Devon Fleming said that she thought she had found the perfect roommate. The woman seemed smart, was easy to spend time with, and the two shared many mutual friends. It was an almost serendipitous situation: The roommate had just broken up with her boyfriend and Fleming had an extra room in her apartment in Manhattan‘s Upper East Side neighborhood. It was the perfect arrangement.
That was until one day, Fleming said, that she received a call from a nearby Ann Taylor store. A representative there was calling to inform Fleming that her store account was overdue for a payment. Fleming was shocked: She’d never shopped at nor opened an account at Ann Taylor. Someone apparently had impersonated her, using her name, credit card details and all of her contact information to open a store account.
Fleming said that she called the first person she could turn to: her roommate. “I told her, ‘Oh my god, I’m being impersonated!’ Then strangely, she told me she had to go and hung up quickly,” Fleming told AOL Real Estate. “Shortly after that, I got a call back from Ann Taylor saying they found out who it was — and it was my roommate! She’d also listed her real cell phone, and they figured it out.”
Fleming said that she immediately went to her roommate’s office to confront her — and found her dressed head-to-toe in Fleming’s clothing. “I was freaked out and asked her, ‘Why?’ She said that ‘You have so much, I want to be just like you. But I don’t make as much money, so I just pretended I was you.’ It was so creepy. I asked her to find another place to live, and she moved out.”
Vannessa Wade also said that she thought she’d found the perfect roommate to share her Houston apartment. They’d gone to the same college, the woman seemed friendly and funny, and they’d spoken extensively on the phone. She moved into Wade’s apartment, and everything seemed to be going well. But that was until Wade began to notice the mess — and not just a stray sock here and there. The apartment began to seriously resemble a garbage dump.
“When I walked though the door, I was greeted by cups, plates and candy wrappers. The table would be outlined with whatever meals she had for breakfast or lunch — our table was her wasteland. The trash would overflow, things overflowed in the sink,” Wade told AOL Real Estate. “I felt slighted and upset. Looking back, I would have dug deeper and asked questions like, ‘What type of living space do you like? How often do you clean?’ That would have saved me the frustration.”
How to Find a Good Roommate
Though Fleming and Wade’s cases are extreme, many of us have experienced a bad roommate — whether simply because of bad judgment or Craigslist gone wrong. But there’s a lot we can do to ensure that doesn’t happen.
According to rental expert Rory Bolger of New York realty firm Citi Habitats, a lot of roommate-related heartache and frustration can be prevented in the vetting process. It’s nice if friends can vouch for a potential roommate, but as in Fleming’s case, this isn’t always successful. It’s important to seriously do your homework — you’ll be living under the same roof, after all, so it’s important that they’re not just “cool” and “nice” but also compatible with you.
“Take a look at what they are currently doing with their life. What do they do for a living, and what are their interests and hobbies? Look at their Facebook and LinkedIn pages, it can be a huge help in getting to know more about this potential roommate,” Bolger advised. “The more info about a person you can ascertain, the better.”
His thoughts are echoed by Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats and a longtime Realtor, who says it’s important to ask all the “awkward” questions upfront — and not just to your future roommate, either.
“Ask yourself: Are you a neat-freak, or do you take a more laissez-faire approach to cleaning? Your roommate should likely have a similar attitude to avoid conflict,” said Malin. “Also, how do you feel about houseguests? The more the merrier, or do you prefer a quiet home? Nothing can be more annoying than to walk into a wild party when you’ve had a rough day at work.”
Both Bolger and Malin also added a word of caution about Craigslist. While it’s a convenient way to find roommates, especially on short notice, added caution must be taken when committing to share an apartment with complete strangers. Bolger also advised renters to have numerous in-person meetings before agreeing to move in together — and to “listen to your gut.”
Wade adds that it’s important to speak openly and clearly with your potential roommate about expectations, particularly when it comes to cleanliness and house conduct. Be honest about what you’d like them to do before moving in together. “I talked extensively to my messy roommate, but now I know it was not to the extent we should have. I told her I like a clean space,” Wade told AOL Real Estate. “Now, I know to go into greater detail, because ‘clean’ is in the eye of the beholder!”
See more about roommates:
Roommate Agreements, and Breaking Up When Things Go Badly
How to Interview Potential Roommates