It's your first semester at college, and you're living off campus. You were able to find an apartment near campus, as well as a roommate. You know it's going to be a great semester!

Young person wearing glasses is standing in front of blackboard with a confident expression.

Four weeks later...

All is great with your classes. You're making friends and joining clubs. However, your roommate:

  • Leaves dirty dishes and food all over the kitchen

  • Doesn't clean up after themselves

  • Hasn't contributed to rent

  • Invites friends over unannounced and at odd hours of the day and night

A man sitting in front of lamp, not wearing a shirt, stating

Oh, no! It looks like you have a nightmare roommate!

What do I do now?!

It's already stressful enough to deal with school, a part-time job, clubs, and other responsibilities. So, what should you do if you have a nightmare roommate?

Two guys sitting on a couch playing video games without talking to each other.

By following the 4 steps below, you can address this challenging situation more confidently!

Step 1. Address problems early and directly

While it may seem awkward and strange to have this conversation, it's better to bring up issues sooner than later. Letting problems get worse will not help you in this situation.

Woman sitting in chair stating

However, as Abigail Johnson Hess from CNBC points out, make sure to "call them in, not call them out".

In other words, don't just blame or criticize the roommate for the problems and issues. Instead, try to start a conversation about the living arrangements and how both of you can create a living environment that works.

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You need to talk to your roommate about them leaving their dirty laundry on the couch for the past 3 days. What's the best way to "call them in" and start the conversation?

Step 2. Make a roommate contract

While it's ideal to do this when you first move in, your conversation from step #1 could be used to start a roommate contract.

Two hands reaching out for a handshake.

Abigail Johnson Hess points out that a roommate contract can help you learn more about:

  • your living preferences

  • the rules you want to set and follow

  • how to split responsibilities.

It doesn't have to be a formal document, but it can be something to revisit if conflicts appear between you and your roommate.

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What topics should appear in a roommate contract? Select all that apply.

Step 3. Take a break from each other

Sometimes you can still be frustrated with your roommate, even after talking and creating a roommate contract.

If that's the case, then leave your place for a few hours. Go outside for a walk, meet up with friends at a cafe, or check out a new art exhibit in town.

Person walking away from the camera into the woods.

While it may not solve all of your roommate problems, it will allow you to be away from the situation for a while. You can return back home refreshed and ready to address any remaining issues.

Step 4. Get others involved as a last resort.

If nothing works, reach out to others for advice and support.

Two hands from different people holding for support. Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Talk to a resident assistant on campus to help you navigate on-campus resources such as counseling.

Kopa, a rental site, suggests talking to your landlord to see if they can assist you with talking to and/or evicting your roommate if they're acting against the lease agreement you signed.

Take Action

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Let's review the steps that you should follow if you have a nightmare roommate:


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