Setting Some Rules

Making things a bit more official than “nobody touch my stuff”

Regardless of how much you trust your roommates, it’s never a bad idea to agree on some rules. Try to do this soon after you move in together so that you can get things started on the right foot.

Many students like to draw up a rudimentary contract (it can be in crayon if you want; what matters is that you have it in writing) that all roommates can sign. It sounds corny, but it can help prevent problems and solve them if they arise. No one can claim that they “didn’t know about that rule” if they signed a contract in which the rule is clearly stated.

When creating the rules, make sure you consider:

  • Food. Will you share food, or is each roommate responsible for his or her own? If it’s shared, who’s responsible for doing the grocery shopping?
  • Noise. Will there be a cutoff time for stereos and loud talking?
  • Keys. Will everyone have a key? Will there be a spare key and, if so, where will it be stored? Will any friends or romantic partners be given a key?
  • Chores. How often will the dishes / bathroom / floors / etc. be cleaned? Who’ll be responsible for what? It’s a good idea to make a chore schedule so that everyone’s assigned an equal amount of housework.
  • Borrowing. What things will be shared? What things are off-limits? Who is responsible if something is broken?
  • Guests. How many guests can visit? How long will they be allowed to stay? If they stay over, where can they sleep?
  • The phone. Who will be responsible for paying the bill? How long can the line be tied up?
  • Sex. Is it okay to kick your roommate out for the night so that you can have sex (a practice commonly referred to as “sexile”)?

As time passes, you may need to revise some of the rules. Schedule an informal meeting at a convenient time to discuss which rules are working and which ones aren’t. Try to avoid turning the meeting into a confrontation, even if you are upset that your roommate isn’t fulfilling his or her side of the contract.

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