35 Essential Rules To Have With Your Roommates

Are you frustrated with your roommate’s unwashed dishes? Or have you been jolted awake at 2 AM by loud video games? Navigating shared living spaces can indeed present challenges. But with the right roommate rules, harmony is within your reach!

I’ve put together a guide that lays out essential rules to avoid the pitfalls and elevate the perks of cohabitation. Get ready to master the art of living together — it’s easier than you think!

The Need for Roommate Rules

Roommate rules help everyone know who does what, when to give each other space, and how to solve problems.

These rules aren’t meant to control or limit anyone but to help everyone live together happily and without fights.

Whether you’re new to living with roommates or have done it before, these rules are useful:

  • To clarify expectations.
  • To avoid conflict.
  • To set ground rules.

Rules on Communication

Communicate Openly and Honestly

Open and honest communication can act as the foundation of a harmonious shared living situation. This involves expressing your thoughts, feelings, and concerns without hesitation.

A straightforward conversation can prevent miscommunication and ensure that all roommates are on the same page. Remember, it’s not just about speaking, but also about active listening.

Example: If a roommate’s habits are disrupting your sleep, have a candid conversation with them instead of harboring resentment. This fosters an environment of trust and mutual respect.

Create Routine Check-ins

Check-ins don’t have to be formal meetings, they can be simple touch points that allow roommates to discuss:

  • Ongoing issues
  • Upcoming plans
  • Changes to the shared space

This ensures everyone is updated and feels included in decision-making processes.

A weekly or bi-weekly meeting can be an effective way to address any issues, share updates, and maintain open communication lines.

Example: You might discuss changes in work schedules, upcoming visitors, or even shared responsibilities like cleaning or shopping.

Notify About Extended Absences

Sharing information about extended absences can help manage shared responsibilities more efficiently.

If you’re planning to be away for a while, notify your roommates in advance. This will allow them to plan accordingly, whether it’s for utilities, shared tasks, or security.

Example: If you’re going on a vacation, let your roommates know so they can take over your chores during your absence. Similarly, if a roommate is going to be away, they should share their contact information for emergencies.

Rules on Shared Spaces and Usage

Respect Private Space

Respecting each other’s private space is essential for a peaceful shared living environment.

While you share common areas, each roommate should have their own space that others respect. Encourage each other to:

  • Knock before entering someone’s room.
  • Ask for permission to use personal belongings.

Example: If a roommate’s door is closed, always knock and wait for permission to enter. This helps maintain the balance between shared and personal spaces.

Negotiate Decor

Shared spaces should reflect the tastes and styles of all roommates. Decisions about decorating shared areas should be made together. This includes the choice of paint color, art, furniture, and other decor elements.

What to Do: Create a shared Pinterest board or similar platform where everyone can pin their decor ideas. It helps ensure everyone’s taste is considered, and the final design feels like home for everyone.

Agree on a Storage Policy

A clear storage policy helps maintain order and prevent clutter. Fair distribution of storage space, whether it’s kitchen cabinets or the living room bookshelf, can prevent disputes.

Example: If you share a closet, you could divide it equally among all roommates. You could also use labels to designate space for each person’s belongings.

Agree on Guest Policy

An agreed-upon guest policy ensures the comfort and safety of all roommates. This can include rules around:

  • Visiting hours
  • Overnight stays
  • The frequency of visits

Example: You might decide that guests need to leave by a certain time or that overnight guests can only stay for a certain number of consecutive nights.

Remember that it’s important that all roommates feel comfortable with these rules.

Set Boundaries for Romantic Partners

Guidelines for visits from significant others can help maintain everyone’s comfort. This can cover things like:

  • How often a partner can stay over.
  • What spaces they can use.
  • What times they can visit.

Example: You might agree that significant others can only stay over two nights per week or that they should not be in the shared living space after a certain time.

Rules on Safety and Respect

Maintain Safety Standards

For everyone’s peace of mind, it’s important to adopt safety practices. This includes:

  • Locking doors and windows.
  • Not leaving cooking appliances unattended.
  • Following any building or community safety regulations.

Example: A safety rule could be, “Always lock the front door when leaving the house, no matter how briefly you’re stepping out.”

Establish Protocol for Lost Keys

A plan for lost keys can prevent panic and confusion. Decide what should be done in case of lost keys, such as who to contact or where the spare keys will be kept.

Example: You might agree to have a locksmith’s contact details on hand or to keep a set of spare keys with a trusted neighbor or family member nearby.

Agree on Alcohol and Drugs Policy

An understanding of substance use in shared spaces ensures a safe and comfortable living environment. Discuss and set rules around the use and storage of alcohol and recreational drugs.

Example: You might agree that no illegal substances are allowed in the house or that alcohol can only be consumed in certain areas or at certain times.

Exchange Emergency Contacts

Having each other’s emergency contact details is essential for everyone’s safety. This can include the contact details of:

  • A family member
  • A close friend
  • A primary healthcare provider

Remember, this information should be stored securely and used responsibly, respecting each other’s privacy.

