Bad Roommate: How to Deal With Difficult Roommates

January 25, 2023
how to deal with difficult roommates

Key takeaways:

  • Communication is key – always be honest and upfront with your roommates.
  • Respect the boundaries of your roommates, like their private spaces.
  • If it comes to it, you can seek help from your landlord and relevant authorities.

We have to face it: Bad roommates do exist. There may come a time where you begin to ask yourself how to deal with difficult roommates.

Sharing a living space with a roommate or two always makes for a fun and exciting experience.

There are always perks about living with another person –  having a constant companion, someone to split the housework with (not to mention paying rent and household costs) and the memories you’ll make! Having a problem-free and good roommate is certainly possible.

Not everyone is as lucky though. For some, it is all fun and games until the initial honeymoon period is over.

From leaving dirty dishes in the sink to not cleaning up after themselves when they use the washroom to having money owed to the landlord.

If you have ever lived with a bad roommate, you would probably have your fair share of stories to tell. Whether it be somebody you found from an advertisement online or one of your best friends.

When roommate problems do arise, how do we deal with a bad roommate?

When approaching roommate problems, many would tend to avoid confrontation and choose the passive-aggressive route like leaving notes on their doors or making awkward and repetitive requests hoping they will get the message.

A majority of individuals may even choose to brush things aside. Unfortunately, those methods aren’t usually very effective and in the worst scenario, it may even worsen the conflict.

Here’s some good news though: The constant arguing and passive-aggressive conversations can be put to an end!

Here is a guide to help you learn how to deal with difficult roommates and hopefully, improve your roommate relationship.

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1. Don’t be afraid to communicate

Communication is key!

In certain cases, a bad roommate is a result of poor communication. When your roommate does something that makes you feel uncomfortable or feel unsafe in your apartment, it is important to communicate that to them.

Oftentimes, they may not even realise that their actions affect others so it is very important to have a conversation about it.

Talk about your cultural differences

how to deal with difficult roommates

A good example would be wearing shoes in your common areas and shared living spaces. Some individuals may have grown up in a household where wearing shoes indoors is condoned.

To them, they might not find it to be a big deal and assume that it is an unspoken norm.

Having a conversation about your problems and the culture you are accustomed to will likely improve your roommate situation as they will also gain an understanding of your point of view.

Communicating with a close friend

One of the hardest parts about learning how to deal with difficult roommates is if this bad roommate happens to be one of your best friends. But difficult conversations like this should take place. It has to be done!

It is naturally going to feel awkward especially if this person is your close mate, but you don’t want to lose your friend over something that could be easily communicated.

Find the right time to speak with your friend. Do not have the conversation when you are not capable of articulating your thoughts clearly. When we are overcome with emotion, we say things we do not mean and this inadvertently hurts other people’s feelings.

Understand that everyone communicates differently

Communication styles vary from person to person, sometimes, it is more effective to be direct. Talking candidly with your roommate about issues or actions that make you unhappy might in turn increase the level of understanding between you two.

2. Be the first one to reach out

how to deal with difficult roommates

You should also consider the situation where your roommate might be going through a tough time. Perhaps they may not have been in the right frame of mind to clean up their room or the common areas, or have enough money to pay their rent on time.

Not everyone wants to be a bad roommate, there is often always an explanation for why they are acting a certain way. We do not want to be in a situation where we accuse our roommates of certain things and resultantly invite defensiveness.

Changes in your roommate’s behaviour?

If you notice that your roommate is presenting behaviours that are a little out of the norm like having a total disregard for their cleanliness, it wouldn’t hurt to be the first person to reach out.

A “How have you been lately?” may not seem like a big deal to you, but to your roommate, it might mean the world. Especially in times when they need a friend to lean on.

Remember, a little empathy and kindness go a long way

Who knows? You might probably find yourself getting better sleep at night after having that talk too.

3. Establish your boundaries and learn to compromise

How to Deal With Difficult Roommates

Different roommates value different things in their life. Your roommate may value having their own personal space or having a neat home while you may value having a quiet living space or getting quality sleep.

