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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 costs of a shared house? What type of cleaning schedule works best? Will you like everyone? Will they like you?

It's important to decide how to share the responsibilities early on when you move in with housemates. That way, a standard is set before anything has a chance to go pear-shaped.

What is a house share?

terraced housing

Credit: Pompaem Gogh – Shutterstock

A house share (or flatshare) is typically when a group of unrelated people live together in a house or flat. Each person usually has their own bedroom but shares a bathroom, kitchen and living area.

House shares are common types of student accommodation.

Even if you live in other shared student accommodation, like uni halls, it's important you set some rules in place. This will help you all live together in harmony.

How to choose your housemates at university

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, they might be just as reluctant about household bills.

How many housemates should you have? The price per person will significantly improve as you increase in numbers. So, if there are only two or three of you, consider joining up with others to look for a house together.

If you're struggling to pick your housemates, write down the pros and cons of living with your friends.

And if you haven't been able to say no to that friend who 'forgets' to pay you back, see our guide to tricky housemates. This will give you pointers on how to live together and keep your friendship intact!

How many people are allowed to live in a house?

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 they should.

Number of rooms
Maximum number of people allowed

A room here counts as a floor space of at least 50 square feet or 4.65 square metres.
Information 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 worst housemate habits?

How to live with new housemates

Here are some tips on how to live in a shared flat or house:

  1. Get your daily routines in sync with each other

    colourful calendar

    Credit: Chutima Chaochaiya - Shutterstock

    It's worth having a quick group conversation with your flatmates about your routines. Particularly if you work weekends or have an 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

    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 be mindful of your housemates' preferences.

  3. Make an effort to spend quality time together

    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 will make it easier to organise chores and discuss issues.

  4. Have some self-awareness

    Maybe your parents were never that bothered about the fact you burp at the dinner table, 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.

  5. Split the washing up

    plates at buffet

    Credit: hxdbzxy - Shutterstock

    Passive-aggressive post-it notes about dishes aren't uncommon in shared student accommodation. 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. It's an option that works fine as long as you do them straight away. Stacked dishes blocking the sink won't make you 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 dish duty, just to make sure you don't annoy anyone.

  6. Draw up a cleaning rota

    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. 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 not doing 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 each person could have a different approach to cleaning. 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 from an argument over someone buying the most expensive bathroom spray.

  7. Get a cleaner

    This might sound like a big 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 £12 – £20 an hour, depending on how long you leave between the cleaning (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.

Owen Burek


Owen is the founder of Save the Student, the leading student money website he started in 2007. He's passionate about educating young people about personal finance and ways to make extra money. Owen has appeared on BBC News and writes for major publications including The Guardian, Entrepreneur and HuffPost.
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