While choosing the right roommate is a good way to head problems off before they start, there’s not much you can do to change your mind once the lease is signed. You’ll need to do your best to get along with the people living inside your home. And it’s not just about their behaviour… It’s also about yours!
Consideration for others
When sharing space with anyone, you must be considerate. Keep in mind that your daily routine is important—but so is theirs. There will come a time when you’ll have to adjust for your roommates—it’s inevitable. Don’t see it as a fight for your own space, but as a delicate balancing act for all of you. (This is easier when you and your roommates communicate well… and when there’s not one person doing all the adjusting.) For instance: I spent two years living with up to seven people in a small attic apartment with only one bathroom—that was often occupied. So how did we manage? By paying attention to each other. We’d be mindful of who else was home and try to not to hog the stove or the shower unnecessarily. And if someone had an important event or an early class, we would let each other know and try to keep it in mind.
Addressing problems once they’ve begun
You will almost certainly be annoyed with your roommates at one point or another. But when it comes to the little things, it’s often best to let it go. As you bite your tongue about their smelly lunches, they are probably biting their tongue just as much about the puddles you leave all over the bathroom after every shower. (Okay, that one was me.) But there’s a difference between irritating quirks and things that actually affect your quality of life. There are situations when you have to address the problem. The best way is to stay positive and respectful—but be direct. (Try not to leave passive-aggressive notes all over the apartment.) The faster you address this directly—without putting your roommate on the defensive about it—the quicker you can deal with it and move on. An easy way to do this is to make the problem about yourself instead of them. For instance, rather than angrily accusing them of spraying their stupid, smelly perfume all over the bathroom, why not begin, “Hey, I don’t think I ever told you this, but I’m really sensitive to perfume. Do you mind putting it on in your room instead of the bathroom?” Sometimes this is easier said than done. I’ve had my share of roommate situations where I didn’t know what to do—from a roommate with anger management issues to one who secretly stole (food, clothes, electronics…) from the rest of us. The former was eventually handled with a careful conversation; the latter was only solved when our thieving roommate moved out. If you’ve really tried everything to get along and just can’t reach a resolution, it may be time to go your separate ways. If you live on campus, explain your situation to your residence assistant or floor manager and see if they can make a roommate switch. In an apartment, it’s a little more difficult—if you or your roommate must move out before the lease is up, there will likely be a penalty charge from your landlord. Consult your lease to find out how much notice you need to give before moving out.
Landlord-tenant conflicts happen, too
Landlord problems? Find your province or territory and click for more information about your rights and responsibilities.
Roommates can be eccentric, but so too can landlords—and it’s more difficult to be selective with them! Many landlords are helpful and responsible, but sometimes you come across one who doesn’t want to hold up their end of the bargain. One of the worst situations for me was in an apartment that had a two-storey outdoor staircase as the only way in. The landlord let those stairs deteriorate to the point that a paramedic yelled at us for living in a safety hazard (“There’s ‘rickety,’ and then there’s those!”). When did our landlord finally address the problem? Not until a step broke in half under my roommate’s foot. Our landlord also rarely shovelled the snow from those rickety steps, which got slippery very quickly during the freezing rain that comes with Nova Scotian winters. Lacking an ice pick, we had few options. So, to avoid plummeting to the pavement below, we would go down the stairs seated, like it was a cold, wet slide. What we should have done is stand up for ourselves—because, according to our lease, snow removal was our landlord’s responsibility. Know your rights! Your landlord is responsible for maintenance (as laid out in the terms of your lease) and is not allowed to enter your apartment without prior warning. If you have a problem with your landlord, you can contact the landlord and tenant board in your province or territory to settle the dispute.
Though there were ups and downs, I look back very fondly on my days of living with roommates. Some of my old roommates are still among my closest friends in the world—even more so thanks to our time together in tiny little apartments. At the very least, some of my best stories today come from my experiences in those now-unbelievable places. So just remember to communicate, compromise (within reason), and keep your rights in mind. You’ll be just fine!
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