For those of us who live in shared houses and apartments, the loss of a roommate is a bit more complex than for those who live in college dorms. Having your roommate move out may be a source of sadness, anxiety, or barely-contained joy, depending on your relationship with him or her and your financial situation. Ideally, your roomie's move-out was something you'd both planned, but sometimes a move-out is a sudden, unexpected event.
Here's a checklist in case a roommate leaves your household suddenly:
- Are the utilities taken care of? Get them put in your name if they're not already. It's easy to forget that the electric bill was in your departed roommate's name ... until the day you come home to find that the power's off. You might not even get late notices if the roommate put in a change-of-address before he or she left, so call the companies to check.
- Can you afford the place on your own? Sit down and do some figuring. Do you need to find a new roommate, or can you squeak by if you, say, cancel your satellite or cable service?
- Check your apartment and belongings The sooner you find out if your departed roommate left with any of your belongings, the better your chances of getting them back. Conversely, check to see if your roommate left anything behind, or caused any damage to the place that needs attention. Also, if much of the shared furniture and appliances were your roommate's, now is a good time to make a list of what you'll need to replace.
- Tell your landlord your rommate's gone Most landlords want to know who is and is not living in their properties, and so this type of notification might be required in your lease. And if you're stuck for rent, if you're lucky and have a sympathetic landlord, you might gain some extra time to pay or even be let out of your lease. If you live in a complex with many styles, you might convince your landlord to let you move into a less-expensive place. This is also a good time to ask for repairs in the event your roommate trashed anything during their hasty departure.
- Take care of your renter's insurance In some instances, housemates are carried on the same renter's policy. When one leaves a policy you were in control of, you need to have them taken off it. But if the departing roommate was the one with the policy, you need to get your own insurance.
- Clean house This is especially important if you're going to look for a new roommate, but if you're living on your own, it's nice to get a fresh start. Clean out all the junk, box up anything the roommate left behind, etc.
- Go shopping If you need to get furniture to replace things your household lost when the roommate left, be aware that brand-new specialty store furnishings are often hugely overpriced. If you want new, functional furnishings, try discount stores like Target. If you don't mind second-hand furnishings, you can often find very decent stuff at yard and garage sales, but stick with "hard" furniture; second-hand sofas and mattresses are a bad idea because of the risk of bedbugs. Also check at furniture rental places; while rentals themselves are a rip-off for most people, they sometimes sell used furnishings at decent prices.
- Start looking for a new roommate, if you need to But do some soul-searching first: know yourself, know what sort of person you'll be compatible with, and know the mistakes you made with your previous roommate so that you'll be less likely to repeat them. Don't let desperation drive you to live with someone who will make your life miserable.
Start your search by asking friends, relatives and coworkers if they know of any likely candidates, but if you need someone very quickly, you might immediately try a classified ad or a flyer at your college if you're in school. Meet your prospective roommates for lunch or coffee, and don't be afraid to ask them for personal references if they're strangers. Likewise, don't be offended if they ask you for yours.
When you've found a good match, sit down with him or her and make sure that you're both on the same page when it comes to visitors, bills, pets, chores, noise ("clean" and "quiet" can mean very, very different things to different people), the care and use of each other's property, etc. Getting everything on the table from the start can avoid conflict down the road.