5 Types of Roommates and How to Handle Them

The Rental Girl reveals the secrets to successfully sharing space.


Photo by: Courtesy of Dormify.com

Courtesy of Dormify.com

One day, you wake up and do the math. To afford the better things in life — a nice apartment, travel, luxury car, Prada — you need to split your living costs with a roommate.

Maybe you're one of the lucky ones with a "ghost" roommate lined up — someone who travels a lot, spends a lifetime at their significant other's place or is basically never home. Some roommates can become great friends and improve our social life. Others can scar us for life. Ideally, you'll take the time to choose a roommate wisely.

But no matter how diligently you screen a potential roommate, you still may end up with a lemon. For those of you who are currently experiencing an undesirable roommate situation, The Rental Girl — a boutique rental agency based in Los Angeles — offers some tips on how to deal. 

TYPE 1: The Inconsiderate Roommate

You go to pour a bowl of cereal and you grab an incredibly light container filled with air instead of milk. You go to brush your teeth and your roommate's toiletries are scattered all over the counter. Then there's the issue of those stubborn dishes that hate being washed. These are clues that you have an "I.R." — aka inconsiderate roommate.

How to deal?

Your roommate is not intentionally trying to annoy you. Have a tete-a-tete. You might be surprised to discover that your I.R. had no idea this behavior was an issue at all. We each have a unique brain and unique upbringing. Keep this in mind when you approach your roommate. Go into the conversation free of accusations. Instead, seek common ground. And imagine this: You may be behaving in an inconsiderate manner toward your roommate, too. A little humility will show your rude roomie you want to make an effort to improve the living situation as well. 

TYPE 2: The Taker

This roommate likes to "take," er, I mean, "borrow." The items taken may not be serious, but this issue is incredibly annoying. Food: You swear you didn't eat it, but it's not there. Laundry detergent: You haven't washed a load in ages, so where did it all go? Then there's the "space taker," or the roommate who hoards territory. I know of someone who forbade his roommate from using the living room. Talk about uncomfortable!

How to deal?

Depending on the seriousness of the item, a simple talk might clear things up. Create boundaries that make unspoken rules actually spoken. Perhaps an official "Roommate Agreement" that outlines what is and is not OK might be in order. However, if after that talk personal belongings still continue to be "borrowed," it might be time to find a new roommate and file this under "lesson learned." 

TYPE 3: The Hold and Explode Roommate (aka Passive Aggressive)

How do you know you have this roommate? That’s the funny part: You don't know until it's a bit too late. Your car is keyed, a garment is torn, those dirty dishes from the sink somehow end up on your bed. One day you take out the trash but forget to place a new bag in the can, and your roommate nearly blows a gasket. Think about it: Is it really about the trash bag? Most likely, no. They've just allowed their frustration to build until they explode.

How to deal?

We are all from different walks of life. What is no big deal to one person can make the next person lose it. Some people are non-confrontational and perhaps were raised not to complain. So they "hold and explode." If you try to become more approachable and non-judgmental, even the most timid person will feel comfortable enough to open up to you. You may find out your passionate sleepovers, garlic-infused cooking, cigar smoking and dirty feet on the coffee table are all making your roommate a little nuts. If the list gets too long due to incompatibility, well, then lesson learned. Next time disclose a little more about the things you are not willing to change. 

TYPE 4: The Irresponsible Roommate

This is not a roommate. You have inherited an adult child of your own. You meet all the deadlines for all the bills. You buy all the groceries and do all the cleaning. And where is your roommate? You get the most amazing stories: why this gig fell through, a job is in the works, an inheritance is on its way. You are working two jobs while your roommate has afternoons to chill. The irresponsible roommate has no urgency to fix anything because they know you've got their back.

How to deal?

This roommate needs firm and clear boundaries. Give your roommate a "last chance" ultimatum. Example: "If you are unable to pay the rent on the due date it will be your last month living here." Their reaction will give you clear indication of whether or not you need to start taking photos of your place for a roommate wanted ad. 

TYPE 5: The Entitled Roommate

If you live with a person who feels they should have more and give less and is still unhappy, they are entitled. "I'm rarely here, so I don't understand why I should clean," they say. Or "I know it's my dog, but we both live here, so why can't you walk it while I'm out?"

How to deal?

Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. An entitled roommate can't grasp the concept that you are not working two jobs to cover his or her bills. But try talking to them. Worst-case scenario, you won't feel guilty about getting a new roommate because you at least tried. Best-case scenario, your roommate has an emotional breakthrough and begins to appreciate what he has.

The most important thing in all situations is to remember this: What is normal to you may not be the case with others. So when looking for a housemate, invest time in choosing wisely and screen, baby, screen! Otherwise you will scream, baby, scream!

The Rental Girl is a boutique rental agency with neighborhood branches throughout Los Angeles. Each branch is operated by a unique rental agent and provides free apartment and home rental listings. Get more expert renting tips on renting a home at The Rental Girl Blog.

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