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Five common roommate conflicts and how to avoid them

Published: Oct 14, 2009

Conflict is almost a given if you're living with roommates. That said: taking a little bit of time to lay down ground rules for your house or apartment can prevent a world of arguments, complaining, and passive aggressive hassle down the line. Here are five common fight triggers, and five ways to stop them before they pop up.

  1. Late rent

    This one is a cornerstone point of conflict. Late rent gets everyone in hot water, and often occurs because someone is traveling, distracted, or just loses track of their checking account. Make sure you have a designated contact person to deal with collecting rent each month so that no one's individual check gets forgotten. And start collecting it early -- on the 25th of each month, for example, so if there's trouble, it can be headed off before it becomes a conflict.

  2. Dirty dishes

    Because it can be difficult to tell whose dishes are whose -- and because real life often gets in the way of cleaning dishes -- set up a rotating dish night. Whoever's night it is cleans all the dishes, regardless of whose they are. If he or she isn't able to clean them, the next night is their dish night, too... and so forth.

  3. Significant others

    Conflict between roommates and other roommates' significant others is as old as humanity itself, so get used to the idea that it may happen regardless of what you do. If a girlfriend or boyfriend starts spending multiple nights a week over -- week after week -- consider having them become a partial member of the household by contributing to the food costs of the house and doing chores on a regular basis. At a certain point, you're not a fun and sexy visitor anymore -- you're someone who's using the kitchen, bathroom, and common areas almost as much as (or more than!) everyone else.

  4. Noise

    Loud music and/or the act of human procreation is a fact of life. What isn't a fact of life is that this stuff needs to happen spontaneously whenever anybody feels like it. Set up a scheme for quiet hours -- after midnight on weeknights and after 2am on weekends, for example -- and have the explicit understanding that disturbing noises during quiet time can result in angry door knocking and requests for silence.

  5. Parties

    Nothing messes up a house dynamic like a party gone wrong... or several dozen parties gone wrong.

    Establish a baseline expectation for how often parties can take place, and what nights of the week are fair game -- and differentiate between having four friends over for dinner and having 50 friends over to rock out to a basement punk rock show. Make sure roommates are always looped in on possible parties, and given a veto if it's a night that would screw up their work and/or school schedules. And if someone "buys in" to a party and wants to attend and invite friends, make sure that they really buy in and split the costs evenly with the other hosts. If money is an issue, have people pony up cash up front to make a party fund, and spend from that.

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