How to Find a Roommate

With ever increasing rents especially in metropolitan areas like New York City, Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, roommates are a great way to minimize housing costs and meet lifelong friends. However, there are a lot of potential risks with roommate situations and it’s important to know how to minimize the downside protect yourself.

The article includes practical help, advice and resources to help you find and screen roommates. A special legal section includes risk factors you should consider before you become a roommate. Most of the guidance we provide applies to both renters looking for rooms as well as people with rooms to rent.

How to find a roommate

If you’re moving in with your best friend from high school, you’re in good shape. If you’re reading this article, it’s more likely you’re moving to a new city for work or school, and need to find and screen a new roommate.

The good news is there are dozens of online services to help you find a room or a roommate. Listings of rooms for rent will include a description of the apartment or home with the room for rent as well as a profile of the person who’s renting the room. A separate list of roommates includes photos and descriptions of people looking for someone with a room to rent.

Many sites provide a free trial or a free level of service. However, roommate services are businesses, and most charge some fees. Sometimes there are fees apply to people with rooms for rent. Sometimes fees are assessed to both people looking for roommates as well as people with rooms to rent. In most case, you can preview the listings in your area for free.

Get to know each other

After you find a potential roommate, you’ll need to do your homework.

Take your time to get to know a potential roommate as well as possible. Spend time (preferably a lot of time) in a public place, such as a park, restaurant or coffee joint. Getting to know each other is the only way to learn if your potential roommate is a good choice. It’s best to invest as much time as possible upfront. It’s possible you’ll find you don’t feel right about your potential roommate. It’s better to find this out moving in together.

Second, regardless of how much you like your potential roommate, protect yourself by verifying his or her:

  • Roommate references (where available)
  • Landlord references (where available)
  • Employment status and income

Further, it’s a good idea to do a credit check. It only takes a minute and a little money to order a credit report which will let you know how your roommate has handled his credit and whether or not he’s paid his bills on time. While it doesn’t necessarily predict future behavior, it will provide you with important information about your roommate’s financial history and responsibility.

Check out the lease and the local regulations

Whether you’ve moving in with your best friend or someone you’ve hardly met, there are few legal matters to consider.

Speaking of legal considerations, we need to make a legal disclaimer. We are not attorneys and the information presented is not legal advice, should not be construed as legal advice and is not guaranteed to be accurate. That said…

Some cities (e.g. Philadelphia, as of 2004) and some landlords limit the number of unrelated adults that can live in an apartment or rental home. Make sure you can legally live in the apartment.

Many apartment landlords, especially larger property management companies, require that all adults over 18 sign the lease. By reading the lease beforehand, you’ll know what’s required.

While we’re on the subject of leases, did you know that in most cases anyone who signs the lease is responsible to pay the entire amount? This issue is particularly sticky in roommate situations. In practice, it means if you lose your roommates or they become unemployed and are unable to pay the rent, you will be legally responsible for the entire rent.


With plenty of online roommate services to choose from, it’s easier than ever to find a roommate. To avoid roommate nightmares, take your time and use available tools to select your roommate wisely.