If you've spent any time on social media this week, no doubt at least one of your friends has shared — aghast in sheer and absolute shock — this story of quite possibly the worst, most horrific roommate in history.
And there's a reason why the story of Jamison Bachman aka Jed Creek has captivated the nation. Much like binge-watching the entirety of Making a Murderer, Mindhunter, or — probably most closely — The Jinx, Bachman's true-crime tale as the Worst Roommate Ever is the long-read New York Magazine article that had us clutching the edge of our seats.
If, like us, you're not only wondering just how and why someone could get away with something so egregious, so nightmarish, and for so long, without being put behind bars — and what you or someone you care about can do to protect themselves from scams, abuse, and scary encounters with potential cohabitants — we put together these six takeaways from the cautionary real-life tale:
Consider new startups and fee-based roommate finder services
In lieu of finding roommates on Craigslist, consider some of the new smartphone apps for "finding roommates you won't want to hate" (as Mic says) like Roomi and Roomie Match or more traditional fee-based services that include background checks. You could even consider non-traditional housemates, like giving Nesterly, an app that matches Millennials and Boomers, a go.
Interview all potential roommates in person first in neutral territory
Make sure to play the game of 20 Questions (these 10 basics and these 10 dealbreakers are a good start) by interviewing any potential roommate over coffee in a public place before inviting them to tour your space. Lifehacker has an in-depth guide to spotting horrible roommates and red flags, including the one question — or "The Psychopath Test" — that could potentially have saved Bachman's victims from the trauma of living with a predator.
Ask for references — and follow through
It would be normal if after reading the story about Bachman you're now inclined to have potential roommates undergo a psychological evaluation before signing on the lease's dotted line. But it also shouldn't be necessary if your future roomie can provide a handful of quality references, and you do your due diligence in following through with reference checking and asking both personal and professional references the right probing questions.
Create a custom roommate contract to curb potential conflicts
From clearly expressing shared monthly costs like utilities and other bills to everyday rights and responsibilities like chores and pet parameters, create a mutual understanding of how the living arrangement should go — and put it in writing. While legally you and your roommate have no duty to act in any specific way towards each other, you control the tone of the living arrangement by the quality of communication before anyone actually moves a single object into the space. Strategies for splitting chores are smart — and can actually be fun, if you make them — and if you're worried about cat litter in the toilet, written expectations about exactly how your flatmate will care for and clean up after their pets is never a bad idea.
Always make sure you have and sign a lease agreement
When dealing with someone as legalese-savvy as Bachman, the fine details of a lease agreement could harm you as much as help you — but having one period is an absolute must. Not only would it protect you from such squatters, it also affords you legal ground if you ever do need to evict someone from your space. And you can also outline from the outset any personal or private spaces in your home that are off limits to renters, without having to set booby traps to catch them in the act of going into your room without being invited.
Bookmark these ideas to avoid drama — and for conflict resolution
From repaying your share of the groceries (or that wine you drank without asking) to other everyday scenarios in shared living situations that can pile up and cause passive-aggresiveness (or downright harassment), there's now an app to avoid that. But, should you ever need it, one Tenants Union in Washington State put together this thorough guide to resolving conflicts with roommates — and this expert Q&A with a Minneapolis real estate attorney about dealing with a hostile housemate before things boiled over was also helpful.
They pale in comparison, but these milder oldie-but-goodie roommate horror stories from Jezebel are well worth a read, too — for the much-needed laughs. Because, no matter how scary sometimes, studies show that roommates are better for our health than living alone.
Just so long as you screen out the crazies.