How Much Do You Really Know About Your Roommate?

article by Nicky Hoseck
May 14, 2019
Sharing accommodation with a total stranger can be exciting or nerve-racking. There is no doubt that there are tremendous cost benefits to having a roommate, such as splitting the rental in half or substantially cutting your personal mortgage repayments.

With property prices set to continue rising in 2019, the likelihood is your rent or mortgage isn’t going to drop and may well increase as we go into the New Year. Financial constraints often encourage people to sublet their apartments. For instance, in New York, moving from a one-person studio to a two-bedroom apartment could save you in excess of $7,000 a year. Your utility bills will also be easier to manage if there’s someone else there to take the strain.

Of course, money isn’t the only reason to share your accommodation. It can also improve your social life, introducing you to new people and giving you a sense of belonging, even if you’re in a new city. Apartment sharing can give you the opportunity to mix with different groups of people and expand your social network.

The problem comes when trying to find a suitable roommate who isn’t going to run off with your boyfriend, steal your ice cream or hog the bathroom. Of course, these are minor concerns compared to the possible dangers of inviting a stranger into your home.

Imagine, for example, living with someone who spits in your food or puts clam dip in your face cream. Disgusting, but true. Late last year, a former university student, Brianna Brochu, was charged with criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace after continually harassing her roommate. Prior to her arrest, Brochu posted a celebratory message on Instagram, saying, “Finally did it. Yo girl got rid of her roommate!! After 1 1/2 month of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotion and putting her toothbrush in places where the sun doesn’t shine, and so much more I can finally say goodbye Jamaican Barbie”.

To avoid this kind of situation, it’s important to get some kind of idea as to who your roommate is and what makes them tick.

Interview or Interrogation?

Questions you need to ask your potential roommate:

It can be difficult sitting down with a complete stranger and fire questions at them, but the more you know about a person before you start living with them, the better the chances of you enjoying a lengthy and mutually beneficial living arrangement together.

Don’t forget, you also need to have some level of self-awareness. Just as it matters to you that you find a roommate who’s prepared to pay on time and share the housework, so you need to be prepared to make the same commitments. So, before you prepare your list of questions for prospective roommates, think about what’s important to you in terms of your lifestyle and living arrangements.

For example, if you religiously go to bed at 10pm every weeknight, you don’t want a flatmate who comes in at 2am four times a week. If you’re a strict vegetarian, chances are, you don’t want to share with a meat eater. It’s important to consider these aspects of how you live so you can be more specific about the qualities you’re looking for in someone else.

Once you’ve assessed your own priorities, compile a list based on these following questions:

1. Do you socialize at home or out on the town?

If you like a quiet life, then a roommate who invites friends over and organizes social events in the home several times a week is going to drive you crazy, so it’s important to find out their expectations and habits prior to committing.

2. How often do you clean?

While the chances are everyone will lie a little about this, if you’re quite happy with a clean but messy home, you don’t want to live with an obsessive-compulsive who can’t bear for a single item to be out of place. Washing the dishes is one of the main points of conflict in many living arrangements, so it’s important to find out what a person’s cleaning habits are before they move in.

3. Are you friends with your previous roommates?

If someone previously did a runner and left their former flatmates with their debts, they probably won’t be friends with them anymore. Although you may be able to find out some details about their previous living arrangements and how they ended by doing a background check, nothing is more of a red flag than a prospective flatmate who has nothing positive to say about anybody they lived within the past.

4. Do you work from home?

While there’s nothing wrong with working from home, it does impact on your living arrangements and bills. Someone who’s in the home all day every day will push up your utility bills and may make you feel claustrophobic should you have a day off. There are benefits, however, like always having someone there to receive deliveries and let the plumber in.

5. What’s your romantic situation?

Soon after I left university, I moved in with a friend of a friend. The situation was fine for a while until her rather volatile boyfriend started spending more and more time in our flat. After six weeks, it became apparent that I was expected to foot half the bills even though there were three of us living in the flat. It wasn’t a happy situation and finding out whether your potential roommate has a partner who’ll spend half their life in your apartment is crucial, especially if space is limited.

Digging Deeper: Social Media

You’d be surprised how much you can find out about a person simply by entering their name into a search engine. Most general searches will reveal their social media profiles and can give you useful insights into their education, work history, and social life.

