House-sharing Top Ten Tips:
Are you currently in a house-share situation and one of your flatmates has moved out, or maybe you own your own home and are looking to get a roommate in to help with expenses and provide some company?
Our top ten tips can help you avoid the most common pitfalls with house-haring. It is important to be clear and upfront with potential flatmates on the following areas to avoid any future issues when sharing a house.
HOW ARE THE BILLS SPLIT BETWEEN FLATMATES?
Are all bills shared equally Do you have a landline and will the flatmate be required to share the phone costs even if they don’t intend to use it (i.e. they may just use their mobile)? Broadband usage charges can potentially be quite large if the house does not have an uncapped service. Consider discussing with your flatmates a ‘usage meter’ or potentially look to get your own Wi-Fi or portable hot spot to avoid any discrepancies. You may want to consider offering a fixed amount for utilities, or include utilities in their fixed weekly rent to make things easier.
ARE YOU OK WITH VISITORS/PARTNERS STAYING OVER REGULARLY?
This is one of the most common areas we see for arguments with houseshares, particularly if a partner is staying over several nights a week (or for temporary extended periods). It may lead to discussions around how expenses are shared, and whether the new flatmate’s rent should be increased.
HOW ARE CLEANING DUTIES SHARED BETWEEN FLATMATES?
This is again one of the biggest sources of friction when sharing a flat. Different people have different expectations around house cleanliness, but everyone should be clear on how specific cleaning duties (E.g showers, taking out rubbish, vacuuming) are shared. You may want to consider paying a cleaner to do all the weekly requirements leaving general tidying duties to flatmates.
ARE THERE ANY RELIGIOUS BELIEFS IN THE HOUSEHOLD?
Whilst we all like to think we are tolerant to all people and religions, it can be more difficult living with people who have strongly held religious beliefs which are either radically different or in conflict with your own beliefs. Living with people of other religions can be a fantastic opportunity to learn, grow and explore new ideas – but just be sure you are comfortable doing so. Is a flatmate’s sexual orientation important to you? Laws in Australia prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, and rightly so, but if you don’t feel open to living with others who have a different sexual orientation than you, be honest with yourself and others before being open to a houses hare arrangement.
DOES THE NEW FLATMATE’S NAME NEED TO APPEAR ON THE LEASE?
Some landlords demand that all occupants have their name on the lease agreement. If so, make sure you adhere to this carefully. It also protects you and other flatmates from bearing an unfairly large share of the costs should any issues arise around rent shortfalls or bond disputes.
Most tenancy agreements these days forbid smoking inside the property. However, it is worth checking with any potential flatmate whether they indeed to smoke outside the property on a regular or ‘social’ basis. If you are not comfortable with having a flatmate who smokes, state this clearly in your advertisements and ensuing interviews. Note that some strata agreements now forbid smoking anywhere on the premises, including outside and on balconies.
TENANCY TERM & BOND
Ensure you agree on the notice required if the flatmate wants to leave the flat before the end of the tenancy. If the new flatmate pays a bond, you are required by law to issue a receipt and lodge the bond with your state or territory’s appropriate body.
Try to ascertain the social intentions of your new flatmate. Do the existing flatmates regularly have parties/social gatherings, and are you ok with that? Maybe you are a night-shift worker and require some consideration for unusual sleeping habits. Or you may be studying and require regular peace and quiet and good sleep for exams. Or maybe you just want to party hard – All of which is ok, as long as it is consistent with others in the house.
ALCOHOL & DRUGS
This is really worth raising with potential flatmates if you have strong feelings either way about the use of alchohol &/or drugs within the house.
ALWAYS request and check at least two references. If a new flatmate can’t or won’t provide them, don’t even consider them as a potential housemate.