A stint in a share house is almost a rite of passage for young Australians these days, but living in such close proximity to a bunch of other people can be a challenge.
Money is one of the biggest sources of tension in shared living, and when you’re spending so much time together it’s easy for small issues to escalate quickly.
Here’s how to nip financial conflicts in the bud.
At the start of a new share house it’s important to sit down with the other housemates and have an upfront conversation about how to split the rent.
While it might seem fair to just divide it up equally, chances are not all the bedrooms in the house are the same standard, which means someone would be getting a raw deal.
Things usually work themselves out pretty simply. One housemate may prefer to save on rent and take a smaller room, while another’s be happy to fork out to get a bigger room, an ensuite or exclusive use of the car space.
Just make sure all housemates are involved in the conversation and everyone agrees on the final split.
On the other hand, if you’re moving in to an existing share house, make sure you’re not getting stitched up by your new house ‘mates’.
Try and gauge whether the rent they’re quoting is comparable to similar rooms in the area advertised online, and if you’re really worried then don’t be afraid to ask up front how rent is split.
There are a couple of ways to organise bills.
Responsibility can be divided between housemates or one person can take on a ‘manger’ role, holding bills in their name, making sure they’re paid on time and chasing up the housemates for payments.
In some long-term share houses the primary tenant may request a set amount from each housemate to cover bills each month, regardless of how much the final bills are.
This certainly keep things simple, but look out for people who build in too much profit margin for error built into the payments.
Ultimately, putting a system in place and sticking to it avoids confusion and minimises the chance of conflict.
Food and essentials
Splitting the cost of food evenly is asking for trouble.
Some people eat more, others prefer to head out to dinner instead of putting in a shift over the stove and it’s inevitable people will wind up too hung over to participate in the Sunday grocery shop.
So when it comes to food, it’s best to keep things simple and let each housemate sort out their own meals.
On the other hand, dividing up essentials like toilet paper, kitchen towels, salt, pepper, oil and cleaning products is a great way to save.
While an honour system can work, it can build resentment if people take advantage of it, so if in doubt keep things formal.
Get together and decide what items to include on the essentials list and keep a record of who’s bought what, or have everyone put money into a kitty to cover the basics.
While it’s not necessarily a financial tip, a chore roster is an all-round good idea to keep a share house happy and conflict free.
On the financial front, if you’re finding that certain people aren’t pulling their weight, or even if you’d rather put your feet up on a Sunday afternoon, it can be worth organising a regular cleaner for the house.
Between a few people this can be affordable, and it ensures that no one is grumpy so-and-so hasn’t cleaned the bathroom in months.
When things get ugly
Sometimes in share houses things can go wrong despite your best intentions. And if there’s money involved, then you’ve got problems.
For housemate disputes, the best thing to do is be upfront about issues as they arise.
For example, if someone’s not paying their share for essentials or is always late with bills, raise it with them directly first. If it continues then bring it up in a house meeting.
It’s a good idea to view these problems as a business transaction; try not to get fired up and make sure to let everyone voice their point of view.
If there’s a formal money problem – for example if the landlord is claiming damages against your bond or a housemate can’t pay their share of the rent – then it’s important to know your rights.
Renting is governed by a different authority in each state and territory, so check in with your local rental authority about your situation. In most cases they will be able to offer a free dispute resolution service if the situation can’t be resolved amicably.
But overall it’s usually pretty easy to stay on the landlord’s good side. Pay rent on time, clean-up for inspections, keep the noise complaints to a minimum and don’t screw the place up.