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Renting Shared Accommodation: is it for Me?

Updated on July 24, 2017
Stella Kaye profile image

Stella has written many property-related articles due to fourteen years' experience in residential lettings and renovation in the UK.

Easy room mates

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Searching for the perfect house mates

Shared rental accommodation is a popular choice nowadays mainly amongst young 'upwardly mobile' professionals. Renting a room in a shared house or a room in a private household can thus be an ideal way to cut down on accommodation costs and household expenses. You may even be able to afford to rent that plush pad in the city if you 'buddy' up with someone who leads a similar lifestyle to yours in order to half your rent and cut down on running costs.

Searching for your perfect flatmate has never been easier. Internet sites such as Easyroom mate and Spareroom can help you find the most suitable candidate to share with. However, there is a downside to renting rooms as you need to be discerning in your choice to avoid being lumbered with the roommate from hell. Finding someone online to suit both you and the available accommodation need not be daunting. It is similar to finding your ideal partner on a dating site.

There are several issues that you need to address before you begin your search; this will prevent disagreements with your flatmate or landlord later on. For instance certain aspects of shared accommodation cannot be compromised on, such as smoking and pets. If you like to party until the small hours, you can't realistically expect to get along with someone who turns in early every night.

Make sure you agree on the terms of the share from the onset so there is no ambiguity in the arrangement. You must never be vague about such issues such as who is liable to pay for utility costs etc and you will need to ascertain whether they are already included in the rent or if there will be separate payments expected.

What will be the arrangement regarding food? There is nothing more annoying than finding that the items you purchased for yourself have been used by someone else and this is guaranteed to cause disharmony in any household. Occupants of shared houses generally have their own allocated cupboards in the kitchen, so it needs to be made clear which items are for general usage and which items are for personal use, especially when there are a number of room mates to consider.

Valuable personal items are best not left in communal areas of shared accommodation, so it is vital that there are locks on your own room door. You must ask for a lock to be installed if there is not one before agreeing to rent a room. If a dispute arises because things go astray, it can cast suspicion on the other occupants, so it is better to prevent this by safeguarding your valuables at all times.

Another bone of contention could be the cleaning schedule. Whereas most sharers will be happy to clear up their own mess, things like cobwebs and weeds will still appear. If cleaning is not included in your rent, you and your room mates will need to devise a workable rota and you'll have to share the costs of such things as bin bags, cleaning products etc. in a fair and reasonable manner.

The smooth running of shared accommodation thus depends on the cooperation of all room mates, but problems often occur when one person does something to cause inconvenience to the others. Often the perpetrator may be unaware they have upset anyone and quite likely will not have done it intentionally, but something will need to be said so it doesn't happen again.

Before renting shared accommodation you need to question whether you can realistically share your living space with others or whether it would be better to find alternative solitary lodgings. To a large degree, this will depend on your personality. Some shared accommodation which allows little space to call your own may be out of the question if you are a very private person. You may even feel trapped in the confines of your own room if the house has little or no communal areas.

If you are unsure whether or not shared accommodation is for you, always take up the shortest possible tenancy possible so you don't tie yourself down for a lengthy period. You will likely be given the option to extend your tenancy if you settle in well. Having a trial run of a month or so could thus be the answer if that option is available.

It is always wise to be wary, but bear in mind that being too highly selective will narrow your search considerably. You cannot be too particular with regards to different lifestyle choices or you may never find a room mate at all!

All relationships are based on give and take and being part of a house share or flat share means you will constantly have to be aware of the needs of others as well as your own. It is impossible to please everyone and often you will need to compromise or change your attitude to ensure that you don't fall out with the existing room mates. Will you be prepared to adapt to this sort of environment? This is the main question you will need to address when considering room rental.

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