How to navigate a new flatshare and steer clear of bust-ups.
Renting often involves moving in with people you’ve never lived with before, whether they’re friends, lovers or strangers.
Hopefully it’s the start of a fun house-sharing adventure, but there are likely to be tricky moments too – you’ll be experiencing your housemates' full range of habits and foibles after all.
So, keep in mind these tips to keep fall-outs and flare-ups to a minimum:
1. Set ground rules on day one
Or before you even move in. It’s not the most exciting way to kick off a new life together but it could be the one that keeps it going for longer.
These should cover all the things that will become very annoying very quickly. Such as how long you’re allowed to leave dirty plates in the sink (clue: when mould begins to form it’s gone too far), whether the teabags are communal, if housemates are permitted to bring half the pub back for an after party on a work night, and so on.
2. Draw up a cleaning rota
You can do this during the ground rules conversation for added entertainment. It may seem a little over the top to rigidly schedule who’s cleaning the toilet, but you won’t be thinking that when you’re scrubbing it for the third week in a row.
Some people need a nudge when it comes to household chores and a rota leaves no room for argument or resentment to fester.
Of course, they may not clean to your standards – not everybody will think to dust the lampshades – but you can’t have everything.
3. Split up the bill burden
Just like cleaning, if bills aren’t discussed the burden will fall on the most organised person.
Split the task of arranging the essential utilities between you. Not only will this reduce the admin avalanche each of you has to deal with, it’s also handy to have your name and address on a utility bill for those moments you need to prove where you live.
In no particular order, the bills you are most likely to pay jointly are:
Gas and electric
Phone and broadband internet (i.e. Wifi)
The easiest way to cover them is to set up a joint account you all pay into equally.
If you’d rather not commit to a bank account, free apps such as Splitwise will track and divide costs for you. Best of all you can send reminders to late-paying housemates so you don’t need to have that awkward conversation face to face.
4. Go big on the broadband
Talking of vital services, the more people in the house the more broadband capacity you’ll need. It's worth stretching to unlimited broadband with the fastest download speeds you can afford.
When you’ve got a communal Sunday morning hangover, and all trying to stream different films to your devices, you’ll be glad you did.
5. Work out what other costs you want to share
Unless you have outrageously expensive taste in toilet paper – anyone who insists on double quilted is on their own – it’s easier to share the cost of this very essential item. So add that to your joint bills. The same goes for cleaning products.
You may want to include basic food and drink such as coffee, tea, bread and milk. Or go the whole hog and do the weekly shop as a house. Again you’ll need to make sure everybody is contributing equally when it comes to buying and cooking the food.
When you’re coming up with budgets, bear in mind that some of you will be earning more than others.
It’s important to consider everybody’s circumstances and not use the shared pot for luxuries. If you want a bottle of champagne to go with that quilted toilet paper it should come out of your own pocket.
6. Sync up your routines
Hanging outside the bathroom in your towel, anger building as you’re-going-to-be-late o’clock ticks past, is no way to start the day.
Instead of everybody dashing to the shower at the same time, operate a staggered system – 7am to 7.30am you have breakfast while your housemate showers, then swap.
7. Consideration is the key
If you had to boil down all of the above into one thing, it’s being thoughtful.
Regularly keeping someone awake, leaving them to tidy up after you, cook for you and sort your bills isn’t fair, unless you happen to be a one-year-old. On the other hand, nobody is going to live exactly like you so try to be tolerant of their habits, within reason.
And if something really bothers you, calmly address the issue rather than passive aggressively shouting to nobody in particular: "That’s the third dirty mug I’ve cleared from the lounge today. NONE OF THEM MINE."
8. Get out as much as possible
Even if you love your housemates, even if you’re new in town and don’t know anybody else, create a separate social circle you can fall back on if it all gets a little intense at home.
And when it comes to an end...
Tenants in a house-share usually sign a joint tenancy agreement which means they have collective responsibility for paying the rent. Until that agreement is legally ended each housemate is liable for their portion of it.
So if things don’t work out what are your options?
If you’re nearing the end of the contract you can wait until it finishes and leave without any liabilities. If you’d like to get out before then it’s a little trickier but still doable.
Finding a replacement your housemates and landlord are happy with is often the best way to extricate yourself. The new tenant will need to sign a new agreement, which doesn’t include you, with the remaining tenants.
Break clauses and rolling contracts
If that’s not possible you may be able to activate a break clause which many joint tenancy agreements include at the six-month mark. Everyone in the house will have to agree to this and leave, unless the remaining tenants negotiate a new contract with the landlord.
If your fixed term contract has ended and become a rolling weekly or monthly contract (a joint periodic tenancy), you’re still required to give notice before leaving.
You don’t need your housemates’ agreement for this, but they’ll all have to move out when that notice period has finished or negotiate a new contract.