So following on from my blog post detailing the bad experiences earlier in the year I encountered from my first (and hopefully last) flat share experience, I thought it would be useful to detail some of the solutions to some of the problems I had. When I was searching for advise and options there really wasn’t much clear advise online, should here’s what I did find out and how I would recommend tackling some of these problems if you encounter them yourselves.
If any of these sound familiar to you and you had a different solution, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add in any other bits of advise that come through to make this post as helpful as possible.
Having the right tenancy agreement!
If you’re sharing a house, technically the estate agent/landlord should provide a tenancy agreement based on a per room basis, which would make each party liable for their own rooms individually. I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine that this then makes you equally responsible for shared areas. The also covers you for council tax, making the landlord responsible for this instead of you personally, they might add this charge to the rent, but it’ll mean that you will avoid some potentially unpleasant disagreements.
My housemates won’t pay their share of the utility bills, what do I do?
It was naive of me to presume that anyone who lived with me would be willing to split the utility bills evenly, I honestly thought this was an obvious thing that everyone would expect to get involved with when sharing a place. Unfortunately not! I was in a joint tenancy, which covers the responsibility of everything in the flat as one unit, not as individuals. So basically, if one person messes up in the flat, everyone is held responsible.
Since I moved in to the flat before everyone else, the bills were in my name, this meant that legally it was my responsibility to pay. So if the housemates didn’t want to pay their share, there was pretty much nothing I could legally do about it, except possibly take them to small claims court, which is a massive faff.
So, if I was to redo this situation, my recommendation would be to get each housemate to take responsibility for a different bill, that way everyone is paying a share and the difference can be worked out afterwards if you’re fortunate enough to have nice housemates. As far as I’m aware even if you put everyone’s name on a bill, it’s still a joint responsibility and paying a share each doesn’t happen.
My housemates aren’t contributing to Council Tax, what do I do?
Similar situation as above, but I got further advise on this which may help out. As before, because we were on a joint tenancy we’re held responsible as a whole unit, not individuals so payment is chased to all of you. Failure to pay council tax would lead to a courts summons, where the debt becomes individual rather than a group, but then you’ve got a court summons and debt on your records which is not ideal. The best thing you can do is to ensure that all tenants names are on the council tax bill, so that eventually everyone is accountable not just one person.
I found out that if you are sharing with people and therefore don’t have access to the whole property (i.e. their bedrooms) it should be the landlords responsibility to pay council tax and the tenancy agreement should reflect this, making it simpler to split that bill. Unfortunately, I learnt this too late.
My housemates are being excessively noisy, what can I do?
In most tenancy situations from what I can find the tenants are responsible for resolving any disputes, so there is little point complaining to the landlord or estate agent, unless it’s a very extreme situation. My experience with noisy housemates came from the fact that one of them was a trance music DJ and both of them liked to party an unhealthy amount, so it was regular occurrences of 4am DJ deck action, on random nights of the week and at weekends.
So, if they are being ridiculously noisy, you’re first step is to complain in person. This didn’t work for me very much, usually meant reduction in volume temporarily but didn’t solve the problem. If it becomes a bigger nuisance you can complain to the local council or police, but I’m not sure what they would actually do about it. My advice? Don’t live with people who you know have a more active social life than yourself, if they like going out, drinking and taking drugs and that’s their main interest, steer clear! Find housemates that match your lifestyle patterns and interests. Obviously, you can’t always judge what your housemates are going to be like, so the next best thing would be to choose people to already know or have friends in common in the hopes that this will make solving disputes a bit easier.
My housemates are not contributing to household tasks such as cleaning, what can I do?
Again, there’s nothing your landlord or estate agency can do about this other than issues a complaint letter to the whole group, which still leaves you in a unhelpful position as you’re still left with the problem of having to come up with a solution between yourselves. Personally, I think it should be a simple case of taking responsibility for your own mess and being respectful of the space, but these guys didn’t see it that way and wanted to make a cleaning rota, which would have involved me cleaning up their shit most of the time and not something I was cool with. I ended up just staying in my room and out of the way, which means you’re paying an excessive amount of rent to live in one room.
Basically, I’m glad I’m not flat sharing anymore and if I ever had to again I’d be very, very cautious. Flat sharing is not like Friends.
Anyone got any other stories to share? Any other questions or advise? Comment, share or tweet me @JayneKitsch