Roommate woes solved with a check

By Rasmieyh Abdelnabi

“You don’t know someone until you’ve lived with him or traveled with him.” We hear this all the time; we give it a few seconds of thought and move on. However, some of us learn the hard way that living with people you don’t know isn’t the extended sleepover you thought it might be.

Before experiencing roommates, I firmly believed that as long as a person and I share similar values and morals, we could coexist peacefully. Like a slap in the face, I realized just how flawed my hypothesis was.

There were no problems with my first roommate. We both paid the rent on time, never argued about the utilities and always had toilet paper. Toilet paper, I discovered, is the source of many problems among roommates – sad if you think about it.

My second set of roommates -not so fun. We argued about rent and house bills. What I just can’t understand is why a person would try to get out of his or her responsibilities. You signed a lease – pay your rent for the months on the lease. Most of us don’t stay in DeKalb during the summer, but we still pay rent during those months.

The great thing with my first roommate was that we grew up in the same neighborhood. We knew each other’s families. My other roommates came into the apartment as complete strangers. Aside from a few phone calls, there was no communication between us before they moved in.

In the last year, I learned others are not like me. They do not see rent and utilities as a part of life that doesn’t require an argument.

So, after much thought, I’ve reached a conclusion: If everyone is sharing an apartment, everyone is responsible for the bills. If one of the roommates protests a bill without reasonable cause, then he or she should be asked to leave – or better yet, forced to leave.

Here is what I suggest for anyone with roommate issues. This applies to the residence halls and apartments. Sit down with all your roommates and make it crystal clear that everyone pays the rent and utilities. NIU Ombudsman Tim Griffin recommends that roommates have “open-line, clear and honest communication” with one another.

Communication is important in every relationship. However, the roommate relationship is complicated by the fact that both people are on the same level. Neither roommate has the upper hand. One person can refuse to do something, and that would be the end of it. That’s where the legal mumbo jumbo comes into play.

This brings me to a very important rule among strangers: Get everything in writing. Have roommates sign documentation of all the agreements made.

Set a due date for bills. Make it clear people should not miss or be consistently be late with payments. If problems persist, give the offender an ultimatum: Pay the bill in full and on time or leave.

The bottom line is: Be a good roommate. Don’t give each other a hard time about the bills because you think you can get out of paying something. That is unacceptable, especially when your roommates – likely as broke as you are – are counting on your contribution. Remember to treat others as you would like to be treated.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.