Share house living has its fair share of challenges. We’re creatures of habit, after all, and like things to be a certain way.
But if you lay down a few ground rules early on, and openly communicate with your housemates on a daily basis, it can be an incredibly fun and rewarding experience.
Here are 11 rules to create share house harmony.
1. Equal rights
If everyone’s a signatory to the lease, you each have equal rights in the household. It shouldn’t matter if someone’s paying more for a larger room, no one housemate should lord it over the others.
And this also means that everyone’s equally responsible for paying their share of the rent and looking after the bond.
Read more: Share houses: co-tenancy vs. sub-let
2. Rental payments
Establish and agree on a means of delivery that doesn’t result in just one person shouldering the burden of coordinating rental payments. Not only is this unfair, it’s inefficient.
Instead, payments could be made into one third party account via automatic bank deposit. This means that everyone is equally responsible for the rent, and decreases the likelihood of people forgetting to pay.
Loop in your property manager or landlord, as they should be able to help set this up, which will save you a lot of stress down the track.
Electricity, water and gas bills should ideally be split equally between all housemates. This is generally the fairest way of doing it, although it’s not guaranteed to eradicate disputes when the heating or cooling bill comes in.
If one of you plays lots of video games, or uses lots of aircon or heating, it might be fairer for that person to pay a higher proportion of the energy bill.
And if sustainability is important to your household, you should discuss things like recycling and brainstorm ways to conserve household energy. There are heaps of simple changes you can make to reduce your impact on the environment.
If, despite your best efforts to reduce your electrical dependence, you think your utility bill is unreasonably high, check to see if your appliances are in good working order, and reach out to your landlord if there’s an issue.
A poorly maintained property is undesirable for tenants, so it’s in the landlord’s best interest to fix any problems.
4. Internet and cable
These should also be shared equally – unless, of course, you’ve got one housemate that works from home, or another who downloads lots of films, or plays World of Warcraft for 15 hours at a time.
If you find yourself in that situation, and the internet bill keeps creeping up, don’t allow the inequity to develop into a bitter resentment that compels you to scream obscenities at the top of your lungs; nip it in the bud before it gets to that stage, by calming broaching the subject with your housemate.
Here are some simple fixes:
- set a timer on the computer to download only during off-peak
- catch the big game at a local pub that has Foxtel
- sign up for a movie streaming site like Netflix for a small monthly fee.
This is a big one, and about the toughest sharing issue to get right.
- people can have wildly different expectations about what is clean and what is not
- everyone has a different mess tolerance
- some people are used to others cleaning up after them
- many sharers don’t actually know how to clean a bathroom, or an oven.
Frankly, no one should have to clean up after someone else. It breeds resentment and, worse still, unfriendly odours.
Here are some possible solutions
- keep your mess to your own room; it’s your space, so do with it what you will
- always clean up after yourself in communal areas
- don’t leave things lying around for weeks
- create a roster for spaces that need frequent cleaning (e.g. bathroom, toilet)
- consider pooling your funds and hiring a cleaner
- make a fun music playlist to clean to.
When it comes to cleaning, it also pays to give your housemates the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, they will have had every intention of doing their bit, but just didn’t have the time.
For instance, if one of your roomies leaves a few dishes in the sink, give them a bit of a time after they arrive home from work to address it, before getting on at them, as something unexpected might have required them to rush off in the morning.
On the flip side, if you’re someone who grew up in a household where someone cleaned up after you – and you’re a bit apprehensive about cleaning the loo – stop making excuses and just ask for help. Your housemates are less likely to lash out at you, if they know you’re at least conscious of your shortcomings.
6. Food and cooking arrangements
Deciding whether you’re going to share food is something you should discuss from the outset. There’s nothing worse than buying everything you need for a sumptuous bolognese and coming home to find that someone’s used your minced beef or tinned tomatoes.
That said, communal meals can bring great joy to a household. If this is something you’d like to try, you’ll need to arrange a cooking and shopping roster.
Fridge and cupboard space can be another bone of contention. As nerdy as it sounds, the easiest way to avoid conflict is to give each housemate their own specific space.
Pro tip: Housemates that want to save cash should think about shopping online, buying in bulk, or creating a kitty for things like toilet paper and condiments. The odd trip to Costco or a weekly vegetable box delivery are great money saving ideas.
7. Communal property
Living in a share house means respecting not just other people, but also their belongings.
Sure, the couch and TV may be second-hand, but even so, individuals can still feel very protective of their personal belongings. So, try to treat everything in your house as if it were your own.
And be as considerate as possible. Ask if it’s okay for you to use your housemate’s food processor, before doing so; never assume, unless one of your house rules is that everyone shares everything.
8. Public areas and noise
You’ll be surprised how far noise travels, especially if you live in a high rise.
Take note of thin walls and be respectful when others are in the house. If people are studying, or shift work, they’re likely to be far more noise-sensitive. Which is why, every now and then, it’s worth asking your housemates whether they’re happy with how things are going – some will let you know if they’re not, but others will suffer in silence.
9. Visitors and parties
Whether it’s romantic attachments, mates or family members, you need to discuss when and how often people can stay over.
While your previous household may have been cool with the odd couch surfer, your current housemates might not be.
By the same token, a new boyfriend or girlfriend can dramatically change the dynamics in a house, so just be sure they don’t overstay their welcome.
When it comes to parties – big or small – try to make sure your housemates are on board. Talk to them before and after the event, just in case they need to get something off their chest. And, if one of your guests breaks something of your housemate’s, be sure to apologies profusely and replace it immediately.
Studies show that animals in the home can make residents happier.
But these benefits shouldn’t be used as an excuse to shy away from pet maintenance: The owner is 100% responsible for cleaning up messes and caring for their pet. Again, stay on top of this regularly, so that it doesn’t drive a wedge between your and your mates.
11. Build some house traditions
The very best share houses do fun things as a group. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- suggest a communal meal one night a week, and rotate who cooks
- check out your local pub trivia night; you never know, you might make a cracker team
- start a veggie patch, set up a ‘crafternoon’, or have a regular games night.
At the end of the day, you’re in a shared space, so you’ll have to compromise here and there.
You’re not going to get your own way all the time, and in the course of sharing you might encounter people who are unpleasant, selfish or clueless.
But you’re also pretty much guaranteed to make some lifelong friends, and enjoy a lot of laughs along the way.
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