Essential Roommate Rules to Discuss when Moving in Together

two girls in knitted hats smiling

Even if you’re used to sharing a room with your siblings or other relatives, living with a roommate is a new experience, and their habits and routines might seem weird or annoying to you.

Can you find a compromise with your cohabitant? Can you be a good roommate even if you’re not friends? We are sure that this is possible if you follow some basic rules. That’s why we have made a list of ground rules for roommates that will help you avoid conflicts, which are not uncommon for people who live in close quarters.

1. Washing Dishes

When talking about roommates, it’s impossible not to mention the most vital question – whose dirty plate is this and who should wash it? The issue of dirty dishes often starts a roommate war and makes you think “I hate my roommate.”

There are two simple ways to avoid this problem:

  • Make a schedule
  • Set the basic rule of doing dishes immediately after the meal or cooking

What if a roommate breaks the rules, leaving dirty plates around? Such behavior might be a passive aggressive move or just an act of irresponsibility. Make sure you have separate dishes (maybe even marked or colored) and do only the ones which you use. Eventually, your roommate will have to start washing dishes instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

2. Inviting Guests Considerably

Having your roommate’s friends, relatives, or significant other repeatedly staying at your place is annoying. Especially when you get up in the morning and discover an occupied bathroom or no hot water left. You need to establish must-have rules when living with a roommate to regulate such issues. Make sure to talk about how many people you and your roommate can invite and how long guests stay. Also, mention the necessity of warning each other beforehand.

3. Cleaning

Living in a dirty apartment or dorm room is not the most pleasant thing. Especially if you’re not the one who makes the mess but the one who has to clean it eventually.

When two or more people move in together, they might be surprised by the fact that the term “clean” might mean different things for different people. For example, some individuals are totally okay with the fact that there are dirty dishes in the sink. Others can’t sleep knowing that there might be some trash in the bin.

So, what you can do is:

  • create a cleaning schedule
  • discuss if you are going to use cleaning services and if so, split the bill
  • discuss the organization and storage of things
  • set up a list of weekly cleaning tasks
  • discuss the rules of using and cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, and other shared spaces.

The cleaning schedule solves the majority of problems that might occur. For example, you won’t have to think of how to ask your roommate to clean the bathroom. You can just point out the schedule.

4. Respecting Each Other’s Space

Having your space and some privacy is necessary no matter how many roomies you have. That’s why it’s important to respect personal space and the right to study, have some rest, or hang with your significant other alone. Always make sure to ask your roommate to knock before coming in and keep the noise reasonable no matter what time it is. By the way, if you would like to know how you can meet your significant other in college and develop a relationship, we have a few pieces of advice for you.

How do you deal with roommate breaking rules? Start with closing the door to your room and putting a big sign on it. Having a key to lock your door is also a good idea if possible.

If you live with your roommate in one dorm room, it’s much harder to establish the borders of private space for both of you. However, you can discuss:

  • what to do if one of you has a date in your room
  • your daily schedules – when each of you goes to bed and gets up
  • the items, furniture, gadgets that are shared and any private stuff (what your roommate can use when he or she needs it, what needs to be asked before borrowed, and what should be never touched)
  • what to do if you want to change something in the room, move furniture, etc.

Being roommates doesn’t imply being friends. However, being respectful of each other’s preferences is what helps to build a friendly relationship. If you want your rules to be followed, make sure that you are attentive to the needs of your roommate too, so that you are equal in your rights and obligations.

5. Being Responsible

Living with a roommate is all about compromises. It’s also about being responsible and caring. This means that both of you should take care of the pets if you have them, observe fire safety, be careful when using roommate’s things, make sure you close the door when leaving, etc.

No one wants to have an indifferent roommate whose absent-mindedness can lead to tragic results. Being responsible also means that sometimes you need to solve problems that are caused by your roommate. For example, if your roommate leaves clothes in the washing machine or forgets to turn off the iron. You aren’t the one who messed up, but you are the one who has to fix it once you’ve noticed it.

What to Do if Your Roommate Keeps Breaking Rules?

However, discussing and establishing these rules with your roomies doesn’t mean that they will be followed. Sometimes you might find that you’re the only one who cares about such rules. So, what can you do?

Consider signing a roommate agreement

Having rules written down and signed by both parties has a bit more weight when it comes to agreements with other people. This way you will not hear things like “I don’t recall talking about this with you” or “you have never asked me to.”

A roommate agreement is a brief document that lists all the rules that you and your roommate agree to follow. Such agreements can be framed and put on the wall so you can always point them out.


How many times have you heard that you need to speak about the things that bother you? If something is wrong, it doesn’t mean that your roommate wants to spoil your relationship. Sometimes they might just forget about your agreements (this is one more reason to put your rules on the paper).

That’s why communicating is key to overcoming obstacles before they grow into problems. Talk to your roommate if you feel they don’t respect the rules that you have created together and why it makes living together difficult. Make your position clear and try to sound as calm as possible.

Talk to a landlord

Not all problems with your roommate can be solved by trying to reach a compromise. If your roommate breaks the rules intentionally in order to make you feel uncomfortable, this means that it’s better for you to consider other actions that you might take.

For example, if you rent an apartment, you can talk to a landlord about the inconveniences which your roommate makes you go through. Provide a few examples or proof if you have any (for example, that your roommate throws noisy parties at night) and let your landlord know that you can find another roommate who will be more friendly and law-abiding. Chances are high that your landlord will take your roommate’s name off the lease. However, this should be a last resort.

If you live in a dorm, you can also approach your supervisor and ask to move you to another room. There aren’t always vacant rooms, but you can at least try. Never be ashamed to move out if you are harassed or insulted by your roommate.

Eventually, you can always teach your roommate a lesson by pulling a prank on him or her.

Wrapping Up

Lastly, one more tip for everyone moving in with another person for the first time and wondering how to set the rules in your house: roommates can’t read thoughts. Communicate, discuss what bothers you, and what you can do about that. This is the only way to be able to live under the same roof. There might be plenty of things that you are used to doing differently, so be prepared to find a compromise to make this coexistence work. If it’s your freshman year, our article on some tips for your first year in college will come in handy too.

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