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Roommate agreements are essential to maintaining friendships

I just moved in with a friend of mine and he keeps inviting his girlfriend over. She basically lives with us now.

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By Yours Truly (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: February 25, 2015

Writing up a roommate contract when you move in can save you from frustration down the road. (Image: onsugar.com)

Writing up a roommate contract when you move in can save you from frustration down the road. (Image: onsugar.com)

I just moved in with a friend of mine and he keeps inviting his girlfriend over. She basically lives with us now. I don’t mind her, but it makes things a little crowded. How do I let them know this isn’t working for me without making things awkward?

­—Perpetual Third Wheel


Dear Perpetual Third Wheel,

The friend-as-roommate situation might seem like an absolute ideal at first. You have someone to share in your latest Netflix binge; you can host parties with mutual friends, play endless matches of Mario Kart, and carpool to campus. However, it becomes a very difficult thing to lay down the law with someone who you consider a friend. And it gets even more difficult when you need to ask for a bit of space.

Often, roommates will put their relationship with their friend before their relationship with their roommate. They’ll let it slide when their roommate has dipped into their Nutella, just because they don’t want to deal with potentially making things awkward in a shared space. In your predicament, that shared space has become a two-on-one situation. You don’t want to upset the girlfriend or your friend, which is easy if you don’t approach this tactfully.

My advice would be to create a roommate agreement. These are a bit like domestic contracts; they divide shared chores and outline the general house rules. While it may seem a little formal to create one between friends, it gives you have the chance to communicate your expectations. It acts as a preventative measure and allows you to avoid any possible awkwardness down the road. According to McGill’s student housing website, common features of an agreement include who pays what (in terms of rent, utilities and other expenses), and specific policies on pets, smoking, parties, visitors, and upkeep/division of shared space. Common details include a “quiet time,” where noise levels have to be lowered, a division of food storage areas, as well as a policy on language, drugs, and drinking.

I would suggest putting a veto policy in place and you and your roommate’s discretion — for example, if a certain person makes one roommate uncomfortable, they can’t be invited over.

While you discuss this agreement, bring up your idea of a fair visitor policy. You can look up suggestions and templates online to back you up.  The best way to talk about it is to be open; say that while you like his girlfriend, you didn’t sign up for living with her. Suggest that the two of them could split their time between her place and yours. If you think it’s necessary, set visiting hours. You can even give your schedule and ask that he bring her over while you are in class or at work, which can reduce the time where the three of you are in the same space.

It’s up to you whether your friend will be a good roommate. Communicate, agree on specific house rules, and uphold your end of the deal for a successful and enjoyable arrangement.

Next week with Yours Truly:

My boyfriend’s parents are nice, but super traditional. I have to help cook and clean up after dinner when we go over and the guys don’t, and they talk down to me a little. Nothing insulting or overt, but I never know if I should say something or just go along with it for the sake of being polite. I’ve talked about it with my boyfriend and he ‘s not sure what to do either. How do I change things without insulting my potential future in-laws?

Did you have a similar experience you’d like to share? Want to contribute with your own advice? Feel free to write in with your own say and be published alongside my advice in the next issue of The Cascade.    

Send in your questions, scenarios, or responses to peerpleasure@ufvcascade.ca

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