Step 3: Roommates

Now that you have decided to move out on your own, it is important to keep a healthy roommate relationship. To assist in keeping a healthy relationship with your roommate(s), we have gathered information you may find beneficial. This information can assist you through the process of choosing roommates, avoiding conflict, and how to deal with conflicts that may arise.

Find a Roommate

You can use rentoffcampus.uwm.edu to find other UWM students to be your roommates. This can be done by clicking on the “Roommates” tab and logging in with your UWM EpantherID and password. Then click “add roommate” to fill out a new roommate profile.

Roommate Agreement

The best way to prepare for conflict is by signing a roommate contract with all of your roommates. A roommate contract is an agreement with specific conditions that each roommate agrees to before moving into a rental unit; this can help prevent disputes before they even happen. For more information on roommate contracts, click here.

Email the Neighborhood Housing Office for a copy of a roommate agreement!

Roommates and COVID 19

*With the current situation surrounding the pandemic, it is important to discuss social distancing rules with your roommates. You and your roommates should come to an agreement that satisfies all parties, however, at the end of the day, you can only take control of your own actions. Continue to clean and disinfect shared spaces regularly and spend time in your own room if issues arise.*

For guidance on talking to your roommate about COVID 19, visit our COVID 19 Roommates page.

Topics to Talk About
  • Studying
    What are your class schedules like?
    What are your noise tolerances while studying (phone, stereo, TV)?When/where do you study best?
  • Sleeping
    What time do you go to bed/get up?
    How much sleep do you need?
    Noise tolerance/intolerance?
  • Cleaning
    How often and how thoroughly will you clean?
    Are you a neat freak or a slob?
    How clean should the bathroom be? Kitchen?
    How often will the trash be taken out? Who does it?
    How will the cleaning be shared?
  • Guests
    Do you like to party? How frequently?
    Does there need to be advance warning?
    What guidelines, if any, will be set for guests?
    How do you feel about guests sleeping over?
  • Personal
    How much personal space do you need?
    Do you smoke, drink?
    Will pets be allowed?
    How will we pay the bills?
    How will we keep our property safe? Renter’s Insurance?
Helpful Hints for Roommate Relationships

1. Set realistic expectations. You don’t have to be best friends to be successful roommates.
2. Have an open mind. Always listen and respect your roommate(s).
3. If something is bothering you, talk to your roommate(s) about it. Don’t let the small things continuously add up to something bigger.
4. Check in with one another to see how the living situation is from their perspective.
5. Don’t assume that your roommates have the same living habits and expectations. Talk about it!
6. Compromise.
7. Be courteous to your roommate(s) and their guests.
8. Encourage others to stay out of conflicts that do not involve them.
9. Remember that being successful roommates is a long process and you must work toward it.

Frequent Sources of Roommate Conflict

Having a roommate can be both a rewarding and challenging rental experience. You may hope to have a roommate who you have a good time with and share common interests, however, no matter how compatible you are together, being roommates can cause conflicts! Having a successful roommate relationship takes time and effort. Even with proper preparation and a roommate contract, conflicts may arise. Here are some common conflicts to be aware of:

  • Use of Personal Property
  • Paying Bills
  • Pets
  • Parties
  • Cleaning
  • Sleeping Schedules
  • Guests and Visitors
  • Locking Windows/Doors

Before you confront your roommate(s) with an issue, try to identify those issues for yourself. Be sure to understand why they are problems for you and how the problem can be solved.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution

1. Communication.
Effective communication is essential for resolving conflicts between roommates. Be willing to make an effort to speak with one another without interruption. Try to avoid placing blame on one another by not using “you” statements. Instead, use “I” statements to explain your thoughts and feelings.
2. Define the problem.
Be as specific as you can about what the problem is. Discuss the problem together and make sure you clearly understand the others’ opinion.
3. Brainstorm solutions.
Talk with one another about a variety of solutions, allowing all parties to voice opinions.
4. Evaluate all solutions.
Review and evaluate all of the solutions you have brainstormed. At this point you will be able to negotiate your wants/needs. Always be sure to communicate the places you are willing to negotiate.
5. Take Action.
After you and your roommate(s) have chosen the best solution, you must develop a plan of action. Be very clear about how you will accomplish your solution.
6. Check in with one another.
Be sure to check in with one another every so often to be sure that the other party is happy with the solution and the current living situation. Checking in and talking with one another will help in preventing future conflicts.

Know the Occupancy Ordinance
  1. More than 3 unrelated adults living in a unit, no matter how many bedrooms, requires a rooming house license*. This is not common for landlords to have in the City of Milwaukee, as it is typically pricey. Additionally, there must be more than one exit within the dwelling. If looking at an attic or basement unit, make sure there are multiple exits, or it is an illegal dwelling. Citations could be as much as $5,000 and may be issued against the landlord and the tenant for illegal occupancy.
  2. A common ploy by unethical landlords is to allow more than three unrelated adults to rent a location, saying something similar to: “You can just put three names on the lease” or “How many people that live there is up to you. I don’t prohibit subleasing.” When caught by the City of Milwaukee, the landlords may then claim to have only rented to a legal number of people. Only those on the lease can legally stay. Joint and several liability makes each tenant on the lease legally liable and responsible for the contents of the entire lease, including the total rent each month. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. Moving and finding a new apartment in the middle of the semester for this reason is an unnecessarily stressful experience.
  3. Check the Department of Neighborhood Services website and look up the complaint and violation history of the property. Most landlords are honorable business people, however, some have bad records. You may also check Wisconsin Circuit Court Access for a possible landlord’s court record. Be aware of properties with recent, active violations and landlords with backgrounds of excessive housing related records, such as evictions.
  4. Property complaints can be made to the Department of Neighborhood Services Customer Service line at 414-286-2268, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m—4:45 p.m.

Don’t get evicted!

Renting with more than three unrelated adults puts tenants and the landlord at risk for tickets and eviction.

*A rooming house license means any building or part of any building or dwelling unit occupied by more than three persons who are not a family** or by a family and more than two other persons for periods of occupancy usually longer than one night and where a bathroom and toilet are shared.

**Family means, unless otherwise specified, a person occupying a dwelling unit, or dwelling unit with one or more persons who are legally related to such occupant by virtue of being husband and wife, son or daughter, uncle or aunt, grandparent or grandchild, niece or nephew, first cousin, mother or father-in-law, all of whom comprise no more than one nuclear family unit per household.

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