Recruitment companies and HR departments use social media checks all the time to establish whether the candidate is a suitable fit for the position. In instances such as these, the employer or agency is looking to see that the candidate’s qualifications are genuine, that they have a professional online profile, and any reason they might not be a suitable option.

Similarly, you can search for a prospective roommate and  check to see if:

1. They regularly post images of themselves drunk and partying with friends

2. They frequently mention drinking or drugs

3. They post racist, homophobic or sexist rants

Many of us have the tendency to overshare on sites like Twitter or Instagram which is a bonus when you’re trying to find out more about a prospective roommate. If you want to get the real nitty-gritty, you may want to turn to a background check service like BeenVerified or TruthFinder who have a wealth of experience and can glean a lot more information from a social media search than many of us could ever achieve.

Why Background Checks Could Save You

While none of us want to be stuck living with someone who is dirty, inconsiderate or glues live goldfish to the kitchen table (true, I promise!), we really don’t want to end up sharing with someone who’s going to ruin our lives. Stories of roommates who’ve spent months funding their cohabitants Netflix habit or sharing their expensive organic food are extremely off-putting but nothing compared to living with a murderer!

This is why finding out about your potential roommate’s criminal and credit history is vital for your own well-being. This kind of information isn’t as easy to unearth as their social media profiles, however, which is why many people turn to a background check company to investigate for them.

Social media certainly helps you determine things about the person’s character and preferences, but their deeper and darker secrets may not be evident. That’s why it’s imperative that a complete investigation is conducted via a background check service. For people who are looking for a roommate for the first time, there are a wealth of resources available including top-tier background search sites such as People Looker. A complete report can easily be generated in a matter of minutes.

Background search companies are efficient at what they do, and they can provide valuable information that could immediately throw up enough red flags to dismiss the prospective roommate from the running.

Services like Intelius have a long history of accessing public documents and can gather a wealth of information about a person using just their name. Attempting to do similar research yourself is both time-consuming and expensive, as you have to pay to access national records.

The best background check services  of 2019 will be able to provide you with the following information:

1. Location history

A background check will reveal where your potential flatmate has lived and how long they’ve stayed there. This is a good indication of whether they’re going to stick around or suddenly take flight, leaving you to perform the whole roommate search over again.

2. Employment history

It’s important to know whether or not your future co-tenant is going to be earning a decent wage or whether the tales of their heady career aspirations are purely fictitious.

3. Credit History

A credit report reveals the roommate is untrustworthy and unreliable, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere. A tenant who has racked up too much debt and has maxed out his/her credit cards should not be considered. If there is any hesitancy from the tenant when a credit check is suggested, this may be a sign that the tenant has something to hide. All of the above checks should be conducted to verify the credibility of the person in question.

4. Criminal History

Background check services access county, state and federal records, as well as numerous other sources, to establish if your potential roommate has any prior convictions. Even if it’s only a misdemeanor, a flatmate who’s committed a crime is a lot harder to trust than a law-abiding one.

5. Sex Offenders Register

The Department of Justice has a national sex offender public website where easy screening of tenants is possible. There are also other public resources such as the National Center for State Courts which companies like Instant CheckMate access to gain a comprehensive overview of a person’s criminal past.

Tracking Down a Background Check Service

There are lots of online background check services but not all provide as comprehensive a service as you need to keep you safe. The best background check services  of 2019 will have the following features:

  • A variety of different types of background checks
  • Excellent resources that include accessing physical court records and dark web data
  • A mobile app so you can keep abreast of your search results on the go
  • Accessible reports that are neatly laid out and informative
  • A range of search options, from name to email or physical address.


Remember how difficult living with your parents was? Recall the impossible fights you had with your sister when you shared a room? Well, just think of the challenges that await you when you start sharing your home with a total stranger. Not only are you opening up some of the most intimate details of your life, but you’re also putting yourself in potential danger.

No matter how pleasant and friendly a prospective co-tenant appears on paper, or even when you meet face-to-face, it’s important to find out what’s beneath that sunny exterior. Compiling a set of interview questions is the first step in getting to know your roommate. Searching for them online and reviewing their social media profiles can also be something of an eye-opener. However, if you want to 100% sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, a background check is the only way to go.

Not only can the best background check services reveal any criminal history or past financial problems, but they can also trace a person’s previous addresses and, sometimes, even their former flatmates. Do yourself a favor, forget your gut instinct and take a responsible approach to selecting your next roommate.