How to Live with Roommates…and COVID-19

Your home should feel like a safe space. And yet, most of us have slightly different calculation strategies for risk, so living with roommates this fall may result in times when a roommate’s behavior makes you feel vulnerable to COVID-19. Conversation is the best strategy for conflict – and using the guide below can help clarify expectations and reduce the chances of conflict this semester. 

There are ways to stay healthy and share your living space. You can help protect you, your roommates, and your community by getting vaccinated, wearing your mask indoors when not at home, especially when in crowds, and giving people distance when possible.  

Consider having a conversation – even before you move in – to talk about COVID-19 risks and behaviors. 

Opening question 

  • What are your thoughts about COVID-19 right now?  

We know the list of more detailed questions below can feel overwhelming. Likely many of the questions posed would come up in a more organic conversation about COVID-19. Use this as a guide in whatever ways are helpful to you.

Understand current and anticipated behaviors 

Such as risk reduction strategies, socializing, transportation  

  • What behaviors are you practicing to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission? Specifically… 
    • What are your thoughts on vaccination? 
    • When/where do you wear a mask?  
    • When do you interact with people without a mask and who are those people? What do you know about their precautionary behaviors? What is the setting for these encounters – indoor/outdoor? How long do you typically interact? 
    • Have you attended any large gatherings during the pandemic, and will you this semester?   
    • How frequently do you tend to clean and disinfect your/our space?  
  • What risks do you anticipate this semester? Specifically… 
    • What are activities you can’t avoid no matter what happens with the pandemic – such as work or classrooms?  
    • How will you transport yourself around town and campus?  
    • Do you have plans to travel this semester?  
    • How do you navigate restaurants and bars?   
    • How often do you plan to visit, stay with, or host family, significant other, or friends?  
    • How often do you plan to be home in our shared dwelling? 
  • What additional COVID safety precautions do you practice?  

Get a sense of health needs 

  • Has anyone you know been diagnosed with COVID-19? If so, how does that impact your behavior now?   
  • Are you in a vulnerable population as outlined by the CDC?  

Make a household plan 

  • How will we adapt our space and behaviors to adjust for COVID-19?  
  • Who is allowed inside the residence? How will we handle friends or family who have interest in coming to or gathering at our residence?  
  • How will we transport ourselves around town and campus?  
  • If at least one roommate deems something unsafe, are we all willing to honor that?   
  • What symptoms would indicate to you that one of us needs to have symptomatic COVID-19 testing completed? When would we expect a roommate to quarantine? If one of us tests positive for COVID-19, what will we do?  
  • Under what circumstances will we be willing to quarantine for the benefit of our room/household?  
  • Are there other topics we should discuss (dating, mail pickup, mask disinfecting plan, remembering to take our masks, vaccination booster if/when it becomes available)?  


We, the residents of ___________________ agree to the following from ___(date)_____ to ____(date)____:  

Dwelling visitors – who is allowed into our home, when, in what circumstances, how long:   

Gatherings – hosting, attending, indoor/outdoor, common areas:  

Cleaning – sharing responsibilities, extra disinfection, dishes, laundry: 

Food – sharing, group meals, restaurants, grocery shopping:  

Transportation – how will we get around, car riding with non-roommates:  

Testing – who will be tested and when: details for UNC required and voluntary testing at  

If a roommate is a close contact to a known positive, we will…  

If a roommate tests positive, we will…  

If there is a conflict between these agreements and behavior, we will…  We plan to revisit these agreements on ___(date)____ to review and revise as necessary.  

Signed: ______________ 

When Conflict Arises 

Remember, that conflict is likely to occur even after a conversation like this. When conflict happens, stay calm and: 

  • Express specific observations about a situation or concern rather than your judgments or evaluation. Ex. “I noticed that … We agreed that …”  
  • Disclose your feelings about the situation or concern. Provide a genuine understanding of your emotions and sensations, not your beliefs about what you think others have done to you. Ex. “I felt scared and exposed when…” 
  • Identify what you need or value. Ex. “I really value shared agreements about behavior – especially during a pandemic.” 
  • Request specific actions that would start to meet your needs or support your values. Avoid demanding character changes or stating ultimatums. Ex. “Would you be willing to revisit our agreements together and update them as needed?” 

If your conversation does not go well, you can consult with your RA (if living in a residence hall) or other supportive students or adults for guidance and support.  

Ultimately you cannot control others’ behavior. If your roommate is behaving in a way that you deem unsafe, take steps to help yourself by limiting contact as much as possible, avoiding shared spaces, wearing a mask and asking your roommate to wear a mask in shared spaces. 

This post has been updated for clarity and brevity. Originally posted August 2020, it has been reposted in August 2021.

6 thoughts on “How to Live with Roommates…and COVID-19

  1. Omar Ruiz-Diaz October 14, 2020 / 9:32 am

    I living in a roommate accommodation facility and there is some level of political issue here, I am guessing. Because, and especially the landlord who’s pro-somebody, doesn’t use a mask and haven’t respect the guideline in common areas as suggested by the scientific community. I explained to him that I don’t own a car in case there is some emergency issue and I have to be eventually translated to a Hospital, 60 kms away. It’s not an easy thing considering that the winter is around the corner and moving away from here is a complicated task. This is a small town and, despite we are in a COVID’s red zone, some “ideologized” people do not seems to understand the situation…


    • HealthyHeels October 23, 2020 / 9:51 am

      That sounds really frustrating and difficult. We hear you, and wish politics were not a part of pandemic response. We hope you do what you can to protect yourself.


  2. Mask Wearer August 18, 2020 / 5:08 pm

    My roommate and I were just talking about this! Great read. Thank you for the helpful info.


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