“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
It’s hell to live with someone who doesn’t respect your space, who uses your things without permission, who eats your food, who doesn’t pay the bills, who has a different routine than you. Or, even more simply, someone you just don’t like. Your good intention to be helpful to someone ends up being a disaster.
The Road to Hell
One route to this hellacious situation are housemates who come into your home through your housemate who knows a colleague, friend, family, or significant other who needs a place to live.
“That solves our problem,” you exclaim when your housemate tells you about this great guy she knows who needs a place to live. “Sure,” you say, when your fabulous housemate tells you his cousin needs a place to stay when he moves to your town. “Congrats!” you enthuse when your glowing housemate confides in you about her new boyfriend currently asleep in her bed.
These are all good intentions. They are hopeful and charitable. And maybe everything works out just fine. But you haven’t selected this housemate, and that lack of intentional screening could trip you up in the long run. The new housemate may not be a good fit for you.
What’s missing is a selection process. While you can be a bit more casual than when interviewing a stranger, it’s still a good idea to make sure you have similar expectations for what sharing a home means. All of you should have the conversation together. You need to talk about routines, cleanliness, neatness, noise, guests, and bills. You could use the Interviewing Guide as a way to start.
The “great guy” may be great at a party but a lousy housekeeper. He may love the music you hate. He might love to cook foods that make you nauseous. Make sure he’s a suitable match before he moves in.
Family Moving to the Area
Sometimes your housemate has a family member who is moving to that area and your housemate wants to offer the family member a place to land. Before you agree think about how this will affect the house. Does the family member just need a place to stay? Or is she looking for a job as well? In other words, does she have the means to pay her portion of the bills? Even if you don’t charge rent, how do you feel about subsidizing her heat, electricity, hot water, and internet access? How long might she stay with you? You should have an agreement about how long and how the family member will contribute to the household.
The new lover becomes a quasi-housemate when that person has been around the house for four days. Those could be consecutive days or spread out over four weeks. At that point you need to have a conversation with your housemate. The new lover is in your space and using the home including the utilities. How does his presence change how you use the common areas most especially the kitchen? Raise the issue with your housemate before it becomes critical. This is the principle of “do it while it is easy,” one of the four principles described in the book, Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates. A discussion should be straight-forward about how the new person impacts the house. One common resolution is for the couple to spend more time in the other home. But you have to say something, if you don’t your housemate will assume it’s okay. If this new person starts living with you on a full-time basis, some monetary arrangement should be made to help pay the bills.
It Could Be Heaven, Not Hell
Pay attention to your gut instincts. The new housemate who comes to your home through your housemate could be an absolutely fabulous housemate for you. It happens. But don’t assume it. Go through a selection process, put a boundary on the amount of time you are willing to have the person living in your home. Do it before the person moves in and speak up if it’s not working.
Make sure you have had a chance to say “yes” to the person with whom you will be living.