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How Do I Deal with a Bad Roommate?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

 No roommate is going to be perfect. Even with the ones that seem great on paper, you’re still likely to encounter some problems. So, how do you handle roommate conflicts? Should you leave a passive-aggressive note? Tempting, I know, but there are better ways to deal with roommate problems. Yablonski (2020) offers 9 tips to help you learn how to deal with a bad roommate.

  1.     Set rules and boundaries.

One of my favorite things to work on with people is boundaries. Even if you’re living with a good friend or if your roommate seems like they’ll be the “perfect roommate,” it’s crucial to establish rules and boundaries when you first move in together. For some, this might mean creating a written roommate agreement that outlines house rules and gives you something to refer back to. This might include things like:

  •       Quiet times
  •       Guest policies
  •       Personal space and privacy
  •       Each roommate’s rent and security deposit fee
  •       How you’ll divide and pay bills (such as utilities)
  •       Cleanliness standards and/or a cleaning schedule
  •       How to handle payment for communal items (such as dish soap, toilet paper, etc.)
  •       What happens if someone moves out early

There’s no way to cover everything that might come up during your time living together in a roommate agreement. When you require a new rule, discuss it with your roommate and then append the initial agreement.          

  1.     Address problems early and directly.

When problems arise, address it ASAP. For example, if your roommate got mud all throughout the house, let them know about this and your feelings towards it. If you don’t address things as they come up, chances are that they will think you approve of their behavior. However, it’s also important to address things when you are both calm and collected.

  1.     Provide specific examples.

When you talk about mistakes with your roommate, try providing specific examples. For example, if you’re upset about the noise that they make, instead of saying “You’re loud at night,” try “I’m a light sleeper and last night around midnight the TV was too loud for me to sleep.”

  1.     Suggest effective solutions.

This step goes hand in hand with addressing problems. Because while it is necessary to address the issues, you might also want to suggest practical solutions. It’s more likely that your roommate will make a change if you help provide them with suggestions on how they can resolve the issue. For example, if your roommate tends to spread all of their belongings throughout the shared living spaces, ask them to keep their items within their bedroom.

  1.     Work together to solve problems.

People can often become closed off to requests or become defensive if you address the problems in an accusatory way. Try making the conversation about the both of you, as you are sharing your living space. If the kitchen is a mess, don’t yell at them for not cleaning up, but rather ask if they want to work together to clean. That’s a good opportunity to then share your grievance and that you would appreciate if they would attempt to keep the kitchen neat.

  1.     Set a good example.

Another good way to get your roommate to change their behavior is if you lead by example. If you don’t want dirty dishes left in the sink, make sure to wash your dishes every day. If you don’t want them to blast the TV at night, make sure to lower the volume while you’re watching during your established quiet hours. 

  1.     Ask how you can help.

Before assuming the worst about your roommate and their behaviors, engage them in conversation. If your roommate is very stressed about something going on in their life, chances are that the dirty fridge is the last thing on their mind. If they’re struggling, ask them how you can help.

  1.     Find a place you can go to escape.

You might do all of these above steps, and your roommate might still inevitably annoy you. If you’re fed up with them and need a bit of a break, find a place you can go to escape. Maybe this is going to play basketball, reading a book at a coffee shop, or relaxing at a local park. Although these spaces shouldn’t replace your home, it can help you relax by reminding you that you aren’t trapped in your apartment. You can then hopefully enter your home refreshed and ready to address problems if necessary.

  1.     Get others involved.

Sometimes, you’re living with a truly horrible roommate. There’s a big difference between leaving dishes in the sink for a week and them stealing your items. Although it’s ideal to be able to deal with these things on your own, sometimes you have to involve the authorities. If your roommate is stealing your belongings, physically threatening you, or making you feel unsafe, it might make sense to contact the police. Before doing so, make sure you’ve tried to confront your roommate and solve problems yourself.

If you find yourself struggling with your roommates, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 


Yablonski, B. (2020, February 27). 10 Ways to Deal with a Bad Roommate. RSS.

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