Updated: Sep 4
12 Essential House Sharing Tips for Students
The mad rush to find a place to live for your second year at university begins within weeks of getting over fresher's flu and just as you start to find your way around campus. House sharing is the most common and cost-effective option for students who are on a budget during their time at university. It also offers a ready-made social life and a sense of security.
There are some challenges, such as different levels of hygiene, habits, preferences and expectations, that come with living with other students. It is therefore important to set up a few house rules before you move in together, or within the first few weeks of settling in, to maintain a harmonious household.
Choosing Your House Mates
The first step is to decide who you want to live with next year. How do you know if that friend you made at the Students' Union pub quiz night is a safe bet when it comes to sharing the responsibilities of living in someone's home? Do you go for safety in numbers and aim for more than three or four housemates? Or do you opt for sharing with just one or two close friends? Don't rush into choosing housemates just because you found a house or flat and need to fill the rooms or secure the tenancy. Your decision will be based on your compatibility, your budget, your preferences, and the availability of properties that can accommodate the number of housemates you have in mind.
How To Set Up House Rules for a Student Household
House rules may sound harsh, and as newly independent young adults, 'rules' are something you should enjoy living without now that you are no longer under your parents' roof, right? However, some guidelines will help everyone understand a common level of respect, responsibility and rights, and get off on the right foot. They can also help to avoid conflict, misunderstanding and resentment if a minimum level of understanding has not been established in the first place.
Here are our tips on how to set up some house rules for students sharing accommodation for a harmonious living experience:
1. Choosing Your Room
It is important to discuss and agree the protocol for room selection beforehand. Should the person who has done most of the house-hunting get the biggest room, as they have done most of the work to secure it? Will you vary the rent according to the size of the room? Or will you draw straws to choose the rooms, or just grab the room you like best and argue about it? It is important to agree these things beforehand, as putting them off can lead to arguments and resentment later on.
2. Lead Tenant
The lead tenant is the housemate who has been elected as the most responsible person to be the point of contact, on behalf of the household, with the property management agency or the landlord. Their role is to contact the agency/homeowner when repairs are needed, such as a leaking washing machine, a dripping tap, a broken fridge, etc. They also carry out the inspection at the beginning and end of the tenancy to record any damage to the property. This does not mean that the main tenant takes full responsibility for the house. Another housemate could be responsible for being present to let the repairer in and demonstrate the problem.
3. Shared Responsibilities
When renting a property, there are a number of responsibilities and regular tasks that need to be carried out by all the housemates. These include putting out the rubbish and recycling bins according to the neighbourhood schedule and thoroughly cleaning each room in the property. Remember when you moaned about doing it at home when your parents asked you? Now it is YOUR responsibility! :-)
The upkeep of the property is a shared responsibility for all tenants. If a problem arises, the lead tenant should report it immediately to the agency or the landlord for repairs. However, if the problem is not covered by the tenancy agreement or household insurance, the cost of the repair must be shared by the housemates (or the person responsible if damage has been caused).
4. Cleaning and Maintenance
Yes, the property must be kept clean and tidy - not only for hygienic reasons, but also to avoid the build-up of dirt or limescale that can cause taps, toilets, kitchen appliances, etc. to malfunction. This includes regular dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the microwave, defrosting the freezer or fridge, etc. Organise a schedule for all tenants to do the chores regularly. Of course, each person should be responsible for their own bedroom. We have a cleaning checklist and a housekeeping schedule in our member resources that you can download and post.
If you have a housemate who is notoriously bad at cleaning up after themselves, and the kitchen is big enough, try assigning or taping off areas in the kitchen for each housemate. That way, if one lazy person leaves their dirty things in the sink to 'soak', you can dump them in their section, rather than forcing others to clean up their mess before they can use the kitchen.
5. Noise Levels
This may be difficult to agree in advance, but discuss what is an acceptable level of noise for you all. Agree on a time limit for loud music or put a sign on your bedroom door if you're revising and need to concentrate. Talk about "night noise" and the rules for coming home late, or leaving early in the morning, e.g. closing doors quietly, keeping voices down, and no loud music or late night cooking!
6. Sharing Food and Products
Decide with your housemates what you will buy together and share the cost. At the end of the year, decide who will keep what, recycle it or sell it to next year's students. Keep the receipts and split the cost equally or take turns paying for items. All housemates deserve to have their personal property respected, so DO NOT help yourself to other housemates' food or toiletries - if you are missing an item, ask or text them first and respectfully replace the item as soon as possible, i.e. within the next 48 hours. Each person should have their own fridge/freezer shelf and cupboard space. Shared items such as condiments, spices, kitchen towel, etc. can be stored in a communal space.
If you are having a party, share the cost of entertaining and each housemate can contribute towards the purchase of food and drink. Our Party Planning Checklist in Member Resources will help you step-by-step plan an event and keep track of costs and responsibilities.
