Most people remember the nightmare housemate. Or the story they’ve heard about the nightmare housemate.
It’s enough to make one think that sharing housing is a bad idea. It isn’t. There are plenty of wonderful people out there who are, or could be, great housemates.
What is a Nightmare Housemate?
What makes a housemate a nightmare? Self-centeredness. Plain and simple. The nightmare housemate breaks agreements that have been made and then refuses to modify their behavior when there is an issue. The issue could be paying the bills on time, having guests in the house, or not cleaning up after himself in the kitchen. The nightmare housemate can not consider how their behavior affects others and is unwilling or unable to be kind and considerate.
How You Avoid the Nightmare
You avoid having nightmare housemates by knowing what you want and carefully interviewing. Let me say that again: You avoid having nightmare housemates by knowing what you want and carefully interviewing. Then once you’ve decided that the interviewee is a potential housemate you must check references and employment.
Every story I’ve heard about a nightmare situation is the result of an incomplete, ineffective or nonexistent selection process.
You can find out quite a lot about a person from references. Ask for two. Talk to them on the telephone. Engage in a long conversation. Find out how they know the person, how long, whether they’ve ever lived with them, and if they have what that experience was like. Ask for specific stories. Find out how often the person has moved. Listen to what and how they tell you. Verify income source by calling the person’s manager or supervisor. A short two-minute conversation will be sufficient.
While it is true that the potential housemate will only send you to people who are going to recommend them, it is up to you to determine how good a reference the person actually is.
Also it is essential that the person moving in pays the first month, last month AND security deposit. Don’t waver on this! If your future housemate tries to wheedle with you about any of this take it as a warning about how they will behave when they move in. That extra money is your security about their ability to pay bills and take care of the place.
Some people like to have agreements in writing — the better to ensure that everyone understands the expectations of the arrangement. If you do sit down and make an agreement — do it between the interview and when the person moves in. Don’t have the person move in and then work out a living together agreement. If the person can’t make time to do this, then they don’t have them move in.
Don’t Get Desperate
Most importantly, don’t get desparate for a housemate. The worst mistake I’ve ever made was when I was desparate. It didn’t last long, I kicked her and her boyfriend out within 6 weeks – but it wasn’t fun for the two weeks the situation developed. It’s really awful, in fact nightmarish, to have someone in your home with whom you are uncomfortable, unhappy, or angry.
The best defense against nightmare housemates is to choose carefully. It is possible. It’s a whole process that takes work, thought and paying attention to your gut. A great place to get a good picture of the whole process is by reading Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates. It has a lot more information in it. ( You can also get it on Amazon.)
Do you have stories of nightmare housemates? Can you remember how that person ended up living with you? Tell us the story.