From May until September, tenants in the Boston area move around. Some live alone, but many share two, three, and four-bedroom apartments. How are you going to interview new roommates in the age of Covid-19?
Know the risks. What increases risk is your cumulative exposure to the virus.
The space: High risk environments are those with poor air circulation.
The number of people: The more people, the higher the chance that people in the environment is shedding virus. The more people, the more virus that might be in the room.
The length of time: The longer you are all in the room, the more virus you may be taking in.
Knowing that, how to conduct new roommate interviews:
Do as much as possible before a face-to-face interview.
- Prepare to discuss the physical environment remotely.
- Take pictures or a video of the apartment or house.
- During a video meeting, walk through the house or apartment, with video to show it and answer questions.
- Write up a list of features, like appliances, kitchen equipment that is available to share, refrigerator space, use of washer and dryer, storage, parking….
- Have a video conversation about life and living together. This would have all the same questions you’d always ask, plus some specific to any future stay-at-home situations. (Ideas about what to discuss is below).
If the preliminary conversations go well, then prepare for a house tour and face-to-face conversation.
- Give an indoor tour.
- Have further discussions as socially distant as possible. Use porches, yards, or patios, weather permitting. Open windows, weather permitting, and sit as far as possible away from one another while indoors.
- Ventilate the apartment after the prospective tenant leaves.
Things to discuss
B.C. (before Covid-19): Discuss noise, general style of cleaning and cooking, sleep style (early bird or night owl), whether you are comfortable with overnight guests, smoking, drinking, music taste and volume…
Now: you need agreement to standards, based on the changing pandemic situation. To find roommates who are in the same wavelength, you will need to discuss possible situations that could arise in the next year or two. You all need to commit to a way that feels safe for everyone there. Here is a sample–your choices may vary.
During a stay at home:
- Housemates practice social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing when entering the apartment and before handling anything in the kitchen, and other recommended precautions.
- Limit guests to none, or intimate partners only. Housemates should either live here or someplace else. Limit the practice of staying elsewhere some nights, then returning home. (Needs to be discussed).
- If the housemate works in an exposed environment, discuss precautions they are using to keep from bring the virus home.
- Agree to keep distance within the house, when possible.
- Agree on who is responsible for regular cleaning of common surfaces. Are you taking turns?
- Plan for what will happen if someone is infected. Would the sick roommate expect to stay in their bedroom? Would the healthy roommate feed them or will the sick one come into the kitchen? Do you have a bathroom that can be kept for only the infected person?
After stay at home, before full control of the virus:
Decide which restrictions you all feel comfortable removing. In the interview, get a sense of how the prospective tenant thinks about these things.
Keeping the apartment or house safe for all:
Establish common space protocols when there is a potential that housemates could bring virus into the apartment or house. It will look something like this.
- Establish daily wipe down schedule for commonly touched surfaces. Especially faucets, doorknobs, light switches, refrigerator door, trash can lids.
- Keep bedroom doors closed.
- Open windows whenever weather permits.
- Develop the habit of closing the toilet lid before flushing.
- Run the bathroom fan and close the door 80% after using the toilet.
- Keep toothbrushes in your bedroom when not in use.
- Establish what foods are shared, what foods are not.
- Establish whether all dishes are to be in the dishwasher (or hand washed) immediately after use, or at least before bedtime.
- Establish how mail and packages will be handled.
- Establish whether housemates are getting food delivered from grocery stores or restaurants and how that packaging will be handled.
- Plan to wipe down shared appliances and furniture (including outdoor furniture) after use.
Control your bedroom environment, too.
You have control of your bedroom environment. (This is good for you, even after the pandemic is over!)
- Keep your bedroom door closed.
- When the weather permits, ventilate your room.
- Consider running an air filter. Although there have been no tests specific to Covid-19, HEPA filters have been effective with similar viruses, such as SARS.