It doesn’t matter if you’re the one moving in or the one looking for a roommate—safety starts before you sign the lease.
If you’re taking applications for a new roommate, make background checks part of the process. And you don’t have to sweat the cost if you include it as part of an application fee.
On the flip side, if you’re looking at moving into someone’s home, you should know that you’re not moving in with a closeted serial killer. Ask the person advertising for a roommate if they’ll let you run a background check on them. This one you’re going to have to pay for, but it’s worth it to avoid moving in with someone shady.
Ideally, you’ll get both a background check and some references. But if you can’t get a background check, references are the next best thing. If you’re the one renting out a room, ask for references from previous landlords, roommates, or even their employer. You want to know that this person is reliable, respectful, and is going to make those rent payments on time.
If you’re looking to move into a roommate situation, ask for references from the people already living in the home. If you can get in touch with someone else who’s lived in the home before, that’s the best kind of reference. That person can give you a realistic picture of what it’s like to live with those folks—and let you know some of the quirks and pet peeves up front.
Best of all, references help you know that you can trust the people you’re going to share a home with.