It is essential for both you and your roommate to have a talk regarding the house rules in your apartment.

Moving in with someone new

This is more pressing in situations where you live with a new roommate who is a complete stranger.

It is already difficult to figure out if a stranger is an okay person, but living with them as well? That is a whole other challenge.

Here are some questions that you should be asking yourself regarding your new roommate:

  • Is this stranger the type of person that is sensitive to loud music or unwanted noise
  • Are they in a financial situation that allows them to easily pay rent?
  • Are they college students in their first semester who will have friends over at night?

We are dealing with a stranger after all so it is only natural to take baby steps to understand what their boundaries are and what kind of person they are too.

Again, have important conversations!

When learning how to deal with difficult roommates, communication always come up. Voicing out what you prioritise and value in your shared spaces before moving in together or at the beginning will certainly help with preventing conflict and result in a better living situation.

Respect and understanding boundaries go hand-in-hand

When there is mutual respect among all the roommates that live in the apartment, this not only strengthens your roommate relationship, but also dispels any potential roommate problems.

Understanding and respecting each other’s boundaries will allow you to strike a balance between what you are tolerant of and living comfortably. Coming to a compromised decision on how you and your roommates will live together will also lessen conflict and improve your quality of life.

4. Create a set of house rules tailored to your living situation

How to Deal With Difficult Roommates

After talking about each other’s boundaries, deciding on a set of rules that all roommates should follow is the next step.

Noise issues

For instance, your roommate problem is largely associated with noise complaints. Perhaps you could set a rule among your roommates to lower the volume after a certain hour at night? Conflict involving noise is usually easily resolved if everyone is willing to be considerate of one another when it comes to noise levels.

Rent payments

Regarding issues with rent and owed money, setting a rule where all roommates have to pay their rent on a particular day could help a whole lot. Everything gets a little more complicated when money gets involved so try to avoid sticky situations like that.

Housework and cleaning schedule

If you find yourself doing majority of the housework and your roommates are not pulling their weight, try creating a cleaning schedule to split the work evenly.

Your schedule could also involve getting daily necessities. Let’s say it is your roommate’s turn to replenish the toilet paper this week. It may sound silly, but scheduling small tasks like this could actually reduce any possibility of conflict with your roommate.

You never know what sets someone off so it is always best to cover every aspect.

You’re halfway there!

The apartment is a shared living space after all so everyone should be playing their part to keep it clean and fully stocked.

Once you have made a roommate agreement, half the battle is won! Now, the other half is making the combined effort to stick to it.

5. Get advice from friends to gain another perspective

how to deal with difficult roommates

Have a talk with your best friend or a resident assistant (in the case where you live in student accommodations). Try talking to someone that can give you an unbiased and neutral opinion of your roommate problem.

When you already have a bad impression of your current roommate from that one particular incident, it is hard to see them in a good light. Anything that they do subsequently might annoy you and we tend to focus on the negatives. So, it is always good to have a second opinion about it.

Additionally, you might learn a thing or two or feel refreshed when you get an outsider’s perspective on your situation. Bear in mind that you are not trapped in your apartment. You can always find a serene spot away from home to give yourself time to cool off.

6. Seek help from the relevant authorities

If you’re wondering how to deal with difficult roommates, chances are, the situation has worsened over time. If you have exhausted all of your options and do not know what to do, please contact the relevant authorities as your last resort.


  • The police: Your roommate makes you feel uncomfortable and unsafe in your own home or they are making threats that could endanger your wellbeing.
  • Your resident assistant: In student accommodations, if your roommate is causing trouble for you that you cannot deal with on your own.
  • Your landlord: Your roommate is performing actions that may cause potential damage to your house or apartment.

Some issues are difficult to handle on your own so please do get the help that you need to ensure your comfort, security and safety in your own home.

You are never alone, there is always a solution.

At the end of the day…

how to deal with difficult roommates

It takes two hands to clap.

Work together with your roommates to overcome the existing conflict that you have.

If both parties are willing to set aside their differences, respect one another and effectively communicate, all that you are left to do is to put in the consistent effort to maintain a good relationship.


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