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5 roommates to avoid, including couples and freelancers

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So your roommate's moving out and you need a new one, stat.

You've circulated the "Know-anyone-who-needs-a-room?" e-mail and posted it on your Facebook, but no one's bitten, so it's back to Craigslist.

Think of this as an opportunity to find someone better. Your former roommate? She was fine, but you're going to find somebody finer.

For some tips, we checked in with one Brooklynite who has had to fill rooms in her 3-bedroom apartment 17 times over the past 11 years (mostly via Craigslist). Donna Lally's record is pretty stellar: She's only had to boot three crazies and says she's increasingly satisfied with the people she's brought into her home.

She chalks it up to a bit of luck and a lot of experience, which has taught her that things will generally go smoothly if you can identify and avoid the following five types:

  1. The couple They'll tell you that they're a quiet couple who will keep to themselves and be respectful. They're probably lovely, if not broke as hell. But you can't live with a couple. Couples--nice as they can be--fight. My God, do you remember what it was like living with your parents? You had no say in that, but now you have choice. Choose wisely.
  2. The pet owner This person will promise that you'll never have to feed her animal, take it for a walk or clean up after it.  But you will. And not because the pet-owner is lazy or because you're the type to get weak at the sight of a whimpering kitten (right?). You'll serve up a bowl of Alpo because inevitably your roommate won't be home every time the pet needs caring and since you--being a normal person-- won't tolerate the sound of scratching at your door. Words are flimsy and you, hard-working New Yorker, don't have the time to give this person a trial and risk living with bits of cat litter stuck to the bottom of your feet.
  3. The addict This is tricky. No one wants to live with an addict and few addicts would mention their drug habit when seeking a share. So get your Nancy Drew on and start asking some questions. Do you drink at home? How often? With friends? By yourself? Smoke? Do any drugs? Will you do them here? This is no multiple-choice exam. You'll have to do some analysis, but basically, if you're hearing a lot of yeses to the aforementioned questions, think twice.
  4.  
    1. The home office worker You'll want to have the apartment to yourself sometimes. But with this one as your roommate, you'll come home each day, open the door and feel that warmth--that distinct heat that fills an apartment that's been occupied with a breathing body all day. You'll see the home-office-worker-roommate again. Still there, like a piece of furniture, and you'll wish you'd picked that other guy. The one who said he goes to work everyday. Every day.
  5. The unemployed/underemployed An obvious one, right? But remember that few renters are so foolishly brazen that they'd admit they're out of work when they know the first step to not being homeless is proving that they can make rent. So perk your ears up and listen for the following terms:
  • The freelancer: Sure, lots of people make a living freelancing. Others use it as a euphemism for unemployed. A photographer who occasionally gets paid for shooting photos could call himself a freelancer. He could also barely make rent, and spend most of his day sitting on your sofa drinking beer.
  • Temping: You do realize that "temp" is an abbreviation for "temporary," do you not? Since you aren't interested in a roommate who can temporarily make rent, better to choose someone who's perming. 
  • Interning: Putting aside that many internships pay nothing but school credit, it's important to remember that internships are also temporary. Maybe the intern will score the full-time post, or maybe she'll wind up at mom's clicking through job listings from her childhood twin bed. However it plays out shouldn't be your worry.
  • Part time/gigs/projects/stringing it together/this and that: God bless the scrappy, but don't let their ability to keep their energy up affect your ability to have electricity.

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