Finding Roommates: Checking References for Maximum Compatibility

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Finding Roommates: Checking References for Maximum Compatibility

Staff Writer · Sep 1, 2009

Finding roommates that you’re compatible with can be challenging. If the potential roommate is an acquaintance or a complete stranger, you’ll want to do your research before adding them to your lease and allowing them to move in. Here’s some advice on what to look for when you check their references and background.

Criminal History

Depending on the laws in your state, you may have to pay for an online service to check this. A person’s criminal history is public record, so you can access it yourself. However, not every state has individual criminal records online. If your state keeps good records online, you should be able to access both criminal and civil cases against an individual. Civil cases to look out for would be small claims court cases, involving landlords trying to reclaim rent or deposit money that went unpaid. Also, most states maintain a detailed sex offender registry through their state police websites.

Former Landlords

You’ll want to ask a potential roommate’s former landlords about how they were as a renter. Was the apartment trashed when they left, and were they a messy or neat tenant? Were they overdue on paying the rent? Did the neighbors constantly complain about them?

Former and Current Employers

Make it clear up front in the conversation with employers that you’re considering the person for a roommate, and that it’s not a reference check for a job. Ask about work habits and attitude. An employer may not be able to answer all of your questions for legal reasons. A good question to ask a former employer is, “Is this person eligible for re-hire?” If the answer is no, it could be a red flag that the person was fired, though the employer can’t tell you why.

Friends and Other Personal References

If you’re talking to close personal references, be aware that you might not get honest answers to all of your questions. Use your judgment, and try to be creative with your questions. How long have you known this person? Does this person have any fun hobbies? Are they a quiet person, or do they like big parties and get-togethers? Do they have a lot of friends, or do they keep to themselves?

Credit and Background Check

A credit check can be another good indicator on whether your potential roommate is going to be a problem. Credit checks can be done online through a number of different companies. If this person has a lot of outstanding bills, or a poor credit history for not paying bills, you can save yourself a lot of headaches down the road by declining them as a roommate. There are also companies that can perform a comprehensive background check on any person for a small fee. This could turn up anything that you’ve missed in your reference checks.

It’s sometimes difficult to learn everything you’d want to know about a person when you’re trying to find a roommate. The above tips should give you some good direction when it comes to figuring out your compatibility with the person.

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