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Roommates

You’ve moved into your new home in Harrisonburg, but you’re not alone!

Find everything you need with the resources provided regarding choosing roommates, being compatible, and living comfortably.

This section has some helpful tips and tricks for developing a good roommate experience and maintaining a stress-free and happy living environment.

It can be hard at times to find compatible roommates or to even know where to look.  Here are several ways that our office can help you with the process of finding roommates.

  1. Roommate Finder:  You can create a roommate profile on our Off-Campus Partners, LLC listing website.  This will allow you to provide information about yourself and your lifestyle, and what you are looking for in a roommate and housing.  To create a profile, you can visit offcampushousing.jmu.edu.  Once a profile has been created, you can view profiles of other JMU students and staff looking for  roommates and housing in the area.
  2. Facebook: We have a Facebook page where you can post off campus living needs. You can feel free to post here if looking for roommates to attract other interested students. You can find us on Facebook at JMU Off Campus Life.  There is also a Facebook group, James Madison University (JMU) Housing, Sublets, & Roommates, where you may post your needs as well.
  3. Word of Mouth: Verbal communication is still the number one means of communication that students rely on to gain information. Talk to others in your classes and organizations or even to the property management at off campus housing locations where you are interested in living. These individuals may know others who also need roommates.

Having a hard time getting all roommates to help with cleaning and other household tasks?  Need a way to help set ground rules for your apartment but don’t know where to start?

You may want to use some of the helpful tools we have at Off-Campus Life to make living with roommates more organized and enjoyable.

Chore Chart

Household Chore List

Roommate Priorities Rubric

Roommate Agreement Form

One way to be sure that you are respecting the rights or your roommates and having your own rights respected is to complete and sign a roommate agreement before moving in together.  A roommate agreement is a document that outlines each person’s responsibility as a roommate and how you will respect each other in terms of handling household chores, guests, pets, paying rent, and other activities that will impact your living environment.  This agreement can help guide a conversation about the rules in the living environment, and can also be something to go back to if conflict arises about an issue, such as someone not taking responsibility for a chore that they agreed to help out with. Also, once signed, though this agreement may not be legally binding like a lease, it can be used as evidence in court should the violation of this agreement result in severe conflict or consequences.

What to Include in a Roommate Agreement:

1. Financial Responsibilities:  Roommate agreements should outline each person’s financial responsibilities, including how much they are to pay in rent each month and their portion of the security deposit.  These agreements can also outline and divide up other financial obligations including internet, cable, groceries, and other utilities.  This is a great place to include who will be responsible for purchasing your UDAP contract and putting utilities in their name, as well as how other roommates will pay their portion of utilities to this individual monthly.

2. Ground rules: These agreements should also set out ground rules regarding privacy, cleaning, yard maintenance like mowing or snow removal if not provided by your landlord, overnight guests, parties, quiet hours, use of alcohol, and smoking.  We suggest having roommates talk about ground rules and arrangements related to any and all of the following areas:

  • Food and Grocery Shopping
  • Cleanliness and Cleaning Responsibilities
  • Privacy
  • Sharing of Personal Items
  • Noise/ Study Times
  • Smoking/ Drinking/ Drugs
  • Parties/ Guests
  • Overnight Guests
  • Pets
  • Need to move-out/ Breaking the lease
    • You may want to include in the agreement responsibilities should a roommate need to move out, especially if a joint lease is signed making all roommates responsible for their portion of the rent.  Below is a sample of wording that could be added to an agreement to address this concern:
  • “If, for whatever reason, I move out of the dwelling, I realize it is primarily my responsibility to find a replacement tenant.  I agree to look for a replacement tenant who is acceptable to my present roommates.  If one of my roommates moves out, I also will attempt to find a replacement roommate.  I understand the need to be reasonable in accepting a replacement roommate.  If I move out of the dwelling and a replacement roommate has not been found, I realize that I am still legally responsible to my roommate(s) for paying my share of the rent and utility bills.”