7. Sharing Bills and Paying Rent Promptly
Sharing bills between housemates is easy to set up using an app such as Splitrr or IOU (no affiliation). You could even set up a kitty or a joint account where you all contribute to share the cost of common household purchases such as toilet rolls, cleaning products, dishwashing liquid, sponges, etc. or larger purchases such as a kettle or toaster.
If utilities such as electricity and/or gas, water and WiFi are not included in the rent, these bills must be shared between tenants. You can use a bill splitting app to split the bill equally between you, or request separate bills from the utility company. However, there is an administration fee for this, so to avoid unnecessary extra costs, it is probably best to agree to share the bills and pay them regularly. Rent can be paid directly by each housemate to the agency or homeowner, and should be paid promptly to avoid reminders or fees.
It is worth discussing the rules for saving energy or water to keep costs down as much as possible. This means turning off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use, taking short showers instead of baths, turning off the tap when brushing your teeth, etc. Washing your clothes at 40 degrees, where possible, will also save significant hot water costs.
8. Visitors and Overnight Guests
While having the freedom of your 'own home' is nice, having regular visitors can be a strain on your housemates, especially if you are in a relationship and have regular 'sleepovers'! Discuss and agree on an acceptable policy with your housemates in advance - how long can they stay, how often, do you need to ask or inform your housemates before hosting?
To maintain a harmonious household and avoid arguments, show some respect for your housemates, keep the noise level down when you are entertaining, and impose the same house rules on your guests regarding privacy and respect for other housemates, their belongings and food.
9. Smoking / Drugs
When it comes to sensitive issues such as smoking and drug use, clear communication and mutual respect are essential. Smoking preferences can vary widely, and it is important to respect each other's choices. As a general and universal rule, smoking should not be allowed in the home to prevent smoke and odours from spreading to other areas, to respect and prioritise the health of others, and to prevent exposure to second-hand smoke. This may also be clearly stated in your tenancy agreement. Open and honest discussions about drug use are also important to set clear guidelines and limits for everyone's wellbeing, safety, and legality.
10. Sharing Communal Areas
Sharing a common area with others who may not have the same level of tidiness can be a source of conflict. As a general rule, always leave a room as you would like to find it when you arrive. In the kitchen, this means tidying up as you go - clean the fridge, wipe up any spills, wash your dishes, utensils and appliances immediately and air the room if your food has been particularly smelly!
Tidy up when you leave the room after using it. Fluff up the cushions, fold up any blankets, put the TV remote back in its place and remove all cups, glasses and plates. Imagine walking into the lounge and seeing a mess, would you be happy with that?
In the bathroom, clean the sink after you use it, change and check the supply of toilet paper and replenish or add to a communal shopping list, and report any leaks or plumbing repairs that need to be done.
Another general rule is to respect others and dress appropriately in communal areas to avoid embarrassment when visitors are in the house!
Shared accommodation may involve sharing transport - but what if there is only one car owner among you? It is important to have clear rules about the use of the car, or to assume that the car owner is always the designated driver. If more than one person has a car, decide on a parking allocation plan if one or more car owners share accommodation with restricted parking. Decide whether a first-come, first-served basis is more appropriate to ensure equal access to parking.
Set up a system where each person contributes to the cost of fuel, or take turns cleaning the car. It is unwise to share driving unless each driver is personally insured for the vehicle.
If you do decide to carpool to and from campus or other locations, be punctual, respect pick-up times and don't keep the driver waiting. More importantly, don't distract the driver by calling or texting them if they are late for the pick-up time - wait a while as they may be stuck in traffic!
12. Safety When Socialising
It's important that you get on with your housemates, but that doesn't mean you have to be together 24/7. You are entitled to your own set of friends and each of you should respect that.
However, if you do get on well and enjoy socialising together, make sure everyone is safe when you go out. Don't leave anyone behind or let them go off with strangers. Try taking it in turns to have one person be the 'minder' for the night to keep everyone in order. There's usually always a 'sensible' one - just don't make it their turn every time. Read more about how to stay safe as a group here.
Navigating shared accommodation can be challenging, especially when students are experiencing a new taste of freedom. Establishing house rules that everyone can agree on is important, and open discussions that lead to a harmonious and comfortable living environment will strengthen friendships and create memories that will be looked back on with fondness rather than resentment.
When setting house rules, open and honest communication is key. It is worth having regular check-ins to make sure everyone is still happy with the rules and to address any concerns promptly. If changes need to be made, the decision-making process should involve everyone who lives in the room to reach an agreement or an acceptable compromise. Showing mutual respect and understanding will create a positive living environment for everyone.
By establishing and following these practical house rules, you'll create an environment where everyone can enjoy shared spaces to the full, while respecting each other's needs and preferences. It's a joint effort that contributes to a positive and harmonious living experience for all.
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Good luck as you prepare for your new life on campus!
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