Looking for a new roomie? Check their references

Employers check references, landlords check references, and if you’re considering someone as a roommate, you should check their references too.

A person can seem charming initially, then later on turn into a nightmare. Do your homework and avoid such situations.

Have a rental application form that’s appropriate for your province. It will cover all the bases. Discuss how they feel about overnight visitors, smoking, pets, sharing household chores, etc. Asking why they left their last place and how long they lived there is important.

The application form will have a spot for references.

Ask for references from their current employer, a previous landlord and at least one previous roommate. Tell them that you will call these people to verify employment status and their previous housing history. By providing contact information for these references, the prospective roommate is giving you permission to contact them. Check your province’s privacy and human rights laws for what you are allowed to ask and what isn’t okay.

When calling an employer, state that you are verifying the potential roommate’s employment status and character, not doing an employment check for another job. When calling a previous landlord, find out how long the person lived there, whether they paid their rent on time or if there were any other pertinent issues, and why they left. If this information doesn’t match what the person told you, you may need to clarify.

Previous roommates can be revealing. Ask how long they have known the person and how long they lived together. Then ask “What did you like about living with __?” and “What didn’t you like about living with __?” Ask why they are no longer living together.

If someone cannot provide any references or if none of their references are forthcoming, beware. You will be living with this person in close quarters, sharing a space and relying on them to fulfil their responsibilities. You need to have a reasonable comfort level with them – they will have access to all of your personal possessions and be privy to much of your private life. Your health, safety and peace of mind are at stake. Be selective. Communicate clearly and you will find the right match.

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