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Finding and Living with New Roommates During the Pandemic

By Kailey Walters

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of things that have become more difficult than before — finding a roommate, for instance. With social distancing guidelines in place, it can be a bit challenging to successfully find a roommate whom you think you can trust and safely live with. Despite the extra challenge, however, it is still possible to find a new roommate safely and manage to live with them, provided you both are able to communicate properly and set some boundaries.

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Finding a Roommate

Advertise your room.

Whether or not we’re in the middle of a pandemic, one of the first steps of finding a new roommate is advertising your available room and/or reaching out to people who may be interested in renting with you. If you already happen to know someone who has expressed some interest in becoming your roommate, that makes things a little easier for you because you’ll know them already and most likely have some idea of their daily habits and lifestyle.

However, if there isn’t anyone you know who might be looking to rent with you, you’ll have to figure out a way to advertise your available room. If you’re active on social media, you can post about your room and your request for a roommate on various social media platforms, such as on Facebook and Instagram. Most likely, there will be some takers who are interested, and they will contact you. Make sure when you post or advertise to include pertinent details about your room — the location, the size, how many rooms there are, the price, and any other details that you think will be necessary for someone to make a decision or at least be interested.

Set up a virtual meeting with them.

Once you’ve gotten in contact with a potential roommate, you should set up a virtual meeting to get to know them and ask them a few questions. A virtual meeting is the obvious choice during this pandemic, as you want to be safe and maintain social distancing. A video chat, a conference call, or even a phone call will be the best communication options; in fact, a video chat in which you can see the other person’s face is better than a regular phone call because you’ll be able to get a fuller picture of this person. While a virtual meeting may not feel quite the same as an in-person meeting, it is certainly safer and the best thing you can do while practicing social distancing.

Ask the right questions.

During your meeting with a potential new roommate, make sure to ask the right questions in order to get the best picture of who that person is and what kind of roommate they could turn out to be. Here are a few important questions to ask.

1. Are you practicing social distancing?

One of the most important things to know about a potential new roommate is whether or not they are taking social distancing seriously. After all, if you’re going to be living with this person, you want to make sure that they are staying safe whenever they go out so that they don’t contract the virus and possibly spread it to you. If they tell you that they are taking social distancing seriously and have been practicing safety since the pandemic started, that should be a reassuring sign — it shows that both of you are on the same page and are committed to staying safe for each other’s sake. You can also discuss each other’s mask-wearing and hand-washing habits, as those are important for discerning whether or not they are taking social distancing seriously. If they wear a mask properly every time they go out and wash their hands regularly, especially when they come back to the apartment, that’s a good sign, and perhaps you’ll feel comfortable moving forward with them.

2. How have you been spending your time during the pandemic?

Another good question to ask is how they have been spending their time during the pandemic. After all, they will most likely continue this behavior after they have moved in with you, so you want to make sure that you’ll be comfortable with their lifestyle. For example, if the person you’re speaking with spends a lot of time hanging out with their friends, that may be a red flag for you. Once they move in with you, any people they come into regular contact with will also become part of your social matrix by default, thereby increasing the risk for the spread of coronavirus. As a result, you need to be very careful and selective in who you choose as a roommate, particularly based on their lifestyle and how they’ve been regularly spending their time over the past few months. And on the flip side, if the person you’re considering hasn’t been going out very often, mostly stays at home, and doesn’t see many people, that’s a good sign that they are maintaining a safe lifestyle and may be a good, trustworthy roommate.

3. What is your budget?

It’s always important to ask about someone’s budget and financial status when you’re considering them as a potential roommate, but it is perhaps even more important during this pandemic. With many people having lost their jobs this year so far, or at the very least feeling cautious because job security is becoming less certain, budgets are tight. And of course, you want to be living with a dependable roommate who has a reasonable budget and will be reliable enough to pay their rent and other bills on time every month. As a result, if you choose someone who is financially reliable, that will save you a lot of headaches later on, and you can rest assured that you won’t run into any financial rent-related problems. In addition, being aware of your new roommate’s budget is generally good for understanding what kind of lifestyle they lead — for instance, if they spend a great deal or don’t manage their money well, their actions could potentially point to their behavior in other areas and how seriously (or not seriously) they are taking initiative to stay safe during this pandemic.

