What do college kids do that I'm going to hate in two months?
April 3, 2008 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Conflict-prevention-filter: A student of mine is staying with us for the summer. No rent, no fees involved, so that makes things easier. But what sorts of things do we discuss up front so that we all get along?

Cleanliness expectations
Household chores contributions
Music decibel level
Visitors and overnight visitors
...what else? We're a really quiet, boring, homebody-type couple and she cared for an ailing parent for a while, so I sense a maturity in her and was willing to offer her a place to stay. I just would like to set some groundrules so that we're all clear on expectations.
posted by orangemiles to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No rent, no fees involved, so that makes things easier.

This may not necessarily make things easier. This makes the relationship less reciprocal. It may make you less willing to put up with her not meeting your expectations, and it may make her value her place to stay less. (It also might have no affect.) Were I in your position I would start any conversations about expectations with some sort of acknowledgment of this dynamic.
posted by OmieWise at 12:06 PM on April 3, 2008

Food. Is it shared, who pays for it, etc.
posted by Nelsormensch at 12:07 PM on April 3, 2008

Time by which she should be home? Er, this sort of depends how she accesses the house and how old she is, but it would be good if you all agreed on a system whereby you all agreed that she should be in the house at a certain hour or have called you guys with alternative info, otherwise you have implicit permission to start worrying/call the police. You're not her parents, but a) if you're sharing a home, there is a security risk if someone else gains access to her keys, so you have your own safety to consider, and b) if something happens to her, in all probability you guys would be the first people to realize that since you live with her.

It would be best if you broached any such system as mentors or experienced roommates, rather than as parents, although you know her best and as such, YMMV.

Oh, also - grocery contributions. Does she share food? Can she help herself when she's hungry? Etc.
posted by bettafish at 12:09 PM on April 3, 2008

i think you should charge a nominal form of rent, and have a 'lease', as to protect yourself in case you have to forcefully evict her.
posted by lester at 12:13 PM on April 3, 2008

It's your house and you're just sharing it for the short term so I think laying out groundrules makes sense. Obviously it helps if these aren't too wacky but it's more important that they be clearly explicated in advance. When I had a law student roommate, these were things that became larger issues than they had to be because we weren't crystal clear with our expectations.

- bathroom "hogging" I got used to everyone in the house knowing when everyone else did their morning/evening routines. Someone who takes 45-60 minutes in the bathroom during that time period may mess up things for everyone else and if you don't know them well knocking on the door to say "hey I need to take a shower" may not be your thing
- kitchen/food/cleanliness - my roommate used to like to cook really stinky fish which would fill up the kitchen with stinky fish smell every night. Usually we were pretty laissez faire about the kitchen but that was a problem. Figure out which foods are personal and which are shared and what the general dishes routine is. Do you eat together? Are you used to having the kitchen free/empty/clean at a certain time of day/night?
- heat/ac - if you are paying bills it might matter if she uses AC or fans constantly, then again it might not. If it matters, talk about it in advance. We had told the roommate that we kept the house cold, but he wasn't used to New England and didn't have warm clothes so instead of shopping for some he kept a space heater going constantly which jacked the bills which was one of the reasons we kept the house cold.
- guests - how many, how often, how much they do. She may have friends come over to do laundry, watch movies in the common space, do homework, BBQ. If these are problems, talk to her about it. This also counts for things like whether she's on the phone all the time (I found it a little noisy that my roommate was *always* on the phone in the common spaces of the house, like literally until 1 am, etc, other people might not mind)
- posessions - what is shared and what is not. Can she borrow the car? The drill? The kayak? The tupperware? My roommate would sometimes take bowls or other kitchenware to school with food and not being it back for a while, this got old.

Basically the drill is to think of issues that might bother or upset you in advance and try to make sure you guys are both on the same page about it. I am sure that my temporary roommate would have been an okay roommate for someone but he was terrible for us.

