How to make shared living fun and not a chore.
If you have moved out of home, and are renting, chances are you are sharing. You may be sharing with a boyfriend, girlfriend, brother or sister. However, there are some people that do run the gauntlet of random room sharing, and whilst it can be exciting it can also be petrifying!
Once you have established that the person you are living with is semi-normal (let’s face it, we all have an underlying fear that the person who rents our spare room might be really weird!) it’s important to set up some ground rules to ensure you can co-exist, and don’t have issues when it comes to communal spaces or items.
Today we present the best guidelines for you to follow when setting up a shared living arrangement with someone new!
1. Have an honest conversation at the beginning: Oh how hindsight is a wonderful thing, I remember when I moved in to my first ever shared apartment. I showed the spare room to half a dozen people or so, and found what I thought was “The Perfect” room mate. I offered to help him move his stuff, and do what ever I could to be accommodating. What I did avoid was setting ground rules. And it took until the first serious breach, for me to raise my concerns. Lesson learned here was to discuss openly what time you go to bed, what time you get up, and what hours are your quiet hours. It’s reasonable for everyone to expect a good 7 or 8 hours a night of peace and quiet, so let your new room mate know when this is. It will save you some early morning wake ups when your new room mate comes in a little drunk or makes too much noise. It’s better to be upfront from the beginning!
2. Be very clear on shared items: Some people are sharers, some are takers. There is nothing worse than when you feel like your generosity is being taken for a ride. For this sake, it’s important that you tell your new room mate what is communal and what is off limits. It’s also really important to be upfront and clear from the outset. If you’re asking your new room mate to bring their own kettle, then it may be going too far, but personal items like laptops and iPads that have personal information on, it is important you speak up if you don’t want these items being used. A common mistake is to let your new room mate use anything and everything, only to find that it gets to an uncomfortable stage where your personal items are now communal. Don’t be afraid to say no from the outset to make sure you keep your personal belongings to yourself.
3. Set up bill payment systems and be VERY clear on dates: A big mistake people make when someone new moves in is using the term “Around” – it doesn’t seem like a dangerous word but it really is. You see, when a new tenant moves in and you say rent is due “Around” the 15th of every month, they may take this another way. That they can pay “Around” that date. To avoid confusion on dates and also amounts, set up a clear calendar, and print it / email it to them. On this calendar should be every expense you expect to receive from them. Rent, Electricity, Internet, Gas, Hot Water, etc. You should also be clear that any miscellaneous costs you expect to split 50/50 to avoid confusion. If a bill is back dated, explain that you expect the tenant to pay from the date they moved in.
4. Explain review dates: One thing to be weary of is making it too formal for someone moving in, you don’t want to come across as a tyrant with all of these rules, however you do need to set some dates. Explain to the new tenant how long you have the lease in place for and a date you will review, so that you can both walk away from the agreement if things aren’t going right. Most tenants agree to a 6 month lease, it is ideal if you say after 3 months that you will review it and make sure it is working, you can also say that if things are going well, you can offer a renewal 3 months in so they can extend the lease if you have an extension to stay on.
5. Be clear on cleanliness standards: When you show the room to your potential new tenant, it should be in the condition you expect it to be when you live there. Explain to your new room mate that this is the standard you expect the shared living arrangements to be kept in. Explain that their room is their own space, but as long as the building is treated with respect then their own personal space can be used as they like. Also discuss the idea of getting a cleaner in once a month to give the place a quick clean and sharing the cost.
6. Discuss the idea of sleepovers: It really shouldn’t matter too much to you if your room mate brings someone to sleep over, you have chosen to trust them to live in your space, and they have on passed that trust to the people they choose to have over. However, you also do have a right to your own space, and this opportunity shouldn’t be abused. Discuss with your room mate your thoughts on people staying over and what you are happy and not happy with. Personally, I was happy for my room mate to have people stay over as long as it didn’t interrupt my sleep, but others may have an issue with this. Discuss it from the outset, and if a certain situation leaves you unhappy or uncomfortable, voice your concerns.
At the end of the day, the most important way to make shared living work is to have open communication. try and do some activities with your room mate outside of your apartment so you can see what they are like. You don’t have to be best buddies with your new room mate, however making an effort to co-exist and be friends will go a long way to making it a more enjoyable living environment.