10 Financial Questions to Ask Your Roommate Sooner Than Later

Rohan Mathew

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Living with a roommate is a great option, financially, because the money you get to split the money you spend on rent and utilities. However, when you end up living with someone who’s not financially sound, it creates more problems for you than you can ever imagine! You may end up being a victim of theft, facing the burden of rent and utilities, and even eviction. In other words, your roommate life is pretty much out the window! So, before you go ahead and sign the lease agreement, it’s crucial to screen your potential roommate well, whether it’s your best friend, coworker, or cousin. You need to make sure that your approach toward spending money and managing your finances matches your potential roommate’s. To vet your prospective roommate, you need to have a list of money-related questions prepared that you both can discuss in person. 

To make the process less daunting, we’ve put together a list of 10 questions that you’ll find helpful when you decide to have the ‘discussion.’

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Let’s go over the questions in detail.

  • How much can you afford to spend on housing?

This is an important question since it’ll help you determine whether your roommate can cover half of the rent. According to experts, you shouldn’t use more than 30 percent of your income on housing. When reviewing your rental application, your landlord may also use a similar budget percentage. Remember that just because your roommate earns enough money doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be able to make rent. Financial commitments and a debt load could be major obstacles. So, having an honest conversation about the expenses they can afford is necessary. It’s also important to consider the money spent on utilities. 

  • Do you have a stable job history?

You have a situation on your hands if your roommate loses their job a month or two into the 12-month lease, and you’re left with the responsibility of taking care of the rent and utilities. While layoffs are unpredictable, it doesn’t harm to have a look at your prospective roommate’s job history. Frequent job switches and unemployment periods are causes for concern, not to mention working for a company that’s downsizing or part of an industry struggling to survive. 

Tip: If ever you have to face such a situation, you can always find new roommates quickly from the best roommate finder

  • How do you want to split the bills?

You don’t want to wait too long to split the bills, which may lead to issues once you start living together. According to Mark Bauer, a law professor at Stetson University, each roommate should ensure that their names are added to the list of shared bills. That way, you can ensure that the bills are being paid on time rather than taking your roommate’s word for it. You don’t want to be caught off-guard when there’s no power and your roommate suddenly moves out. Transferring money between people is easy these days, thanks to apps like Venmo and PayPal. Something else that needs to be sorted out is whether the bills will be split 50/50 or otherwise. For instance, if your roommate’s using the master bedroom, should they be paying more rent?

Tip: Choose a date monthly when you and your roommate get together and set aside the money for rent and utilities. That way, none of you will be struggling to come up with the money at the last minute. 

  • What’s your credit score (or credit score range)?

If your roommate has a huge debt load and doesn’t pay their bills on time, it’ll show up on their credit scores. This is one of the main reasons landlords run credit checks before moving forward with rental applications. In a situation where the entire burden of rent and utilities falls on you and you’re unable to pay the amount due, it’ll impact your credit score.

Therefore, knowing your roommate’s credit score will help you decide whether they’re financially reliable or you should look for someone else.

  •  What do (and don’t ) you feel comfortable sharing?

Setting some ground rules is a good idea when it comes to identifying what falls under shared spaces and what’s meant only for your (and your roommate’s) use. This should include appliances, household supplies, furniture, and food items. While sharing things helps save money, arguments arise when there’s a clash between roommates about the ownership of items and spaces. Also, it’s not just important to ask them what they’re comfortable with sharing but also let them know what you’re okay or not okay with sharing. You need to respect each other’s wishes and preferences for the living arrangement to work out. If you and your roommate decide to share the costs of products such as paper towels and dishwashing liquid, make sure you save the receipts so that you can pay each other later. 

Tip: Run monthly meetings with your roommate to discuss and set a budget for shared expenses. 

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  • How often do you expect to have people over?

If you’re someone who prefers a quiet and peaceful environment, you’ll not want to live with someone who has people over almost every day. While your comfort level is important, your roommate’s answer to this question will help you decide the next steps concerning your finances. Having guests over all the time means more electricity and water use, leading to higher utility bills. For instance, if your roommate’s partner decides to make the rental their second home, you need to have an open conversation with your roommate about contributing a higher share of the bills. After all, nothing comes for free, does it?

  • What temperature do you prefer to have the thermostat on?

If your roommate prefers freezing A/C temperatures in summer and equally warm temperatures in winter, your utility bills will take a hit. To avoid thermostat-related arguments, have an honest discussion about fixing a temperature for the A/C in summer and the thermostat in winter to save on electric bills, and you both should be able to live comfortably. 

  • What do you do for transportation?

Your shared-living situation might be impacted depending on how your roommate gets around the city. For instance, if your rental comes with only one parking space and you both have cars, it makes sense to split the cost for the second parking space. But if your roommate uses public transportation to commute, this will affect your living location.  Living near a bus or train station might lead to higher rents.

Tip: If you and your roommate have workplaces close to each other and your working hours aren’t all that different, carpooling may be an ideal way to save money.

  • Do you have plans to make any changes to the apartment?

If your roommate decides that painting walls and hammering nails to put up artwork are great ideas to spruce up the apartment, they need to know that making these changes without running it by the landlord will lead to issues while moving out. You’re likely to lose all or most of your security deposit. Instead, using temporary wallpaper or even peel-and-stick wall hooks are much simpler options that don’t cause permanent damage. Discuss this with your roommate because long-term changes are likely to impact you both financially. 

  • Do you smoke?

Cigarette smoke causes damage to furniture, carpet, as well as walls. If your roommate smokes indoors, both of you will have to pay for the cleaning charges from your security deposits when you move out. 

So, are you ready to have a chat about your finances with your potential roommate so that you leave no room for any future arguments? We’re sure you are! Apart from the questions listed here, you could add more as you see fit, and you’ll be off to a great start!