Try as one might, you often can’t do without a roommate, especially today with rent and utility costs going up at the speed of light. At the same time, living with the wrong person can be nothing short of devastating. If you fail to vet them properly, this risk increases.
Here’s how to check if the person is reliable in a few easy steps.
Ask Coworkers and Friends
Before posting an ad, ask coworkers, friends, and acquaintances if they know someone who is moving or nearing the end of their rent contract. In most cases, you can rely on friends and loved ones’ recommendations.
It’s hard to trust a person no one has vouched for whom you don’t know. Friends and coworkers can be more reliable sources than agencies, especially ones that fail to vet their customers thoroughly.
If you reach a dead end with this approach, you can publish an ad.
Ask for References
A potential roommate is entitled to ask for references, just like a landlord or property manager. You could also ask for a previous landlord or roommate’s contact information. You don’t actually have to call them. Their reaction to your request can be telling. Watch for strange excuses why they can’t give this information.
If something seemed off, look them up using a platform to search for people online. Click or see the background check section of this article for more details.
Be Honest About Costs
If you expect to be able to trust them, know you must reciprocate. Trust is a bilateral process, and something people build up to. What’s more, people usually look for roommates because the utility and rent costs are too much to bear on their own.
Be honest about the real expenses they can expect to have monthly. While costs usually aren’t fixed, you can still provide an approximate amount. Any other costs beyond utilities and rent that exist and have to be split have to be shared.
When you get a few calls, schedule interviews. You might have more than one candidate. In that case, make a list and ask to meet those who seem most suitable. This shouldn’t be arranged like a job interview, obviously. Meet them in an informal setting to try and get to know them.
Ask what they do, why they’re looking for a new place to live, and anything else that’s relevant but not intrusive. Reliable roommates are gainfully employed ones. Take notice if they try to avoid answering employment-related questions. Make sure they will be able to pay their share if they’re still in school.
Questions about why they’re looking for a place could reveal an eviction, a fallout with a previous landlord or roommate, or other disturbing information. Normally, people want to move because they like an area.
They might just say their lease is up. Ask why they can’t or don’t want to renew it. Ask if they’ve ever had roommates before and what that experience was like for them.
Do a Background Check
Background checks are a good way to see if someone can be trusted. These sites require some personal details, however, and it’s not police or reasonable to ask for them at this stage. The good news is that all you need is a name and current address.
It may be hard to imagine the person having a criminal history, but it’s not a good idea to rely on first impressions. After all, you’ll be sharing your home with this person. Some more good news: you don’t need help to find out if they have a criminal record. Your district courthouse’s website will have information on felonies or lawsuits in their past.
Visit the website of the National Center for State Courts to find the relevant department.
Check Social Media
What people post on social media can be telling in terms of personality, interests, and habits. Posts can be inspiring or serve as a warning.
You can also check LinkedIn for information about their education and employment history.
Finally, your new roommate should be on the lease even if they seem trustworthy. They will probably feel safer making the tenancy relationship official as well.
Being deceived is a huge risk. Your roommate can ruin your credit. Get everything down in writing because you might need legal backup. This might be the case if they cause damage, are unable to pay their share, or incur liability.