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Student Accommodation

How to survive shared living

Flying the nest for university? Living in halls or a shared house can be a minefield. You're about to enter a whole new world that requires a lot of patience and an open mind...

dirty laundry halls of residence

Credit: (left) Mariakray, (right) Nagel Photography – Shutterstock

The reality of sharing a kitchen and bathroom with complete strangers for an entire year can be a lot to take in. How do you split the cleaning in a shared house? Who pays for the toilet paper? Will you like everyone? Will they like you?

It's pretty important to figure out a way of dividing responsibility early on in your university accommodation. That way, a standard is set before anything has a chance to go pear-shaped.

How to choose your housemates at university

jack whitehall fresh meat

Credit: Channel 4

A good friend isn't always the same as a good housemate. If you have to ask a friend for that £20 back over and over it’s likely they’ll be just as reluctant about household bills and expenses.

How many housemates should you have? The price per person will significantly improve as you increase in numbers, so consider joining forces if there’s only two or three of you. The more bodies to huddle together for warmth can also help with those winter heating bills!

If you're having problems picking your housemates, sit down and write out all the pros and cons you can think of for living with your friends.

And if you haven't been able to say no to that slippery friend that is forever 'forgetting' to pay you back, check out our tricky housemate guide for pointers on how to live together and keep your friendship intact!

Legally, there is a limit to the number of tenants per property that landlords can rent the space to. Make sure your landlord isn't letting out the property to more people than he/she should be.

Here's a table to help you work out whether your humble abode is overcrowded (a room here counts as a floor space of 50 square feet or 4.6 square metres).

How many people are allowed to live in a house?

Number of rooms
Maximum number of people allowed

Information taken from Shelter.

*Children aged between one and nine years old count as 0.5.

Does anyone in your shared accommodation suffer from any of the top 10 worst housemate habits?

How to live with new housemates

Moving house at university can be daunting so here are some tips on how to live with people you don't know or have maybe never even met:

  1. Get your daily routines in sync with each other

    Synchronised swimming

    At the risk of sounding like a complete bore, it's probably worth having a quick group conversation with your flatmates about your routines – particularly if you work weekends or have a particularly arduous course that means getting up at 7am every day.

    If you iron this stuff out at the start and get in sync with each other, you won't have to wait for a fallout over blaring tunes at 3am to make you more aware of each other.

  2. Respect personal space

    astronaut in space

    Remember that regardless of how much you get along with your flatmates, everyone needs their own personal space. Respect this.

    If your flatmate's door is closed, knock. If they spend a lot of time in their room, they probably value having their own space, so try not to bother them too much.

    Just try to read the situation as much as possible and don't impose on anyone who doesn't seem like they want to be imposed upon.

  3. Make an effort to spend quality time together

    friends characters hugging

    Credit: NBC

    Try to organise something social that involves everyone in the flat from time to time – arrange a movie night, make homemade pizzas together or have pre-drinks before going out to a club or party.

    Making the effort to socialise in a positive environment will make things way less frosty when it comes to discussing chores or someone not pulling their weight.

  4. Have some self-awareness

    simon the inbetweeners

    Credit: Channel 4

    Maybe your parents were never that bothered about the fact you burp at the dinner table and like to walk about the house in your pants, but remember you're not living at home anymore!

    Try to be a bit more aware of your bad habits, and be considerate of those around you. It's about time you started shaking them off anyway!

  5. Split the washing up

    washing up

    Credit: Paul Michael Hughes – Shutterstock

    Passive-aggressive dish-related post-it notes in the kitchen are the norm in student houses, and we've even known disagreements to end with piles of dirty dishes being put in the bedrooms of lazy culprits – ouch!

    To avoid this, you have two options. The first is to just do your own dishes as necessary – an option that works fine as long as you do them straight away. Stacked dishes blocking the sink won’t make you too popular!

    Alternatively, you could have a washing-up rota where you each take your turn to do them on a rotation. This can work quite well as it means nobody ever feels as though they're the only one chipping in.

    However, problems can still arise if the level of washing up tends to vary. Maybe keep your super greasy pan dinners to the night when you're on dishes duty, just to make sure you don't annoy anyone!

  6. Draw up a cleaning rota

    cheap cleaning spray

    Credit: ADragan - Shutterstock

    You might not be bothered by the ball of hair clogging the shower drain, but that doesn't mean it doesn't make your flatmates want to hurl (it's one of the big gripes discussed in our freshers' week podcast).

    Rotas can be a great way to divide the cleaning equally, and if you make sure communal areas are cleaned once a week by someone on a rotation, it means nothing will ever get super dirty (meaning it shouldn't take too long to clean each time).

    This will make it pretty clear when someone is slacking and doesn't do their bit. Have a list of all the stuff that needs to be done on the wall in the kitchen, as well as everyone's names where they can write the 'last cleaned' date next to it.

    It's also worth accepting early on that chores will never get split exactly equally and people may clean differently to you, but if everyone at least pitches in regularly there shouldn't be any hard feelings.

    And while we're on the subject, check out our guide to cheap alternatives to cleaning products – at least you'll be saved the argument over someone buying the most expensive bathroom spray.

  7. Get a cleaner

    Mrs doubtfire

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    This might sound like a mad expense, but a surprising number of student landlords or halls provide some kind of cleaner. Even if they don't, hiring one can be totally worth the expense if you find cleaning is causing arguments.

    The average hourly rate for a cleaner is roughly £10 – £15 an hour, depending on how long you leave between cleans (and how dirty your house is!). If you get someone in once every two weeks and you're a house of five, that's likely to work out at less than a tenner each.

Tip: sign up for your student bills using cashback websites to earn money back on energy and broadband.


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