Photo of a house surrounded by fall foliage.

Living off campus can pose additional challenges and responsibilities that you may not encounter in on-campus housing. This can include things like rent, utilities, lawn care, parking, grocery shopping and navigating roommate issues more independently. Here are some tips to help you make the most of living off campus with roommates.

Create ground rules

While you’re not required to have a roommate agreement off campus, we highly encourage you and your roommates to create one. Even if you’re living with friends, a significant other or the same roommates as last year, it’s important to create or revisit ground rules to avoid conflict around things like rent, utilities, visitors, etc.

Here are some helpful topics to consider for off-campus students:

  • Rent (who owes what, how to pay/reimburse each other, due dates, etc.)
  • Utilities (whose names are utilities under, splitting bills, etc.)
  • Parking (how to share a parking space/garage, costs, permits, etc.)
  • Deposits (who pays and how much, reimbursement for damage, etc.)
  • Pets (what kinds, breed restrictions, pet rent, care, etc.)
  • Morning and nighttime routines (quiet hours, class times, waking/sleeping hours, etc.)
  • Cleanliness of shared spaces (laundry, trash, dishes, clutter, chores, etc.)
  • Visitors (friends, significant others, overnight guests, gatherings, etc.)
  • Borrowing or using each other’s things (electronics, food, clothes, toiletries, etc.)
  • Purchasing common items (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, food, etc.)
  • Preferred ways for addressing conflict
  • Quality vs. alone time
  • Substance use (partying, vaping, drinking, marijuana, etc.)

Think through your expectations, habits and routines before you move in (or soon after) and come prepared to create a shared roommate agreement. You can use this free Roommate Agreement Template from Off Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations to help you get started. You can also get free legal advice if you have questions about your lease or rights when living with roommates.

Be a good neighbor

Living off campus comes with extra responsibilities, like being a good roommate and a good neighbor. Here are some simple ways you can be a good neighbor and avoid conflict with longer-term residents:

Introduce yourself

Introduce yourself to your neighbors. If you’re nervous about introducing yourself in person, consider filling out this free Neighbor Contact Form to leave in their mailbox or on their front door.


Follow city ordinances

Make sure you’re aware of Boulder ordinances, including occupancy restrictions, furniture and trash requirements, snow removal, yard maintenance and fireworks laws. Reviewing these rules can help you avoid citations, nuisance complaints and other forms of conflict with neighbors or law enforcement. Be sure to also follow neighborhood or community rules related to pet waste, street parking, etc. It’s also important to know that everyone listed on a lease can receive a citation for ordinance infractions, regardless of whether or not you are all present at the time of the infraction.


Make amends

Stuff happens. You may forget to take out your trash or park in front of a neighbor’s driveway (whoops). If you make a mistake that may annoy their neighbors, remember to handle the situation in person, listen to your neighbor’s perspective and consider making appropriate amends (e.g. helping with lawn care, shoveling snow, taking out trash, etc.).

Understand conflict styles

Everyone handles conflict differently, depending on the situation, their conflict style and who they’re in conflict with. However, there are some common themes that may show up in a person’s response again and again. Exploring how you approach conflict can be a great starting point for learning or refining your skills around conflict resolution. 

Take our free Conflict Style Quiz to learn how you approach conflict and how your ‘default’ response may impact your behaviors or attitudes in different situations. You can also share this quiz with your roommates or housemates to start the conversation around how different people handle conflict. 

Take the Conflict Style Quiz

Practice communication skills

It’s best to address roommate issues quickly before they fester. Addressing issues through texting, social media or sticky notes on the door may lead to miscommunication or increased frustrations. This is because we can’t always know how the message will be received by the other person. A simple reminder to “take out the trash” may turn into something more.

Instead, try to address any potential issues in person. It can be helpful to make a plan and think through how you can express your needs before approaching your roommate. Using “I” statements to describe how the situation makes you feel is a helpful way to start.

Here are some examples:

  • “I feel hurt when I’m not invited to game night because I really enjoy hanging out with you.”
  • “I feel frustrated when the trash doesn’t get taken out because we agreed to switch off who takes care of it each week.”
  • “I am upset that my coat was damaged because I can’t afford to replace it.”
  • “I feel hurt when my snacks get eaten by others because it’s hard for me to make it to the grocery store.”

When talking through issues with your roommates, remember to listen for understanding and ask follow-up questions during the conversation. Resist the urge to formulate a response to what the other person is saying while they’re speaking. Instead, you should be focusing your full attention on the emotions, issues and reasoning behind what your roommate is saying.

Support resources

Conflict Resolution

All students, regardless of if you live on or off campus, can visit Conflict Resolution. They can help you navigate conflicts between roommates, significant others, professors, classmates and more. They also offer free workshops, mediation and coaching sessions if you’re looking to improve your skills around conflict management and resolution.

Peer Wellness Coaching

Peer Wellness Coaches provide peer-to-peer support and are available to meet with students living on or off campus. They can help you navigate concerns related to roommates, relationships, stress, finances and more. Peer Wellness Coaches can also help you set goals, connect with additional resources and create self-care plans.

Off Campus Housing & Neighborhood Relations (OCHNR)

OCHNR is here to help students with all aspects of living off campus, from searching for an apartment and roommate, understanding Boulder housing options and providing free lease reviews with our staff attorney, to navigating roommate disagreements, understanding Boulder ordinances and advocating for tenant rights. 

Center for Inclusion and Social Change (CISC)

CISC works with LGBTQ+ students living on and off campus. They can provide information on gender-inclusive residence hall programs, gender-neutral facilities and more. Their office can also help students find inclusive housing and roommates that will be welcoming and supportive. 

 Support for potentially harmful living situations

In some cases, you may feel like you are stuck in a traumatic, toxic or harmful living situation. Harmful behaviors or experiences can include harassment, stalking, partner abuse, sexual or physical assault and hazing, to name a few. The Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) can provide additional support to help you explore your rights and options, make a safety plan, get medical treatment if needed, discuss your living situation and more.

Get connected with OVA by calling 303-492-8855, emailing or filling out a confidential request form online. Submission forms are only reviewed by confidential OVA staff and will not be shared with the university. If you would like to be contacted by an OVA advocate counselor, please be sure to include your contact information on the form.

Learn more about OVA