Roommate Agreements should also establish one roommate as the primary contact for the landlord.  This person will be the primary individual for the landlord to call if there are problems with the apartment or other concerns.  This primary contact will also be the individual who makes maintenance requests, provides rental payment to the landlord if there is a joint lease, or discusses other concerns that may arise.  This helps provide clearer communication, and you’ll want to make sure to let your landlord know who this contact person is.

 Whether or not you choose to complete and sign a roommate agreement, you still may want to informally assign chores, make lists of items needed for those individuals doing the grocery shopping, or make a schedule to coordinate times to do laundry, etc. If you would like a sample roommate agreement to use to help with this process, go to Helpful Forms in this Roommates section.

As important as it is to choose compatible roommates, it’s important to be a respectful roommate yourself.  Just taking responsibility for respecting others you live with can go a long way in creating a comfortable living environment.  To help you with knowing what it means to be a respectful roommate, here are some basic rights that you and each of your roommates have when living together.

The right to:

  1. Read and study undisturbed in your own room.
  2. Sleep without interference from roommates or guests.
  3. Have your personal property respected.
  4. Have a clean living environment.
  5. Have personal privacy.
  6. Have guests visit as long as they respect the rights of other tenants.
  7. Be free from fear of physical or emotional harm.
  8. Have payment procedures for shared bills honored.

When you choose roommates to live with off-campus, you are making an important decision about your living environment for the next school year.  It can be easy just to think that someone you are friends with will make a good roommate, or to assume things about a roommate’s lifestyle.  However, our office recommends taking time to carefully select roommates who are compatible with you in their thoughts and behaviors around the following areas:

  1. Smoking Preference
    • If, for example, you prefer a smoke-free environment, but your roommate is used to smoking in the house, it is unlikely that your living situation will be optimal.  Try to find a roommate whose lifestyle meshes well with yours, and both of you will be happier!
  2. Cleanliness Habits
    • If you know that untidiness irritates you, try to find a roommate who shares your desire for a consistently clean environment.  Conversely, if you tend to be disorganized, you won’t want a roommate who is bothered by this.
  3. Policies Around Overnight Guests
  4. Number of Roommates They Want to Live With
  5. Gender of Roommates They Want to Live With
  6. Pet Preferences
    • It is important to know whether your roommate will be bringing a pet, or if you have one, that they are aware of yours.  If possible, try to arrange a meeting between the pet and the roommate beforehand in order to avoid any potential problems.  It is also important to understand that, even though the pet may be your roommate’s responsibility, they may enlist you to help care for it from time to time.  So, if your roommate has a snake and you’re frightened of this animal, or if your roommate is allergic to your dog, problems could potentially come up.
  7. Social and Study Habits
    • If one of you prefers for your house to be a quiet refuge, but the other is accustomed to frequently hosting many visitors, you may not wish to become roommates.  Noise levels should also be agreed upon for both weeknights and weekends.

It is also important to look for roommates who have a compatible lifestyle with yours and who display the following traits:

  1. Trustworthiness:  It is important that you find a roommate who you can trust. Maybe not with your most embarrassing secrets, but you should be able to trust them to respect you, your belongings, and the terms you agree to for living together.
  2. Responsibility: Responsibility is a key trait to look for in a roommate, particularly if you have signed a group lease and you are all jointly responsible for rent and utilities.  In such cases, if your roommate has not paid their portion of the rent, it may be up to you to make up the difference or risk being evicted.
  3. Conflict Resolution Skills:  No matter who you live with, occasional, minor conflicts are inevitable.  Try to find out in advance how your roommate handles conflict.  Openness and cooperation are crucial with this!

Talk about each of these topics before deciding to be roommates.  This is the best way to determine if your lifestyles are compatible enough to make living together an experience that you will enjoy and that will support your growth and development as a college student.

For more information on things to look for in finding a compatible roommate, check out our Roommate Priorities Rubric in Helpful Forms in this Roommate section.

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