What to Do: A shared digital document or a physically pinned note in a common area can be useful for storing these details.

Rules on Chores and Responsibilities

Divide Chores Evenly

Chores should be seen as equal responsibilities, not burdens. Prevent resentment by distributing chores evenly among roommates. This can be:

  • Cleaning
  • Shopping
  • Taking out the trash
  • Other household tasks

Example: You could create a chores chart or use a shared app where each roommate’s tasks are clearly marked. Rotate these responsibilities regularly to ensure fairness.

Define Laundry Protocol

A clear system for shared laundry tasks and resources can prevent disputes. This can include setting a laundry schedule, rules for using laundry detergents, and how to handle left-behind clothes.

Example: You might agree on a rotation system for using the washing machine or decide that each person is responsible for their own laundry supplies.

Agree on Bathroom Usage

A schedule for shared bathroom use can prevent clashes, especially during peak times like mornings. Rules can be set for how long each person can use the bathroom or what times it’s off-limits for cleaning.

Example: You could agree on a morning schedule where each person gets a half-hour slot to use the bathroom.

Agree on Houseplants Care

If houseplants are part of your shared space, responsibilities for their care should be divided. This can include watering, fertilizing, or repotting plants.

Example: One roommate could be responsible for watering the plants, while another could handle fertilizing. Rotating these tasks could also be an option.

Rules on Financial Agreements

Share Expenses

Rent, groceries, and utility bills should be split equally among roommates. This can prevent financial disputes and ensure everyone is contributing their fair share.

You could use a shared app or spreadsheet to track and split costs.

Example: Each roommate could add their grocery expenses to a shared Google sheet and then calculate the total and each person’s share at the end of the month.

However, equal splits work best when each person’s usage is roughly similar. It’s important to have a talk about reasonable usage and habits to ensure everyone’s on the same page. 

Establish a Repair and Maintenance Fund

A common fund for unexpected repairs or maintenance can prevent sudden financial strain. Each roommate could contribute a set amount monthly, which can then be used when necessary.

Example: If the fridge breaks down unexpectedly, funds from this shared pot could be used to repair or replace it, avoiding the stress of unexpected expenses.

The amount contributed to this fund can be based on everyone’s financial capabilities and agreed upon unanimously.

Manage Online Subscriptions

Rules for online subscriptions, like Netflix or Spotify, ensure everyone has fair access, and the costs are shared equally.

  • Decide who will manage these subscriptions.
  • Decide how the costs will be split.
  • Decide what happens if someone wants to cancel their part.

Example: You could agree to have one roommate manage the Netflix account while another handles the Spotify subscription.

Agree on a Bill Payments Schedule

A clear schedule for shared bill payments can prevent monetary disputes. This could include the due date for each bill, who is responsible for paying it, and how the payment will be split.

Example: You might agree that all bills should be paid by the first of each month, with one person responsible for collecting money from all roommates.

You could set a reminder on a shared calendar to ensure no bill due dates are missed.

Opt for Digital Payments

Digital payments help maintain transparency and exactness in splitting costs. They are easy to track, instant, and minimize the risk of lost or forgotten payments.

Example: Roommates could use digital wallets or banking apps to transfer their shares of expenses.

Rules on Living Habits

Establish Quiet Hours

Specific quiet hours can help ensure everyone gets their rest and personal time. This can include hours for studying, working, or simply unwinding without disturbances.

Example: You might agree that after 10 PM and before 7 AM are quiet hours, where noise levels should be kept to a minimum.

Use noise-cancelling headphones during quiet hours if you need to listen to music or watch TV.

Agree on Temperature Settings

A temperature that suits everyone ensures comfort for all. Discuss and agree on a temperature range for the thermostat that works for everyone.

Example: You could agree that the thermostat should be set to around 72°F (22°C), adjusting slightly as needed for individual comfort.

Respect Work-From-Home Space

With more people working from home, accommodating remote work needs can show consideration for each other’s professional lives. Set rules for maintaining a quiet and distraction-free environment during work hours.

Example: Agree to avoid loud activities during work hours and respect each other’s workspace.

Limit the Use of Strong Scents

Strong perfumes, incense, or foods with strong smells should be used considerately to respect everyone’s comfort. Discuss and set rules for when and where these can be used.

Example: You might agree to only cook strongly-smelled foods at certain times or to avoid using strong incense in shared spaces.

Promote Energy-Saving Habits

Encourage energy conservation for both environmental and financial reasons. Agree on habits like turning off lights when leaving a room, using energy-efficient appliances, and not wasting water.

Example: You might agree to only use the washing machine for full loads, or to turn off the heater when nobody is at home.

Energy-saving habits not only reduce your utility bills but also contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.

Label Personal Foods and Drinks

Avoid mix-ups or accidental consumption by labeling personal food items and beverages. You can use sticky notes or marker pens to mark your items.

Example: If you’ve bought a special dessert for yourself, label it before storing it in the shared fridge.

Discuss Comfort Level with Social Gatherings

Understanding and rules for social events hosted in shared spaces can prevent potential discomfort.

