Background Check your Potential Roommate

May 27, 2008 - 5:01 am | By

The Wall Street journal had a great article about checking out your potential roomates. They say that “twentysomethings are often too trusting of people they meet through, say, or apartment-finder Web sites” This can lead to big problems if you move in and your new roommate refuses or cannot pay their share of the rent. You can be stuck giving them loans and, if you cannot cover the amount, your landlord may evict both of you. This can effect your ability to secure another apartment. In this situation you are much better off renting a studio, bachelor of one bedroom apartment.

The WSJ provided an excellent list of suggestions for checking our your potential roommate, short of running a complete background check

Ask the person for a recent credit report. Consumers can get one report free once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian Group — by going to the Web site Look for warning signs like overwhelming amounts of debt and missed or late credit-card and utility payments. For more on how to read a credit report, go to Web site

Obtain proof of employment and salary. Ask for recent pay stubs or tax returns. Or call a potential roommate’s current and past employers (with the person’s consent). The human resources department can provide proof of employment, term employed and salary.

Check references. Call the person’s current landlord. Then, talk to the landlord before that. “The current landlord has every incentive to paint a false, rosy picture just to have a poor tenant leave,” Ms. Portman of Nolo says. Interview any current roommates and visit your potential roommates at their homes to get an idea of how they live. Experts say criminal background checks are often unnecessary — and generally unhelpful if a person is from out of state.

Put It in Writing. Once you choose a roommate, you should both sign an agreement specifying the rent amount and due date, how to handle utility, cable and Internet-access bills and terms of potential departure.

Roommates can provide some of the greatest benefits for living away from home.  Using this tips can help you avoid the potential problems that will affect your credit history for years.


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