate uncomfortable, do not invite them over

    Show some courtesy to roommates who find your friends, family, or study partners legitimately discomforting, ESPECIALLY if some sort of harassment, harm, or hurt took place. They deserve to feel safe in their own homes, too, and nothing says you can’t hang out with the offending party somewhere else.

  2. Take out the trash

    No bickering over turns, either. Just take it out, because for god’s sake it reeks to hell and back when allowed to sit and ferment like that. Only takes two seconds, too, so think of the chore as the most necessary of evils.

  3. Pay bills on time

    Duh. Nobody wants to live with a deadbeat who lets the electricity go out because he and/or she was too busy thinking about camping Booty Bay and ganking n00bs. Bitter, bitter irony there. O. Henry would just love it.

  4. Don’t take common items without asking

    All good (and terrible) things must come to an end, but don’t waltz out with community-purchased lamps, microwaves, furniture, and the like. Divide everything up in a mutually fair, satisfying manner with everyone who contributed funds towards these items.

  5. Help during move-out

    Emergencies obviously exempt roommates from moving and cleaning the living space after the lease runs out. But nobody else has any legitimate excuse. Get up, get out, and make yourself useful.