Living with others is cheaper and can be loads of fun, but it can also lead to disagreements. However, you can avoid most of these disagreements by creating a list of housemate rules when you first move in together.
It may seem a bit boring or over-the-top to be setting rules at the time, but you’ll certainly be thankful further down the line when your housemate isn’t always leaving the washing up for you to do or moving their partner in without asking.
Without rules in place, it can be awkward to bring issues up with a housemate; with the rules agreed upon, you can refer to them and remind your housemate of what they agreed to at the start of the tenancy.
Creating these rules is all about living within boundaries that you all agree on, so let’s take a look below at the main topics you need to cover in your rules.
Rent and bills
First things first, you need to decide who will be in charge of paying your rent and each utility bill and work out a system for how the rest of the household will contribute and when.
For example, each housemate might transfer a set amount of money to a nominated housemate on the first day of each month.
There are also many apps available to help you manage your household finances and split bills, etc.; Bustle published an article that discusses eight apps that you and your housemates might find useful for this.
Shared household items
When it comes to shared household items such as toilet roll, milk, teabags, cleaning products, and washing-up liquid, you need to establish how these will be bought.
There are several ways to tackle this. You could take it in turns to buy them, although this method does run the risk of someone forgetting or claiming they can’t afford it when it comes to their turn.
Another option that works well for some house shares is to all pop a tenner in a jar at the start of the month, and then whenever anyone buys something, they place the receipt in the jar for proof of where the money went.
You could also use one of the apps from the article mentioned above.
We have spoken before about the importance of setting up a household cleaning rota when living in a house share and we highly recommend doing so.
Sit down with your housemates and have a chat about which jobs and chores you don’t mind and which you hate — then, decide between you who will do what and when. Write it down and stick to it!
Having the rota to refer back to if someone isn’t pulling their weight is really useful, and they then aren’t able to claim ignorance.
Mess may not bother you, but it is bound to annoy one of your housemates so, while you can live however you like inside your bedroom, make it a rule to keep all shared living spaces clean and tidy.
Nobody wants to get home after a hard day at work to a messy lounge and dirty dishes in the sink.
This rule also includes not leaving clutter in the bathroom, such as empty shampoo bottles and loo roll tubes.
Living with others, you expect to hear them sometimes when they’re in other rooms of the house; however, you shouldn’t have to put up with them blasting their music out at 2 am.
If you or your housemates love music, you could agree on quiet times and times when noise is okay; consider everyone’s routines in this, as you may work different hours, etc.
When you make noise, it’s nice to remain mindful of how much noise you are making. Also, the type of noise; your housemates don’t ever want to hear you and your partner in the throes of passion.
Visitors and partners
Talking of partners, it’s important to create rules around visitors — and partners in particular; partners can often end up staying over for several days at a time.
So, avoid an awkward conversation down the line and agree now on what you’ll do in this situation. Are you open to an extra housemate as long as they pay their way? How many nights a week means they need to contribute to rent and bills?
It may seem weird to be discussing this imaginary person now, but you’ll be grateful you did when the situation occurs. We’ve written an entire blog post on the topic of housemates’ partners, which you can read here.
Also, discuss visitors and parties and create rules around these.
Food and drink
It’s important to include food and drink in your housemate ground rules; we have witnessed many a housemate argument over the years that has started because someone ate someone else’s food!
You might decide on a rule that if you bought it, you consume it. Otherwise, you might decide that others can eat or drink your items as long as they replace them promptly.
If you decide on the latter, we’d recommend adding a note to the rule, stating that the last item is always to be saved for the person who bought it — otherwise, you’ll get home after a long day at work one day to find that someone has eaten your last ice cream or drank your last beer and not yet replaced it.
To make it clear whose food is whose without having to resort to labelling, use different cupboards and areas of the fridge and freezer.
This may sound boring, but it’s so important that all of your doors and windows are closed and locked when the house is empty; not to mention that the hob and hair straighteners are switched off.
So, make sure you incorporate some rules around these things.
It isn’t okay, for example, for a housemate to claim they didn’t know they were the last person to the leave the house, so they didn’t check all the windows were closed; make it a rule for everyone to check key things before leaving the house and that the door is always locked.
It’s a good idea to decide together about what will happen if someone breaks a rule once, twice, or more.
This way, a housemate will know what to expect; a much nicer way of dealing with an issue rather than piling dirty dishes on their bed in a rage!
In summary, when it comes to creating a housemate rules list, it all comes down to boundaries; give some thought to your own boundaries and then create rules based on a combination of yours and your housemates’, which should then keep everyone happy.