Advice and guidance for students living in shared accommodation.
Whilst the majority of shared households work perfectly well, you must make sure that you’re happy to live with your future housemates. Whether you are looking to live with a group of people you don’t know, a group of friends or on your own. Remember, a year is a long time to live with someone and not fall out.
Some students find that they have problems with their fellow housemates, the key thing to remember is that it is perfectly normal to disagree and fall out. Everyone has individual personalities and different outlooks on life – communication is the key to making living together easier. It is vital to talk to each other and if one person is doing something to annoy you or cause friction in the house then talk about it and try to come to an agreement or compromise. The housemate might not even know what they are doing is causing problems for you, so if you don’t tell them, they can’t fix it.
You need to also ensure that you talk to outside agencies such as utility suppliers, telephone companies and the landlord as well as each other to make sure that bills are paid on time and any repairs needed are reported as soon as possible.
This might not apply to you, but it might apply to one of your housemates. There are some things you can do to help yourself or others:
- Be considerate- not everyone wants to be up all night and party hard. Be quiet when coming back late or leaving the flat early. Try not to wake other people.
- Clean up after yourself! This is a BIG one. It is not a great way of making friends if you leave your dirty dishes and empties everywhere.
- Talk to people- and not behind their backs. If you have a problem with someone’s behaviour then have a calm discussion with them about it.
- Don’t take other people’s food or belongings- funnily enough, people get upset by this!
- Be aware of cultural differences, and try to make friends with students from other countries. You will learn a lot from them and have gained a new friend in the process.
Having a housemate agreement can help when living in shared accommodation, so here are some things to think about and advice when making one. Here are two templates that can be adapted to form the basis of your own agreement.
What is a housemate agreement?
A housemate agreement is usually a set of written rules that you agree to follow for the year, to avoid any tensions. This can include pet peeves and how you’re going to share the space so you’re all happy. Even if you don’t plan to write everything down, just using the list below to start a discussion can be helpful for thinking about the year ahead.
It’s best to include both preferences on how you are going to use and the shared space as well as general rules for living together. For example:
- Distractions - you may wish to decide on set “Quiet hours” when you want to be able to sleep or study, particularly useful during exam time.
- Cleaning levels. Can be good to make a rota or decide on duties
- Having people around - when is it okay, how many?
- How to share amenities ie.e fridge, storage, cooking, TV, bathroom etc.
- Steps for resolving conflict - how do you let each other now if you have a problem
Why is a housemate agreement useful?
This is probably the first time you’ve lived away from home and your parent's rules so it can be easy to have a tendency to let loose. It is also worth acknowledging that everyone is different. Whilst you may love staying up late and working, someone else may prefer to get an early night so they can get up early in the morning to start their day with a run for example. You’re also bound to have different timetables when it comes to lectures and study hours. For many students having these conversations, can be a great place to get to know who you’re living with better, right from start and avoid tensions later on, from unconscious habits. Making an agreement can mean making compromises on all sides, so be sure you’re ready to make some sacrifices, you’re not always going to be able to get your way. At the end of the day you all deserve to have a comfortable living situation and a flatmate agreement should benefit you all.
Breaking the agreement?
If one of you breaks the agreement it’s always best, to be honest and upfront about it. If something was damaged or broken, offer to pay some portion of the cost to fix or replace it. It can be worth making time to sit down as a flat calmly discuss what happened. A housemate agreement doesn’t need to be set in stone. You can also then decide if it might be worth making changes to the agreement to prevent similar problems from occurring and circumstances can change.
If despite doing all this, problems still occur, and you can’t resolve between yourselves, contact us. Our student mediation service, Warwck Mediation, can help support you with conflict resolution.
If you feel you have no option but to move out remember if you have signed a fixed-term agreement you will have a remaining rent liability. We would never advise that you just walk away without speaking to someone first!
Whether you have a flatmate agreement or not, your house should be a place you can go spend time in and relax. Good manners don’t cost anything but be sure to speak up and share what you’re okay with and what makes you uncomfortable. Enjoy living in your new home away from home!
Content adapted from material created by Portsmouth University Students' Union.
These resources from the University of Colerado (Boulder) might be useful.
Conflict Resolution Webinars
Managing Conflict in Close Quarters Webinar
Living with others can be both a source of support and a source of stress. When times are challenging, it can be helpful to have a ‘toolkit’ of techniques on hand for managing conflict. As more and more of us are asked to stay indoors, it is only natural that conflicts with those closest to us will emerge. Tune into this three-part webinar and learn the skills and strategies to make your time indoors a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable. Resourcs created by the University of Colerado.