Whether you’ve been living with roommates for years or are moving into your first shared apartment, you might be wondering how to keep your belongings safe. Outside threats like thieves could be a concern for you and your roommates. You should also think about keeping yourself and your belongings safe from your roommates themselves.
Hopefully, you don’t have to worry about your roommates intentionally causing you harm, but accidents can happen. It’s a good idea to protect yourself from unexpected disasters — from annoyances like a roommate who borrows clothes without asking to more serious issues like unruly guests.
Follow these nine safety tips to make living with roommates a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone in your household.
1. Discuss Boundaries and Expectations
No matter if you’re moving in with your best friends or signing a lease with strangers, it’s important to hold a household meeting and set expectations from the start. You never know what someone’s personal boundaries might be, so it’s best to come up with house rules on which everyone can agree.
During your first meeting, go over important expectations and boundaries you want from your roommates. Be sure to discuss topics from guests to cleanliness:
- Establish a guest policy.
- Create a chore chart or schedule.
- Explain expectations for sharing. You might be okay with sharing food or toiletries while another roommate may want everything to be separate.
- Exchange contact information, including emergency contacts and work information.
- Discuss parking availability. Does your apartment come with limited parking spots? Will someone have to park on the street? Determine how spots will be chosen.
- Set cleanliness expectations. How long are dishes allowed to sit in the sink? Does the group have a good working vacuum?
- If pets are allowed, decide if everyone in the house is okay with a pet living there.
- Define common spaces and set up rules for those spaces.
- Establish quiet hours and noise level expectations.
2. Invest in a Personal Safe
You can easily protect your most important belongings by investing in a small personal safe for your bedroom. Consider getting a fireproof safe that can hold valuable items like jewelry as well as important documents. Store important information in the safe, including your birth certificate, social security card, automobile documents and insurance, banking, or financial information.
3. Respect Common Areas
After establishing rules for common areas, be sure to stick to those guidelines. Everyone’s goal should be to avoid disrupting their roommates. For example, try to avoid taking phone calls or listening to loud music for long periods in common areas.
If you enter a common space and a roommate is already using it, consider if you need to ask if you can share the space. For example, there’s probably no need to ask to use the microwave while your roommate cooks dinner. On the other hand, you might want to ask if you’re welcome to join if you see your roommate and some friends are watching a movie in the living room.
4. Check and Change the Locks
One of the first things to do after moving into a new place is to check that all the locks work. You might also want to consider replacing the locks to help ensure your safety. This way, you know the only people with keys are you and your roommates. Be sure to ask your landlord for permission before making any changes. There’s also a chance that your landlord changed the locks between tenants.
Check the lock on your bedroom door as well. If your door doesn’t have a lock, consider asking if you can install one. Close and lock your bedroom door whenever you’re away.
5. Create an Inventory of Your Personal Belongings
You might be surprised by the number of things you own. If something goes missing, you may not even realize it. Even worse, you might not realize something was taken or damaged in an accident if you don’t have a list of your belongings.
Help prevent this problem by creating a personal inventory of all of your things. The easiest way to do this is to take pictures and write a short description of your things as you’re unpacking. Lay out your movie collection, for example, and snap a quick picture with all of your titles. This will make it easy to see if one goes missing.
6. Learn Your Roommates’ Schedules
Knowing your roommates’ schedules can help you be a better roommate while also keeping your home safer. If a roommate works nights and gets home in the early hours of the morning, you know to expect the front door to open in the middle of the night. You also know to be a little quieter during the day while your roommate gets some sleep before their next shift.
7. Be Open and Communicate Often
You’re probably going to run into issues with your roommates at some point during your time living together. The best way to tackle conflicts is to be open and honest with one another. Don’t be the roommate who leaves passive-aggressive notes around the house to try to get someone to clean up. You also don’t want to be known as the roommate who yells at the others whenever an issue comes up.
When you have a problem, meet with the other roommate in private and have an open conversation. Be sure to use “I” statements and explain why you feel the way you do.
8. Create a Plan for When Someone Moves Out
Roommates could move out for several reasons — from moving in with a significant other to relocating for work. When a roommate moves out, you and the other roommates need to have a plan. It’s important to remember that once a person leaves, they no longer live in the house. That means they need to give up their keys and access to the home. This will help you and your new roommate be safer.
9. Purchase a Renters Insurance Policy
Unexpected accidents happen with roommates all the time. One of the easiest ways to protect your belongings is by getting a renters insurance policy. Renters insurance helps cover the cost to replace or repair your belongings in the event of a covered accident. It can also help protect you from the costs of liability.
For example, your guest trips over a box you left on the floor and hurts their ankle. You might be responsible for paying for their medical bills because of negligence. Your renters insurance policy could help cover the cost of the medical expenses so you don’t have to pay for the whole expense out of pocket.