It's important that you take time to talk to potential roommates about their study habits, lifestyle, and conflict style. In addition, you should figure out if anyone is planning to study abroad or co-op and if your property manager allows subclasses. 

Choosing Roommates

How many roommates do you want? The City of Oxford has an ordinance that allows no more than four unrelated occupants in a dwelling unit. However, several houses were grandfathered in prior to this ordinance. You can search for a rental certificate and floor plan on BS&A Online for information on a particular property.

Be sure that everyone in your group is committed to living together and not also looking for places with other people too.

Good friends don’t always make good roommates. Compatibility of living habits and priorities are essential to roommate satisfaction. Consider these compatibility questions.

  • Academics—Do you agree on how much time to study, the importance of attending classes, or where to study? Will anyone want to study abroad and be gone a semester?
  • Lifestyle—Do you agree about cleanliness, neatness, and sharing chores? Are you a morning person or a night owl? What about music, hobbies and interests, social circles, or pets/animals?
  • Attitudes—Do you agree about smoking, use of alcohol, and partying? What rules will exist about overnight guests or how often any one person can stay?
  • Responsibility—What about safety and general treatment of others? Locking doors, conserving energy, recycling, respecting privacy and property?
  • Money—How much can your group afford in rent, utilities and groceries? How will joint bills be paid on time? 

The process of deciding these compatibility details together is very valuable and creates a respectful, cooperative start to living together. Our best advice? Talk about these issues before they become problems. Outline expectations from day one, and consider a roommate agreement or contract that contains guidelines for how household chores will be done around the house/apartment, how shared expenses will be set up, and general house rules.

Roommate Conflicts

Conflict among roommates who are living together for the first time in close quarters is bound to occur. Some common problems including paying bills on time, having guests over, cleaning (or not cleaning), and being too loud. While it's impossible to outline every potential conflict scenario, you and your roommates should discuss, in general terms, how you will handle conflict when it arises. Will you have a meeting to talk about issues? Will you be open to feedback? 

If you are in a situation in which conflict has already occurred and you have not discussed how you will handle those situations, you should take the time to discuss the situation openly and sensitively. Take the opportunity to come up with a formal agreement. Generally, talking about these issues will solve the problem; however, if the problem is serious and the conversation doesn't work, you can consider other options. If a roommate has violated or is violating the lease, the property manager may be able to get involved. If you experience physical threats or violence, call the police.

Steps to Resolving Conflicts

  1. Everyone involved in the conflict should find a convenient time to meet. 
  2. Each person should take a turn describing his/her perception of the situation - without interruption!
  3. Work together to come up with some options on how to solve the problem.
  4. Decide on the solution that is acceptable to everyone.
  5. Talk about the changes that need to take place in order to resolve the problem and set a timetable.
  6. Set a future date to evaluate the situation and renegotiate if necessary.
Avoid trying to "win" the argument. While getting others to take responsibility for their actions may feel good in the moment, it might be necessary to simply agree on how to live peacefully together moving forward without blaming or finger-pointing.

Joint and Several Liability Leases

Remember, the majority of leases in Oxford bind roommates to JOINT and SEVERAL liability. Under this clause, if a roommate moves out, the others assume responsibility for his/her payment and damages. Roommates can encourage the landlord to hold the security deposit of the departed roommate or file a suit in a small claims court.