I'm actually on the side of her paying no rent because then I think it's crystal clear that you are the one doing her a favor and so you get to set the rules, etc. If you were charging her something small it would blur the line and make her feel more like a renter [in fact she might legally BE a renter] which would have other implications.
posted by jessamyn at 12:27 PM on April 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

definitely talk about food issues
an hour after which it is "quiet time" no loud music/tv, no slamming doors when she comes home late, etc.
state your policy on overnight visitors. one or two nights is fine, more than that is not; no guests, etc.
can she have friends over at all when you are not there? (this depends on her trustworthiness, the type of kids she hangs around, etc.)

of course, this all varies with age. if she's 19 that's different than if she's a slightly-older-than-most 23.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:37 PM on April 3, 2008

General hanging out. Do you want your own "space" with respect to the TV, newspaper, telephone, books, cds, noise etc.

Definitely set up a bathroom cleaning schedule - it's no fun cleaning up "non-native" hairs week after week. Laundry schedule - and make it clear what the rules are - if you shift each other's or fold each others when there is overlap.
posted by MiffyCLB at 12:48 PM on April 3, 2008

For more than 12 years, while I was still living at home, my mother would have colleges students staying there, from all over the world, paying and non paying. These are some of the lessons learned:

Everyone has a different idea of what is acceptable, and expect other people to agree. Implicit expectation will NEVER BE MET. Make everything explicit, write it down. My mother ended up with a 6 page list, but offset this 'crazy old lady' impression by making it very clear that exceptions are allowed if they are discussed IN ADVANCE, like 'can I have 10 people over for my birthday?', 'only if they leave before 1 a.m.'.

Now, some of the stuff from the list that took care of the most common problems:

- Acceptable level of noise, and at what time (be very explicit: T.V. volume under 9 after 10 p.m., I can hear you talking in the garden when I am in my room, etc...).
- If visitors are allowed, how many, and at what time.
- Alcohol (and drug) use.
- List of household chores, and WHEN TO DO THEM.
- Expected cleanliness and personal hygiene. We had students that would scrub the whole bathroom after taking a shower, we had other that let garbage accumulate under their beds and then do a 'monthly clean up'.
- If and when common stuff can be used, like washer, family room TV, computer, BOOKS, etc...
- Who buys the food. My mother would provide basic fare, if the students wanted something special, they had to chip in.
- Privacy issues. Examples: My mother's room was completely off limits, if a door is closed, you can knock (we had a student that would patiently wait outside a closed door until someone opened it, a couple of girls would just open the door and walk into any room), if the family is watching a movie, you can join, etc...
- No yelling arguments inside the house. Take all arguments to the street, a coffee shop or wherever I can't see you.
- If you lose your key, you have to pay to get the locks changed and keys made for everyone.
- Provide a list of emergency numbers, including friends in the same city, only to be used in case of a real emergency.
- Who buys toilet paper, soap, etc...
- Most people don't use landlines any more, but one of the biggies was hours at which you can receive phone calls.
- Let the students know that some stuff can get them kicked out.
- Clothing. Included because its funny, we had one girl that would have breakfast in the living room wearing only a t-shirt and panties, we had one guy that would walk around in his briefs and scratch his ass.

There are many more, but this should give you an idea.
posted by Dr. Curare at 12:54 PM on April 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

We had an intern stay with us for a while. We were getting paid $250 a week (by the intitution) for housing her. We asked her to leave a month early. Basically, she was so awful that I paid $1000 to get her out of my house. Despite lots of ground rules, lots of "Hey, that's not OK" discussions, lots of notes left, it was simply untenable. You may want to suggest up front that not following ground rules will be reason for asking her to leave, so that she is not stunned when you tell her it is not working out.

In addition to laying out some ground rules (Jessamyn and Dr. Curare have good suggestions) you may also want to state up front that this is the first time you have done something like this, and you may have to flesh out some of the rules as the summer goes on.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:06 PM on April 3, 2008

I have had friends stay with me for long periods twice - one stayed for a year, one stayed for about 3 months.

In both cases it worked out well, and it had a lot more to do with the people involved than any ground rules we set (which were essentially none).

The first guy paid no money really but contributed to food, cooked, bought us dinners etc. The second paid $50.00 per week, and I used that for food etc. Both did housework and both were quite neat.

Most of the tips above are pretty good, but like Rock Steady says, if the person is someone you can't live with it's going to get bad regardless.
posted by tomble at 7:55 PM on April 3, 2008

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