4. How have you been getting groceries?

Asking about how they buy their groceries may seem oddly specific, but it’s nevertheless an important question to ask to get to know them better and, again, understand how their lifestyle plays out.

If they go to the grocery store in person, it’s important to know whether or not they regularly wear a mask. If they don’t visit the grocery store in person, they might prefer to order their groceries online. Their method of getting groceries may even inform how you get yours, since it may be most convenient for you both to get your groceries the same way. If they don’t happen to cook very often and instead end up ordering in or getting takeout from restaurants, that’s also an indication of their regular eating habits and could possibly be a factor in your consideration of them as a roommate. Either going to the restaurant to pick up takeout or ordering in are both viable and safe options; just make sure that they are going about it in a safe, mindful, and smart manner.

5. Do you plan on staying in this city/town for the long term?

Another question you may want to ask is about their long-term plans to stay in a particular city or town in which you are living. If the person you’re considering is serious and committed to staying for a decently long time, for at least a year, that’s most likely a good sign that they’ll stick around for a while. After all, you wouldn’t want to get saddled with an unreliable roommate who ends up breaking the lease early on, as that will just cause even more of a headache for you later on. What’s more, if they are committed to staying as your roommate for the long term, they will be more likely to dependably pay their share of the rent and be responsible in many aspects.

Sign a roommate agreement.

Once you’ve made a good connection with someone and decided that you both want to be roommates, it’s time to come up with a roommate agreement that you both agree on. The purpose of the agreement is to make sure that you both are on the same page and are willing to cooperate with each other in the face of potential difficulties and conflicts. The agreement may include things such as a chore schedule, quiet hours, how many guests can come over (if any at all) and when, pets, smoking, shared and private spaces, and shared costs, just to name a few. You and your roommate can both feel free to add whatever else you think is necessary to the document. After all, the goal of the agreement is to provide a foundation for both of you to foster mutual understanding and trust with one another.

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Living with a New Roommate

After you’ve made the decision and signed all the papers, you’ll have to handle a whole new deal: living with the roommate you’ve chosen. During the pandemic, even if you’re in an area where you don’t have to strictly self-quarantine, it’s still extremely important to take proper precautions and be mindful about your health and safety — and the health and safety of others — wherever you go. As a result, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Discuss boundaries.

Since you and your roommate will likely be spending a lot of time in the apartment together, or at least in the same general shared space, it’s crucial that you both discuss boundaries. This is also where the terms of the roommate agreement come into play. If you are to live together peacefully as roommates, you need to respect each other’s wishes and any limitations you’ve set together. For example, if you put in the agreement that each of you can only have one guest over at a time, you both need to honor that.

Come up with a cleaning schedule.

A cleaning schedule may also have been decided upon in the roommate agreement, in which case, you and your roommate need to stick to it. Make sure that you have devised a schedule so that both of you know what to expect and who is scheduled to do which chores on which days. Having a consistent cleaning schedule will also ensure that your apartment stays clean on a regular basis, which will be reassuring and comforting for you.

Designate individual workspaces.

When you and your roommate have to spend a lot of time together in a relatively small space, it’s important to designate individual workspaces so that you don’t get in each other’s way. Especially if you both are continuing to work from home, you should each have a specific place in the apartment where you do your work — for example, in your bedrooms or even on opposite sides of the room. Make sure to give each other enough breathing room so that you can both stay sane throughout the day.

Ultimately, finding and living with new roommates — even in the midst of the pandemic — doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Make sure that you carefully do your research on what kind of roommate you want to live with, and be safe once you start living with them.


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