The Benefits of Establishing Clear Communication Channels in a Roommate Agreement
A roommate agreement is vital to streamline the dynamics of living with someone else.
Use it to ensure clear communication during your living together, so it paves the way for a successful and happy living arrangement that mirrors the excitement you both had when you first moved in together.
A while back, Enzo wrote a much needed blog on how to set up roommate agreements. Generally speaking, we made sure this blog was comprehensive and filled with the essentials of how a roommate agreement should be formulated.
We wanted to provide you with a follow-up on that article that will assist you and your roommate to ensure the agreement you both set up, is actually being held to.
What Does Clear Roommate Communication Look Like?
Most agreements are only as good as the paper they’re written on. It takes the people involved to ensure that the rules and agreements laid out are followed and respected each and every day.
Here we’ll be looking at the most effective ways to do this, ranging from regular meetings to discussing bills and usage of spaces.
Remember, when you get and maintain buy-in from all roommates, it’s much easier to get individuals to comply with the rules. So, communication should be about discussing topics and agreeing on guidelines—not simply one person stating the rules to others without considering their viewpoints.
You can use the items below as your go-to topic list when addressing communication, even if a specific topic doesn’t cause you concern at the moment. Use it as a means of prevention rather than cure, to maintain a good relationship between you and your roommate.
Regular Meetings for Re-Establishing House Rules
Regular meetings for re-establishing house rules are crucial for maintaining a harmonious living environment. These meetings provide an opportunity for roommates to revisit and evaluate the relevancy of existing rules and allow anyone to make—or at least suggest—any necessary adjustments.
By coming together on a regular basis, roommates can:
- Address any emerging issues
- Discuss concerns
- Ensure that everyone’s needs and expectations are being met
These meetings also promote open communication, foster a sense of collaboration, and encourage a share in responsibilities.
Ideally, these meetings should take place at least once a month. Remember, if multiple people share a space, there are many factors that impact your lives and many areas that can undergo change, even in a short period of time.
The rest of the points below are examples of what can and should be discussed at these regular intervals.
Quarterly Re-Evaluation of Your Roommate Agreement
The household agreement itself should be flexible enough to change. Meeting at least once every three months regarding this topic, creates a good opportunity to put the agreement before all involved parties and discuss if any changes are necessary.
Circumstances change. Jobs, finances, relationships, and social engagements all play a role in living with another person. Therefore, these rules should be re-evaluated every few months so that adhering to them is relevant to the lives of all parties involved.
Discussing money with your roommate is essential for establishing financial clarity and avoiding potential conflicts or misunderstandings. Here’s how and why you should have a regular conversation about money.
Start by discussing shared expenses such as rent, utilities, internet, and any other bills that you’ll be splitting. Clearly establish how much each roommate is responsible for contributing and agree on a method for collecting and paying these expenses.
Talk about your individual budgets and financial constraints. Understanding each other’s financial situations can help to set realistic expectations and determine what each roommate can comfortably contribute. This discussion can also help identify any potential financial challenges and give the opportunity to find solutions together.
Agree on specific payment deadlines for shared expenses to ensure bills are paid on time. Establishing a clear timeline will help avoid late payments, penalties, and disputes related to financial responsibilities.
Discuss any individual expenses that may arise, such as personal groceries or items for your own bedrooms. Clarify that each roommate is responsible for their personal expenses, and that there should be no assumptions or expectations of sharing costs unnecessarily.
Consider implementing a system for tracking shared expenses, such as using a shared spreadsheet or expense-tracking app. This allows for transparency and accountability, ensuring that everyone is contributing their fair share.
Discuss the need for an emergency fund or contingency plan. Agree on how to handle unexpected expenses that may arise, such as repairs or replacements, and determine how the costs will be divided (and ultimately returned if one of you moves out).
Communication about Changes
Regularly communicate with your roommate about any changes in your financial circumstances that might impact your ability to contribute as previously agreed. Being open and honest about these changes can help avoid conflicts and allow for adjustments to be made if necessary.
A roommate agreement should always include guidelines on chores:
- The chores required to manage and maintain the living space
- Who will perform which chores
- What the exact expectations are, since roommates’ opinions on what is ‘clean enough’ may differ
- Due dates or frequency of chores must be completed
- What happens if someone doesn’t perform their chores, such as implementing penalty payments
These chores are likely to change fairly regularly depending on life, work, and schooling. Your roommate agreement is a starting point, but flexibility is key to managing apartments and homes effectively. Therefore, a chore-tracking app like Enzo makes allowance for these changes to be made at a whim, giving you the flexibility to discuss and alter any chores on the list.
Active Listening to Grievances and Boundaries
Create a safe, non-confrontational space where all parties can openly express their grievances and concerns. Discuss specific behaviors or actions that are causing discomfort or infringing upon boundaries.
Clearly communicate your needs and expectations, and actively listen to your roommate’s perspective as well. Together, establish mutually agreed-upon boundaries that respect each other’s personal space, quiet hours, cleanliness standards, and other essential aspects of shared living.
Adapting to New Routines
As mentioned before, living routines change all the time. Because of these changes, a lot of other aspects of your living arrangement will change too, such as:
- Grocery usage
- Away and home-coming times
Don’t just expect others to fall in with your new lifestyle choices. If these new routines are presented to other roommates, they gain the freedom to adapt to those changes accordingly and mentally prepare for it, instead of feeling disrespected because they aren’t informed.
Pets can easily cause havoc and act outside the guidelines stipulated in the agreement between humans. So, it’s important to vocalize any issues that may have arisen in the past pertaining to those pets.
Evaluate whether the agreement on pets is being adhered to and discuss any relevant changes that may need to take place to accommodate everyone.
Guests and Relationships
More often than not, roommates are young people who move in and out of relationships all the time. A change in one of your relationships can have an impact on everyone else. For this reason, it’s crucial to discuss home-affecting relationships in a way that everyone in the home can agree on:
- If one of you has a significant other who is at your place all the time, how are food costs affected?
- What about the use of common areas such as the living room?
- Discuss hot water usage and even laundry changes.
All of these aspects can cause conflict if they aren’t openly discussed beforehand.
One of you may be going on a diet soon. Or perhaps someone has decided to become a vegan. Dietary changes will affect your shared grocery costs and should be part of any roommate discussion.
A more common scenario is that one of you may simply be eating more (or more expensively) than the other. Whatever the case may be, have an open talk about what each of your expectations are regarding shared food costs.
Common Area Scheduling
You may find it necessary to “book” a common area for parties, get-togethers, or romantic evenings to avoid any unwanted surprises while living together. Although this may have already been included in your original roommate agreement, it’s good to relook at this and maintain that schedule if needed.
Last Tip: Be Willing to Compromise
Staying open & honest and being willing to compromise will pave the way for a healthy living arrangement everyone is happy with. Make concessions where necessary, and be open to criticism to avoid coming across as arrogant or flawless.
Remember, your roommates have to live with you too.
Use the benefits of technology like Enzo to share rules, schedule tasks, manage bills and allow access to information to benefit your living arrangements—more than you may imagine.