Whether you’re moving out of home for the first time, or just need a less expensive rental option, living in a shared house can be a fun, convenient and affordable choice.
However, sharing a rental property does present challenges. From coordinating rent payments to arguing over stacks of dirty dishes, things have the potential to get tricky when sharing with housemates.
To help you navigate these challenges, here are our top ten tips for living in a shared house.
1. Choose your housemates carefully
The best way to ensure your shared household runs smoothly is to choose your housemates very carefully.
If you’re seeking housemates from a pool of strangers or friends-of-friends, be sure to do your research. Check each person’s rental and employment history to ensure they’re reliable. Ask around, check references if they’re given, and check out what shows up about each person on Google/social media.
You might even like to conduct housemate ‘interviews’ to get a feel for each person and decide whether you’ll all suit as housemates.
On the other hand, if you choose to live with friends, you’ll still want to be sure that you’re compatible as housemates too. Just because you get along well socially doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll live together harmoniously!
2. In a co-tenancy, make sure everyone’s name is on the lease
A co-tenancy is the most common arrangement when it comes to living in a shared house. This means that each tenant has their name on the lease and has equal responsibility for the tenancy. Having everyone’s name clearly on the lease makes it harder for people to dodge responsibility or leave without notice.
Make sure all tenants attend the lease sign-up meeting with the property manager to sign the lease and go over rental rules and regulations. This ensures everyone hears the same information and gives the group a chance to ask questions and discuss things with the property manager.
While all tenants are free to liaise with the property manager during your tenancy, it’s a good idea to nominate one tenant as the main point of contact for communication regarding the property.
3. Decide on the fairest way for rent to be split
In many cases, rent payments will be split evenly between all tenants. However, there may be some cases where it’s fairer for a tenant to pay a little more – for example, if they have a larger bedroom, or access to their own bathroom or balcony.
However you decide to split the rent, make sure each tenant knows exactly how much their share is, and when it’s due each week (more on lodging payments below).
4. Figure out the best way to lodge rental payments and bills
After you’ve decided how best to split up rental payments and bills, you’ll need to decide how these are actually going to be paid.
You have a few choices here. A common option is for one tenant to take responsibility for lodging all payments; the other tenants must then make sure they transfer the correct amount of money over each week/month.
If no one feels comfortable taking complete responsibility, another option is to set up a shared account in which all tenants deposit their share of rent and bill payments. Then you can arrange automatic direct debits out of this account each week/month.
5. Work out procedures for changes in the tenancy
It’s a good idea to have a game plan in place for changes in a shared tenancy. The nature of shared renting means that people are more likely to come and go, so you need to know what to do if certain situations arise.
One area of potential difficulty is the tenancy bond. This amount, while shared between all tenants, is held for the duration of the entire tenancy – and there are no partial bond refunds if someone moves out before the lease is up. For this reason, arrangements need to be made internally for a departing tenant’s share of the bond to be returned to them.
Similarly, we recommend a few precautions to anyone joining a shared tenancy after it has initially been set up. If you’re moving into an existing shared tenancy, you should ask for a copy of the condition report and the rental ledger to make sure everything is up to scratch and up to date. Otherwise, you may be held equally responsible for any debts incurred through rental arrears or at the end of the tenancy.
6. Lay down some house rules
The concept of having ‘house rules’ might seem a little formal or stuffy, but in a shared rental situation, you’ll soon realise that rules can be a saviour.
Your house rules don’t have to be overly strict or extensive. They just need to cover the basics of how your household will run so that everyone is comfortable and happy living there.
Some examples of rules to consider for living in a shared house include:
- Always cleaning up after yourself and keeping communal areas tidy (more on cleaning below)
- Checking before having visitors or partners stay over – and possibly having those visitors contribute to rent, household chores or groceries if they stay regularly
- Checking with all housemates before hosting a party.
7. Make up a cleaning/chores roster
Cleaning is one of the biggest potential issues for those living in a shared house. To keep things simple, fair and – most importantly – clean, it’s a good idea to make up a ‘roster’ for household cleaning and chores.
This can include things like vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, taking the bins out, mowing the lawn, and so on.
Alternatively, if everyone hates cleaning but can spare a little extra cash, consider chipping in equally to pay for a cleaner once a fortnight. Same goes for lawn and garden maintenance – if none of you are green thumbs, pitch in and hire someone to do it for you.
8. Decide on an arrangement for food sharing
Another common cause of disagreements between housemates is the contents of the fridge or pantry. There might have been a ‘what’s yours is mine’ mentality in your last home, but that’s not usually the case when it comes to shared renting!
To make things easier for everyone, consider having a labelling system for fridge and pantry contents. Each tenant might have their own shelf, or items might be labelled with people’s names.
You might not even need to go to this extent – a simple chat where housemates agree not to use what isn’t theirs may do the trick.
For shared items like milk, tea/coffee and cooking oil, as well as things like toilet paper and cleaning equipment, perhaps set up a kitty for shared items, which each housemate can contribute towards.
While we’re on the subject of food, it’s worth considering shared cooking arrangements, too. Choosing a few nights a week where all tenants share a meal can help everyone save money, cut down on food wastage, and bond as housemates.
9. Practise good household communication
A lack of communication is one of the biggest contributors to household tension and disagreements. It’s important to always be upfront and honest about any issues.
Discuss things face-to-face rather than resorting to passive aggressive methods like notes or offhand comments. Addressing a problem directly with a housemate might seem awkward or intimidating at first, but it’s the best way to ensure problems are solved and household harmony is restored.
10. Respect each other
This might be the simplest piece of advice we’re offering, but it’s also the most important. When you’re living in a shared house, all housemates must respect each other.
Respecting your housemates’ space, belongings and ways of living, as well as having open discussions to resolve any issues, will ensure your shared rental experience is a good one.
If your shared rental isn’t working out and you’re looking for somewhere else to live, take a look at our available rentals.