Creating a Roommate Agreement is a way to set some boundaries and expectations with your roommate before problems arise. Some areas most likely to cause conflict are included in the Agreement. We’ve designed a template for you and your roommate to follow to help guide you through this discussion.
The Roommate Agreement is broken down into five parts.
- Room Environment: In this section, you and you roommate will discuss your habits and expectations regarding the use and space that is your room.
- Shared Space, Shared Stuff: This section covers borrowing and sharing personal items—food, appliances, electronics, clothes.
- Guests and Visitors: Visitors It’s hard enough managing the needs of 2 people in your residence hall room. This section will help you and your roommate create some expectations about guests and visitors to your room.
- Background, Values, and Modesty: Residence hall communities are made up of a wide variety of individuals with different social identities (nationalities, races, sexual orientations, socio economic groups, cultural, and religious backgrounds) and lifestyles. It will be important for you to understand your roommate’s background and values, and this section helps with that conversation.
- What if One Roommate Does Not Follow the Agreement?
When do you typically go to bed? Get up in the morning? Late nights quickly become part of the college routine while 8:00 a.m. classes are unavoidable for many. Make sure you communicate with your roommate about your weekly schedule. It will take some time for you to get used to another person’s sleep patterns, so it is important that you communicate early and often about each other’s sleep needs.
What kind of environment do you need when studying? You should not have to escape your room in order to have a place to study, yet you room should not be a 24-hour quiet sanctuary. Most students make the assumption that their roommate is fine with noise because they have not said otherwise. Conflicts in this area are usually the result of poorly communicated needs. You have the responsibility to be flexible when someone requests quiet time for study as well as the responsibility to be reasonable with your need for quiet.
How clean do you keep your room? Most people can handle their own mess but find others’ messes annoying. (If you can keep your clothes put away and take out your trash, there is usually not an issue.) If you are someone who is comfortable living in a more chaotic and messy environment, make sure you periodically ask your roommate if he or she is OK with the room’s condition. Like sleep and study time, this area requires that you accommodate reasonable requests and have reasonable expectations in your need for cleanliness.
Everyone defines “personal” differently. Most roommates don’t want to seem rude or territorial and fail to communicate that some personal items are completely off limits. Talk to your roommate about what items are for shared use, items that guests can use, and items that should not be handled by anyone but the owner.
How do you feel about groups of people socializing in your room? It can be enjoyable to live in a highly social room, and all floor communities eventually develop patterns in which certain rooms are the most common place for groups of students to hang out. It is important to keep your door open and be open to meeting new people, but learn how to set some boundaries about your needs for privacy and others’ use of personal property. Make sure that you and your roommate see eye to eye on this issue by talking about it. If your roommate doesn’t like your friends, or vice versa, it is especially important to have a discussion right away about arrangements that can be made.
How do you feel about your roommate’s significant other frequently spending time in your room? Regardless of sexual orientation, roommate’s significant others can be especially problematic in living situations. It is important to follow visitation policy regarding guests of both genders, and it is expected that both roommates agree about who is allowed in the room and the duration of a guest’s stay.
How do you feel about living in this type of diverse environment? We know that everyone has a different level of experience and openness to differences. It will be helpful to explore how your social identity influences the way you view the world (e.g., how the makeup of your hometown has impacted your religious and political beliefs). If you have the good fortune to live with someone whose social identity is in an area where you lack exposure, please take advantage of this powerful learning opportunity. These things can help you learn, grow, and change, and we believe that the more you work to understand and communicate through your differences with your roommate, the better chance you have of satisfaction in your room.
How would you describe your attitude toward the use of alcohol? Smoking? Using alcohol on campus and smoking in the residence hall are against policy, and anyone drinking underage could face legal consequences. The fact of the matter is that excessive alcohol use on or off campus virtually guarantees roommate conflict. Coming home intoxicated is rarely something that occurs without disruption and often results in some fairly inconsiderate actions. This is an issue that must be confronted early in your roommate relationship before the relationship is damaged beyond repair. Likewise, problems with the smell of smoke in your room should be discussed as soon as a problem is noticed.
It is fully expected that you will experience conflict, even minor ones, in your room--that’s just part of living with someone else! Failure to assert or ineffective assertiveness techniques will contribute greatly to every possible roommate problem. It is incredibly rare that someone will hear and understand your concerns without you clearly expressing them. Talk to your roommate after you make your Roommate Agreement about how you will be expected to bring up a problem. (Note that avoidance of conflict is a guarantee of continued conflict!) Refer to our communication tips for some ideas on confronting problem situations in your room.