Here's the lowdown on the perks and perils of shared living.
Sharing a house with someone other than a partner or family is something that many of us do at some point in our lives. Whether you're about to move into student halls or a shared house, it's important to be made aware of the perks and perils of shared living.
First Things First
Preferably before you move in (or as soon as possible afterwards), it's important to sit down with your new housemates and have a discussion about important things such as who will be responsible for paying bills. It's better to do this first before any arguments start, or it becomes too awkward to bring up. Unless one of your group is particularly keen to have their name on all the bills, it's probably best to share out the responsibility equally so that no resentment is felt.
Depending on the type of tenancy you have, you will either need one television licence between you all (joint tenancy) or one per tenant (single tenancy). Either way, it's important to get one as the fine for not having one can be up to a whopping £1000 - compared to that, £139 seems like a bargain.
Energy and Water Bills
As energy and water bills are likely to be your biggest bills, it's important that you choose someone responsible to look after these.
Direct debits in shared households can cause friction if the other members of the household don't pay the bill payer their share on time. If this is likely to happen in your house, it might be better to pay your bills at the post office or bank, although be aware that you may lose out on any direct debit discounts because of this. On the plus side, if you are the named bill payer, and you always pay on time, it can help to boost your credit rating.
Perhaps a landline phone isn't necessary any more in the age of the mobile phone, and can cause more headaches than they're worth. However, if you do feel like you need one, make sure you get an itemised bill so everybody pays for their own calls. You may also want to keep a notepad by the phone to jot down any outgoing calls to make sure they tally up with the bill.
Presumably you'll need wireless internet if you all want access at the same time. Shop around for the best broadband deals, but bear in mind that you may need a slightly higher broadband width than you might usually go for as it will be shared between a few people. A wireless router (the piece of kit which transmits the internet to each computer) can be fairly pricey so look out for deals which come with them included (for instance AOL) or, alternatively check around sites such as eBay for a bargain.
Joint Bank Accounts
It might seem like a good idea to get a separate bank account to pay for all these bills. If there's only two of you in the house then it could work out, although bear in mind that joining yourself financially with another person may affect your credit rating for the worse. If there are more than two of you, not everyone is going to be able to access the `joint' bank account which could lead to more friction and resentment.
It's the simplest things that can cause the biggest arguments. If someone feels like they're always buying toilet roll then tensions can soon build up. One way around this is to set up a kitty. Each member of the house contributes a set amount each week which is then used to buy essentials such as washing up liquid, tea bags, bin liners and toilet roll. Any money that is left over at the end of your tenancy can be split back between you or perhaps used to fund a round of drinks - hurrah!
Food sharing can save lots of money, but it's not for everyone. Unless you have very similar tastes to your housemates, it can be a nightmare finding something to suit every person, every night. You might also find arguments arising over who's eaten the most bread or who's used up all the orange juice. A good way to get the best of both worlds is to share food some of the time, say two or three meals a week. The rest of the time everyone can indulge in their own particular tastes.
All in all, house sharing can be great fun and will obviously save you money. However, communication is the key. Talking to each other will ensure that you get along swimmingly and get the best from your living experience.
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