HOUSE SHARING TOP TEN TIPS
With house prices and rents becoming ever more affordable, particularly in capital cities, House-sharing is becoming more and more common in Australia, New Zealand and many other countries and will continue to increase. Unless you are prepared to live with Grandma, under a bridge, or in a studio apartment with no air-con in Alice Springs, it is a necessary evil for many.
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 – Eg: You may not want to share the landline phone costs if you have a mobile phone.
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.
Some houseshares may just offer a fixed amount for utilities, or include utilities in your fixed weekly rent to make things easier.
ARE YOUR HOUSEMATES OK WITH VISITORS/PARTNERS STAYING OVER?
This is one of the most common areas we see for arguments with houseshares, particularly if your partner is staying over several nights a week. It may lead to discussions around how expenses are shared, and whether your 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 (eg 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?
If so, don’t be afraid to ask when moving in to a houseshare. 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 moving in to a houseshare arrangement.
DOES YOUR 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 can see a copy of the lease first. Make sure you understand the length of the lease term, potential damage already incurred in the house ( to avoid losing your bond), and understand what will happen for rent shortfalls if someone moves out and you need to share the cost of the shortfall amongst the other occupants.
Most tenancy agreements these days forbid smoking inside the property. However, it is worth checking before moving in to a houseshare agreement. If you are a smoker, check with your flatmates that they are ok with you smoking outside (or on balconies). Ensure you are considerate with your smoking and particularly with the disposal of cigarette butts. 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 you are leaving the flat before the end of the tenancy. If you do pay a bond, ensure you get a bond receipt.
Try to ascertain the social landscape of your new houseshare. 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 and/or drugs within the house.
Try and resolve all disputes openly and honestly, and as soon as they arise to avoid future pain!! Sometimes it’s just too hard to come to a resolution and your local area or city will offer mediation services in most cases to assist.