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How to interview a new flatmate

When you’re looking for someone to share your flat, it’s a good idea to actually meet the people you might be splitting bills with and ask a few questions. It is the wise flat-mate who clarifies up front that farm animals will not be acceptable as pets and that clothes should be worn when sitting on furniture. Consider the following questions a guide for how to interview a new roommate, and make adjustments for your particular situation.

- Do you smoke? If you are a non-smoker, decide in advance if it’s okay for your flat-mate to be a smoker, and determine where he or she would be allowed to smoke (only outside in the tree adjacent to the flat, for instance). If you are a smoker, make sure you mention it.

- How do you feel about pets in the flat? If you have pets, tell the interviewees and let them know what pets are acceptable for them to have. If you don’t want pets, let them know. And if you allow pets, discuss the house rules, such as whether animals are allowed on furniture and if the living room is a reasonable place for the dog to relieve itself.

- Do you have a significant other, and if so, how often would they be at the flat? Will that person be sleeping over? If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, let the interviewee know, and agree to guidelines about behaviour and frequency of visits. It’s only fair to let a potential flat-mate know that you and your partner consider Tuesdays “No Pants Day.”

- Do you like to have friends over? How often? Discuss what activities the potential roommate likes to do with his or her friends during visits, and be honest if you would have a problem hosting the roommate’s monthly haggis-making parties.

- How prompt are you about paying bills? This is a good opportunity to discuss your expectations, both regarding which bills you will be sharing and when and how you expect them to be paid. And if the interviewee’s answer is, “I don’t believe in paying bills,” this is a great time to end the interview and thank him or her for coming before ushering him quickly out the door.

- What hours do you usually keep? If you are an early bird, and your new roommate stays up until 1 a.m. most mornings practicing with his band in the living room, there is the possibility, however slight, that you will be disturbed.

- Do you drink? If so, how much and how often? If the potential flat-mate is drunk at your interview, that might be a red flag.

- What are your expectations regarding cleaning? If you only care about the cleanliness of common areas, such as the living room or a shared bathroom, say so, but discuss how you will share responsibility for cleaning those areas.

- Do you consider food community property? Nothing will ruin a harmonious living arrangement faster than one person eating the other person’s special organic hand-toasted granola with chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Make sure you and a potential roommate have an understanding about food – who will shop for it, pay for it and eat it.

- Do you have any special house rules or habits I should know about? It’s important to know, before your new flat-mate moves in, if she doesn’t believe in electricity and won’t allow lights on or appliances used when she is home.

- What was your worst experience sharing a flat with someone? This will tell you a bit about what the interviewee would expect from you as a roommate. Ask for details on what they liked and didn’t like about previous flat-mates, and be sure to ask follow-up questions if they say things like, “I couldn’t stand her politics.”

Living with another person always requires accommodation, but by asking important questions ahead of time, you can often avoid a bad living situation.

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