August 20, 2006 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Roommate-filter: I've been in the same apartment (without a lease) in NYC for 9 years. It's time for a new roommate. What can I do to protect myself from psychos and other difficult roommate situations?

For the most part, my landlord and I get along fine - I'm a low-maintenance tenant, he keeps the rent relatively low. Since I've been in my apartment for so long, I feel like it's my place, and I think my landlord would agree. However, without a lease, my understanding is that, from a legal perspective, my roommate and I would be on equal footing. I'll of course vet candidates and try to weed out any potential problems, but can anyone recommend any other precautions I should take to protect myself from worst case scenarios? Also, what questions should I ask? What behaviors should I be on the lookout for?
posted by fingers_of_fire to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Make sure he can pay the rent and do not accept any lateness. I know this from experience.
posted by PowerCat at 9:32 PM on August 20, 2006

Uhm, not to get off track, but why don't you have a lease? Maybe now would be a good time to get one? If you had it by yourself, and then sublet to a roommate, that would give YOU the advantage in terms of kicking out people who cause problems.

Not having a lease for nine years seems pretty strange.
posted by autojack at 9:35 PM on August 20, 2006

Precautions: You can't do a whole hell of a lot legally if it's not your place--credit checks and the like are up to your landlord, I believe. IANAL, of course.

-What they do/how long they've had their job
-What kind of hours they keep (e.g. you might not want someone who works third shift and comes in banging around at 4am)
-What their plans are for friends/SOs/random drunk people staying overnight (if you care)
-If they're particularly clean or not (again, if you care)

Behaviors: This is kind of where you have to roll the dice, since people who address all this stuff at first meeting come off as anal rententive and invasive (at least to me). Keep in mind, though, that people you'd really hit it off with socially may be shitty roommates. If you really like two or three candidates, meet up for a quick beer and see what they're like when they're not asking about hot water and fridge space. This tends to narrow things down.

Most importantly, go with your instincts.

(On preview, yeah, you might want to get a lease. Then you actually can do a more rigorous screening process.)
posted by timetoevolve at 9:38 PM on August 20, 2006

timetoevolve covered everything I can think of, just thought I'd emphasize a couple points:

1. Money: make sure they can pay the first month's rent, security deposit, etc. immediately--like, within a day.
2. If possible, I really think you should get a lease. I don't know anybody who would accept an apartment without a lease; you might be severely limiting your choices.
posted by equalpants at 11:39 PM on August 20, 2006

Getting a lease affords you some good legal protections in the event something bad happens, roommate or otherwise.

Get on a lease, dude! :-)
posted by Mikey-San at 11:45 PM on August 20, 2006

you might want to visit for some advice (and horror stories).
posted by Izzmeister at 1:05 AM on August 21, 2006

I think the advice for a lease is good. Also, is there any chance of recruiting a roommate through friend networks? I've had very good roommate experiences, but all have been friends or at least friendly (one was a friend of a friend who I had met once or twice before). If no one you know directly is looking for a place, perhaps someone they know is, and you can get a chance to go out for coffee with them and get to know them, find out if you have similar/compatable living styles.
posted by jb at 4:44 AM on August 21, 2006

Definitely go with your instincts.

I've had a few different housemates over the last few years and the sorts of questions I've asked have included:

"What are you passionate about / do you collect anything?" Started using this one after living with a very strange guy who obsessively collected everything Trek and hosted Trek club at the place, complete with people singing the Voyager theme music. I digress...

"What's your typical weekend like?" Are the going to be out a lot or are they going to have all of their friends around all of the time? (Assumes a 9-5 gig)

Might be obvious, but if there are certain appliances you need: "Do you have a X? Are you willing to get one?"

My killer question is "What are you looking for in a housemate?" If you're not it, no point taking things any further.

Basically ask about anything that could impact on your use of the place & the stuff in it. Dietary habits (vegetarian, militant vegan?), cleaning habits, favourite tv shows & music preferences.

Screen by asking more over the phone / email before giving out your address for room inspections.
posted by d-no at 6:00 AM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

If possible, go see their current living situation. People don't always live the way they say they are going to (in terms of cleanliness, etc.). Get references from previous landlords and roomates. And get phone numbers and addresses of parents/family/s.o. so in case s/he skipps out on you or whatever you know how to track him/her down.
posted by radioamy at 9:29 AM on August 21, 2006

« Older Help me escape this Texas heat!   |   I've got a sensitive skin, how to shave and what... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.