Advice for students living in shared accommodation
Whether you are moving into University halls or into private rented accommodation in the city you must make sure that you can live happily with your future housemates. You may be living 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.
Whilst 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!
If you are living off campus you will need to agree who will be responsible for talking to outside agencies such as utility suppliers, telephone companies and the landlord to make sure that bills are paid on time and any repairs needed are reported as soon as possible.
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 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's some things to think about when making one. You can find a handy template here which you can use to start the discussion but make sure you adapt it so that it works for you.
Ideally you should end up with a set of written rules that you all agree to follow for the year, to avoid any future misunderstandings. This can include how you will pay the bills, share the chores and how you're going to share the space. 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.
Think about how you are going to use 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, this is particularly useful during exam time.
- Cleaning levels. It can be good to make a rota or decide on duties
- Having people round - when is it okay, how many?
- How you will share amenities - how will you share fridge and storage space, will you cook separately or as a group? Who decides what you watch on TV? How long is it acceptable for someone to spend in the shower if there is only one bathroom? If one person has a much smaller bedroom should they pay less rent? etc.
- Steps for resolving conflict - how do you let each other know if you have a problem?
Why is a housemate agreement useful?
This is probably the first time you've lived away from home so it is natural to want the freedom to make your own rules about how you want to live, and manage your time and living space. However, it is also worth acknowledging that everyone is different. Whilst you may love staying up late and socialising, someone else may prefer to get an early night so they can get up in time to start their day with a run. You're bound to have different timetables for lectures etc. and some courses have far more contact hours than others.
Having these conversations can be a great place to get to know the people you're living with, right from the start, so as to avoid tensions later on. Making an agreement may require compromise on all sides, so be sure you're ready to make some sacrifices. You won't always get your way but you all deserve to live in a happy, considerate environment and a housemate agreement will benefit you all.
Breaking the agreement?
If you break the agreement, it's always best to be honest and upfront about it. For example, if you damaged or broke something belonging to one of your housemates, offer to pay to fix or replace it. Make time to sit down as a group to calmly discuss any breaches. The agreement doesn't need to be set in stone. It might be worth making changes to it if circumstances change or to prevent similar problems arising again. If despite doing all this, problems still occur, and you can't resolve them between yourselves, contact us.
If you feel you really can't live in the property any longer and you want to move out remember, you have probably signed a fixed term agreement and, if so, you will remain liable for the rent. Have a look at your tenancy agreement and know your rights before you take ANY action!
Whether you have a housemate agreement or not, your house should be a place you can spend time in and relax. Good manners cost nothing but be sure to speak up and share what you're OK with and what makes you uncomfortable. Enjoy living in your new home away from home!
Do remember, if you have taken steps to try and resolve any housemate issues but little progress has been made, you can try contacting the University Mediation Clinic for support. If you are in University managed accommodation, the University’s Housing team can offer further guidance.