What is a flatmate or housemate?

flatmates holding boxes ready to move

More than a living arrangement

There is a very good chance that at some point in your life, you will have a flatmate. In fact, living in share accommodation is a rite of passage amongst most young adults worldwide, and is something everyone should experience – for good or bad.

A flatmate (or housemate) is a person that you are not related to (by blood or marriage) but who you are sharing living arrangements with. In some cases, you and your flatmate (or flatmates) are merely ships passing in the night. But it is not uncommon for a flatmate to become a lifelong friend (or partner), or, if you are unlucky, a sworn enemy.

Negotiation and compromise

Sharing with flatmates (or whatever term you prefer – flatties, roomies, housemates etc) is a bit like having NATO, the United Nations and COAG squeezed under one roof – it’s all about negotiation and compromise, starting with the rent.

The total rent payable is usually equally between all the flatmates, except when it is not. The person with the bigger room, or the ensuite, or even a full granny flat may be happy to pay a little more. Or not. That’s where negotiation is key!

Other costs that you will have to share are likely to include utilities – such as water, gas or electricity – and be ready for the inevitable arguments over who uses more water in their shower, or who does more cooking.

And then there are the hangers on – the friends, partners, siblings that probably have a place of their own, but you wouldn’t know it since they seem to always be around. Should they pitch up some cash for the food they go through? And the electricity they use?

But living with flatmates is not all about battles that need to be fought (and won), or constant compromise

The good thing about flatmates is, unlike relatives, you get to choose who you want to live with when looking for a flatmate – or for somewhere to live

When searching for a flatmate or for accommodation, there are plenty of options, including asking friends, checking local noticeboards, classified ads, newsletters, and of course, online portals such as flatmate.com.

Once you have made contact with someone, you might want to meet in in a public place first, just to be safe. And don’t forget to ask for references.

Also, it may be wise to keep in mind that the best share accommodation situation is a rental through an estate agent. That way, you are assured of your legal rights in relation to everything from general maintenance to breaking a lease.

In some cases, there will be just one person’s name on the lease, but it is probably better for all concerned (landlord and tenant alike) to have a lease that names everyone that lives in the property. That way, if someone “does a runner” those left may not be liable to foot the bill.

Happily ever after?

In many cases, if you have chosen your flatmates wisely, and successfully negotiated the pitfalls of shared accommodation, you may become lifelong friends. And if you don’t, it doesn’t really matter. Because your relationship only need to last as long as the period of the lease. This is vastly different from moving in with someone who is already a friend – which is probably the subject of a whole other post.

Over to you

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