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Finances of house sharing

What are the financial and domestic realities of living in shared accommodation? Find out if you can make it less fraught and more fun.

The high cost of house-buying means that living in shared and/or rented accommodation is a reality for people well beyond their university years, and getting older usually goes hand in hand with a reduced tolerance for mess and 3am parties.House

Despite the impression given by TV shows such as Friends and Spaced, house-sharing isn't always a laugh-a-minute respite from the daily grind - if not managed properly, it can be a huge headache. Here's how to avoid that happening.

Make sure everyone's up to speed with the costs

Before you even start thinking about utility bills and toilet paper kitties, it's important that everyone is on the same page when it comes to rent.

Some houseshares involve everyone having their own contract with the landlord - in these cases bedrooms usually have individual door locks, and then it's a little easier to manage things.

You should be able to find contents insurance for a shared house, but your choice of provider may be limited and your premiums may be more than you'd anticipated

But many rental properties involve just one contract between the lot of you, and how you split the rent is up to the tenants, so long as it gets paid at the end of the month.

Whether you're moving in as a group, or taking a room in an established houseshare, it's vital that you - and everyone else - knows what's expected every month.

Read our guide to being a tenant to make sure you know all about the expense of things like reference checks, deposits, contract fees and any other costs landlords and agencies are liable to foist upon you.

Spread the responsibility of utility bills

Unless you're on an 'all-bills-included' deal with your landlord, paying for things like gas and electricity, water, council tax, phone, broadband and TV are on your collective shoulders, and it's a good idea for everyone in the house to have at least one bill to look after.

This doesn't mean an individual shouldering the whole cost of that particular utility, but simply having it in their name, and making sure it's paid on time. This way everyone has to step up to the plate, and it's much harder for someone to shirk their financial responsibilities.

Keep all correspondence together in one place, though, so everyone can refer to it as necessary.

Consider a 'house account'

When it comes to paying rent, it's often a lot simpler for it to come from one single account - ditto utility bills. So consider opening a basic current account for this very purpose.Piggy bank and coins

Everybody could pay their rent and bill money into this one account each month, and payments could go out by direct debit or standing order. As a possible added bonus, paying this way sometimes results in modest discounts on utility bills.

If any squabbles arise over who's paid what (or not, as the case may be), it will be easy to see what's going on.

Take care with your home insurance

If you own the house you share you'll probably want to take out both buildings and contents insurance, and you'll have to make sure you've informed your policy provider exactly who's living in the property.

If you're a tenant you won't have to worry about insuring the building as that's the landlord's responsibility, but it's likely that you'll be seeking protection for your contents. This can be complicated in a shared house - some insurers will refuse cover for shared accommodation or add extra exclusions, especially if bedrooms do not have their own locks.

You should still be able to find contents insurance easily enough, although your choice of provider may be limited and your premiums may be more than you'd anticipated. But always make clear to insurers the living arrangements in your shared property or - in the event of a claim - your policy is likely to be invalid.

Many successful houseshares wax lyrical about the virtues of group calendars

Know your landlord or agency

Houseshare dynamics often mean people unconsciously take on certain roles.

The 'Mum' could be the person that gets you Lemsip when you're ill or makes you a cup of tea if you've had a bad day, for example. The 'Dad' might be the one that deals with paperwork and talks to the landlord or agency if there's an issue.

The problem is, if one of them is away and something goes wrong, the rest of the 'family' might not know what to do. Make sure the landlord or agency's details are stuck to the fridge so your poor 'parents' aren't constantly put upon when someone else needs something sorted out.

Share information about yourselves

You don't have to tell your housemates about that disastrous package holiday you took when you were 18, nor do you have to tell them about the ill-advised comedy tattoo you have on your behind (although both might make good ice-breakers), but it is a good idea to share some basic information.

Next-of-kin phone numbers are a must, in case of an emergency.

Relationship status is another useful one, so your housemates don't end up calling 999 if they see your partner heading into the bathroom in the small hours.Broadband bundles

Many successful houseshares wax lyrical about the virtues of group calendars, too. Without going into too much detail it's easy to see when people are away, or doing important work events, or even when it's someone's birthday.

This means other housemates know when they can take advantage of an empty house, when it's particularly important to keep the noise down, or when a bottle of wine and a nice bit of cake is in order.

Pull your weight...

It's not rocket science, but 'failure to play their part' is one of the most commonly-cited houseshare grievances and, even if you're fresh out of the nest, it's totally unacceptable to treat your housemates like they're your parents.

So clean up after yourself, be considerate of others, replace items such as toilet paper and washing-up liquid as soon as they run out, and empty the bin when it's full - don't just shove your trash in and hope someone else will do it! A simple tally chart on the fridge can help identify the layabouts.

... but be honest about your shortcomings

Everyone has different standards for living; some are totally happy to let their wet laundry sit in the machine for days, others don't mind tea stains on the kitchen counter.

But not everyone is so relaxed about such matters. Have a think about the things you do that might annoy others and then tell your housemates that you're aware of the foible.

"Sorry, I'm really bad at leaving my shoes lying around. I'll try to be better about this, but just let me know if they're in the way," opens up a line of communication about the potential issue, meaning others won't end up seething in silence.

It's a shared environment and you can't have things your way all the time, so be prepared to compromise on some issues

Don't be the person who leaves notes

... which is what happens when you end up seething in silence.

Telling somebody that you hate the smell of their cooking or don't want to watch Soccer AM again can seem a bit daunting, but it's much better to be open and honest with one another than resort to passive-aggressive notes, which just irritate everyone and can cause divides in the house.

That said, it's a shared environment and you can't have things your way all the time, so be prepared to compromise on some issues.

Make time for one another

You live together, so whether you like it or not your housemates are a kind of adopted family. Make time to reconnect with one another - even if it's just once a month.

See also:

By Rachel England