Sharing your living space with someone that isn’t your family, close friend or significant other can feel risky – especially if you don’t know him/her very well before you sign the lease! Will they leave dirty dishes all over the kitchen? Will they replace the toilet roll as often as you? What if they leave without paying rent? What will you do if they steal from you??
All are stressful situations in their own right. But right now, we’re going to look over your options if you suspect – or you know – your roommate is stealing from you. Whether they’re helping themselves to your milk a little too often, or they’re taking something more valuable, let’s take a look at how you and your belongings can feel a little safer in your own home.
If your roommate is helping themselves to your food or toiletries
Treating your items as communal goods can be more irritating than menacing. What starts off as a squeeze of your shampoo when they run out of theirs, can turn into you waking up to your own empty coffee jar before class.
Reddit user forevertiffanys25 went through the same experience. She asked the forum:
‘Lately I have noticed little things like makeup and jewelry out of place but just assumed I was imagining things and must have done it absentmindedly. Well today I got home early and saw an empty facial mask package of mine sitting on the counter, which means she went through my stuff and used it without my permission.
I am so frustrated, we share a small space so how the hell can I make sure she doesn’t use my things?’
So…what can you do if you find yourself in a similar situation?
Open communication is always the best initial approach. It can help to diffuse any animosity between the two of you, and can mean you won’t have to keep everything from serums to cereals in your bedroom. Bring up the issue gently, saying something like, “Hey, I think some of my stuff is going missing. I’m on a pretty tight budget, so if you need to use any of my [coffee/milk/dental floss/Oreos], would you mind asking me first?”
Finish the conversation off on a light note, such as inviting them to join you in watching a sitcom that evening. If your items continue to disappear from your cupboards, you’ll need to consider keeping them in your bedroom or reporting the issue to your landlord.
If your roommate is stealing money or high-value items
Reddit user Janiewise discovered that, while she was away having surgery, her roommate stole over $1000 worth of stuff from her. With no hard proof, she wasn’t sure what her best course of action was.
‘Last Monday, I moved out of my apartment in Baltimore City. I had been living with a girl I found on Craigslist for 8 months, no problems. I was out of the house Thurs-Sun the week prior due to an emergency illness that I ended up having surgery for this past Wednesday. While I was out of the apt, she stole over $1000 worth of things from me: Nikon DSLR camera, backpack, Marc Jacobs sunglasses, Ariat cowboy boots, including a ton of jewelry. I found my jewelry in her room, so there is no doubt it was her, but there is so much more missing.
At the time I was just trying to get my stuff out of her reach and focus on my health (I was pre-surgery at the time). She owes me for 2.5 months utilities plus the stuff she stole from me. Is it too late to do anything?’
When it’s as plain as day where all your stuff has gone (right into that black hole that is your roommate’s bedroom), can you do anything if you’re short of evidence?
This is a tough – and highly frustrating – situation to be in. Your roommate is technically innocent until proven guilty…or until they give in and confess. Try bringing up the missing items as part of conversation, in the presence of someone you know. Simply saying, “Hey [roomi], I can’t find my [item]. Have you seen it anywhere?” makes them aware that you’re onto them.
If you feel like you’re still hitting a brick wall, consider installing hidden cameras. In the United States, it’s legal to install home cameras in areas where one does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. In other words, you cannot use surveillance in the bathroom or your roommate’s bedroom, but common areas are allowed (as long as you’re not using audio surveillance, too.)
If you have conclusive proof that they are the thief in question, it’s time to confront your roommate and gently ask them to move out. If you’re not comfortable doing that, or if the situation has escalated beyond a conversation, you’re perfectly within your rights to file a police report.