Discuss the following with your roommates:

  • How often you can have social gatherings.
  • How many people can be invited.
  • What times are suitable.

Example: You might agree that parties can only be held on weekends, with a maximum of ten guests, and must end by 11 PM.

Establish Noise Control During Calls

An agreement about noise levels during personal calls can help maintain a peaceful environment. You could agree to take calls in your own rooms, use headphones, or keep your voice low.

Example: If a roommate is taking a call in a shared space, they should keep their voice down to avoid disturbing others.

Rules on Shared Items

Establish Rules for Shared Supplies

Set rules for replenishing shared supplies like toiletries, cleaning products, and kitchen essentials to ensure costs and responsibilities are shared.

  • Decide on who buys.
  • Decide on when to replenish.
  • Decide on how the costs are split.

Example: You could rotate the responsibility of buying toilet paper, with each person taking a turn each month.

Agree on TV and Internet Usage

Rules that clearly define the use of shared technology, like TV and the Internet, can prevent disputes. Decide on:

  • How to split the cost.
  • How to manage usage during peak hours.
  • How to handle any issues or repairs.

Example: You might agree that the person who watches TV the most pays a larger share of the cable bill or that streaming is paused during work hours to maintain internet speed.

Keep Shared Documents in a Common Spot

A designated area for shared documents like lease agreements, utility bills, and repair receipts ensures easy access for all. This could be a physical folder, digital cloud storage, or both.

Always keep important documents in an organized, secure, and accessible place.

Decide on the Usage of Shared Electronics

Guidelines for the usage of shared electronics like laptops, printers, or kitchen appliances prevent misuse and ensure fair access. Decide who can use what, when, and how to handle any maintenance or repair.

Example: You might agree that the printer can be used anytime, but the person who uses it the most buys the ink.

Follow a Rotation System for Popular Items

A rotation system ensures fair usage of high-demand shared items, like videogame consoles or the best spot on the couch. Decide on how to rotate and how long each person gets to use the item.

Set Rules for Pets

If pets are part of your shared space, decide on responsibilities for pet-related tasks like:

  • Feeding
  • Walking
  • Cleaning
  • Veterinary appointments

If a pet belongs to a specific roommate, discuss what responsibilities they will take on and what they expect from others.

Example: A pet owner might take on most responsibilities but ask roommates to help with feeding or walking occasionally.

Discuss what actions should be taken if the pet causes damage, disrupts the living space, or any other conflicts arise.

How to Resolve Conflicts When Trouble Strikes

It’s essential for roommates to address issues as they arise rather than allowing them to fester and worsen.

When conflicts are ignored, they can quickly escalate and cause tension in the living environment, making it uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Step 1: Establish a Comfortable Environment

Choose a neutral space and a convenient time for everyone to meet and calmly discuss the issue at hand.

Step 2: State the Issue

Clearly and objectively state the problem that needs resolution.

Step 3: Listen Actively

Give each roommate a chance to express their perspective, and encourage active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and asking questions for clarification.

Step 4: Acknowledge Emotions

Recognize and validate each person’s feelings about the issue without casting judgment or blame.

Step 5: Identify Possible Solutions

Brainstorm together and compile a list of potential resolutions to the conflict.

Step 6: Select the Best Solution

Evaluate each option and choose the one that best addresses the issue and satisfies everyone’s needs.

Step 7: Establish an Action Plan

Outline the steps needed to implement the selected solution and designate responsibilities to each roommate.

Step 8: Evaluate the Outcome

Schedule a follow-up meeting to assess the effectiveness of the chosen solution and make any necessary adjustments.

It can be helpful to seek outside mediation from a neutral third party. This could be a trusted friend, mediator, or counselor who offers unbiased guidance for productive resolution.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a roommate breaks a rule?

It’s important to address the issue directly with the roommate, calmly discussing the problem and any possible consequences.

Agree on a resolution and steps to avoid repeating the issue in the future. If the problem persists, consider consulting a mediator or a trusted mutual friend for assistance.

Can roommates create their own roommate agreement?

Absolutely. A roommate agreement is a helpful document that outlines specific rules, expectations, and responsibilities, as well as consequences for breaking the agreement.

It may not be legally binding, but having a signed document can serve as a reference and reminder of the established rules and expectations.

Is it important to sign a lease agreement with your roommates?

Yes, having a written lease agreement protects everyone’s interests.

The lease should outline rent amounts, room allocations, security deposit details, and any additional rules specific to your living situation.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, establishing rules with your roommates ensures a fair and comfortable living arrangement for all. Remember that flexibility is key — be ready to adjust the rules as you go along to adapt to everyone’s changing needs. Open communication will keep your living situation on track.

Stay open, stay fair, and you’ll turn your shared house into a home where everyone can relax and feel at ease. Here’s to a smooth co-living experience!

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Jessa Claire is a registered healthcare provider. Music lover. Daydreamer. Thalassophile. Foodie. A hardworking Capricorn. Most days, an incurable empath. An old soul. Down-to-earth. Vibrant.

When she's not writing, she can be seen relaxing with headphones on or engrossed in her favorite fan fiction book.