Your first and best move when you need to find a roommate is to ask friends, family and co-workers if they know of someone looking for an apartment. These people know you pretty well, they have a good sense of your personality and can probably tell if you and the person they’re recommending will be a good fit. If this works out, you’re starting the race in the home stretch. More often than not though, when you need a roommate, it’s time to think like a landlord.
This means you’ll need to advertise. In most cities, Craigslist will serve you well in this regard. It’s free and widely used. However, when you meet people for the first time to see the apartment, always make sure you have another friend over so you aren’t letting unfamiliar people into your home while you’re alone. Learn how to master rental advertising through our free rental property marketing guide.
As you’re showing them around, try to get to know them. Ask where they work, why they’re looking for a place, and where they live currently. Inquire about their work schedule, as well as their hobbies and interests, to get a sense of who they are and whether your lifestyles will be compatible. If your instinct gives you any kind of a negative vibe, heed it, thank them for responding and consider the next person. Repeat the process until you find someone who feels right. Be sure to read through our rental property showings guide next!
Once you do, you’ll need to screen the person just as a landlord would, because you’re basically sub-letting your apartment to this person. This means you’ll have to count on them to pay their share of the rent—on time—plus their share of the utilities and possibly even food.
If they don’t, you’ll be on the hook for the full amount.
For this reason, you must make sure their financial footing is sound. The easiest way to do this is to have them fill out the same application you completed to get the apartment in the first place. This will provide you with all the information you’ll need to run the necessary background checks.
Further, have them provide at least three months of pay stubs so you can verify their income. You should also run a credit check to make sure they aren’t in the habit of shirking their financial responsibilities. And, while it’s a delicate subject, run criminal and sex offender checks too. Be sure to call their employer, previous landlords and prior roommates if they have them. Let the person know you’ll be doing all of this and make sure they understand signing the application grants you their consent to do so.
To avoid starting your relationship off on adversarial terms, you can lay the need for all of this at the feet of the actual landlord. You can say, “I’m sorry about all of this, it’s not me. I know you’re a great person, but the landlord insists upon having this on file for anyone who lives here.”
By the way, if you’re unsure about how to run these checks, ask your landlord for help. After all, it’s in their best interest to make sure this person will hold up their end of the deal too.
While doing all of this might feel like you’re being invasive, consider the consequences if you don’t do it and they turn out to be someone on whom you wish you had run these checks. It’s better to know what you’re dealing with up front than it is to have to extricate yourself from an uncomfortable situation after they move in. Because you are getting to know their information all upfront, this transparency can also protect yourself from a tenant lawsuit in the future.
Property owners don’t rent to people without checking them out first and neither should you. When you need a roommate, it’s time to think like a landlord.
Learn how to have a better renting experience by checking out our renting guide here: