Starting university is for a lot of people a scary process, you’re bound to feel at least a little anxious about your new surroundings and making new friends. While in the lecture theatres and seminar rooms, this might seem scary enough but when you’re living with complete strangers, there’s no knowing what could happen throughout term time! You could either get on like a house on fire or...not.

If you share your home with other people, it's important to know how your tenancy is organised as it can have implications for other things. This page highlights some of the issues you need to be aware of when sharing accommodation.

Typical tenancy arrangements

Tenancy arrangements in shared accommodation can vary. The most typical scenarios include:

  • one tenancy agreement which each person in the property signs. You all share the property and its facilities and don’t have exclusive possession of any part, even though in practice you might agree to occupy a particular bedroom and pay individual contributions towards the rent. This is a joint tenancy.
  • each person in the property has their own tenancy agreement because they each have exclusive possession of one specific room while sharing other facilities such as the kitchen. In this case, each person has a sole tenancy.

Your rights and responsibilities will vary depending on whether you have a Joint or Sole tenancy or whether you have a tenant as your resident landlord.

If you share accommodation and have a joint tenancy

If you have a joint tenancy, you and the other tenants have exactly the same rights. You are all jointly and individually responsible for the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement. This is called joint and several liability.

Paying the rent

If you have a joint tenancy, you are liable for the rent both jointly and individually. This means that one or all of you can be held responsible for the whole rent. It’s not possible to argue that each tenant is liable for their particular share.

So, if someone you live with doesn’t pay their share of the rent, the rest of you are responsible for making up the shortfall. If you don’t make up the shortfall, you are all jointly and individually responsible for any rent arrears that build up. Your landlord could deduct money from the deposit, take action to evict you all or recover the debt from any one of you or a guarantor.

If one of you wants to leave

If your joint tenancy is for a fixed term (for example, 11 months), you must normally get the agreement of your landlord and the other tenants to give notice to end the tenancy.

If only one joint tenant wants to leave during the course of a tenancy, and the other tenants want to stay, you can:

  • ask the landlord for a new tenancy that doesn’t include the leaving tenant - the landlord might be more likely to agree if you can find someone to replace the leaving tenant
  • make no changes to the tenancy - the leaving tenant will have to continue paying rent OR the remaining tenants will have to pay the leaving tenant’s share of the rent

If you want one of the other tenants to leave

As joint tenants, you all have exactly the same rights, so one tenant can’t simply be forced to leave. If you have a problem with another tenant your landlord is unlikely to want to get involved and you’ll have to sort the problem out yourself. An independent third party may be able to help you to resolve any difficulties, for example, a common friend.

Replacement tenants

Finding a replacement tenant can be a good option if you want to leave but other tenants want to stay.

Your landlord and all joint tenants need to agree before any new tenants can move in. This can be documented and authorised via an amendment to the contract, although it is not legally binding until all parties have signed and the conditions are carried out.

Student House Gillingham are able to help with the search however a Tenant Finder Fee is payable. DISCLAIMER, this service is never guaranteed or should be solely relied upon to find a replacement tenant. Full contractual responsibility is still bared by the existing Sharer until a replacement has been found and all paperwork submitted to officially complete the process.

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Living in the Student Property

Living out of halls and in a shared student property most definitely comes with many advantages; some of them being that you now live in a space that is a lot more home like and you have a place to relax that isn’t your box-room or on those kitchen chairs you had in halls. You also have the added incentive of not having to share a house/flat with people you don’t get along with, instead you can choose the friends you’ve made whilst at uni to create the ulimtiate Uni-squad!

With electricity, make sure all applainces are turned off at the plug when not in use and only keep lights on that are needed, especailly when leaving the proeprty when going to lectures or home for the holidays. The heating should be on during the winter months to help keep you all toasty and ensure that damp is kept at bay, at a temperature that’s to all housemates liking.

When it comes to gas, again - make sure it's being used responsibly. Keep the boiler clean and free from debris and it’ll be less likely to malfunction. The same applies to central heating and showers. Whilst on the subject of keeping things clean, when your house begins to look untidy, it’s worth getting together with your housemates and cleaning it together. Perhaps you could allocate tasks evenly, that way every room is taken care of. That way, no one will feel as if they’re doing more work than others.

Finding the Right Housemates to Live With 

When living with people you’re familiar with, you can avoid that awkward phase of getting to know each other and you'll know a lot of their strengths, weaknesses and boundaries which is key to getting on. If however, you’re in the position where you have to find people to live with, why not ask potential housemates to tell you a little about themselves. It could allow you to gain greater understanding of whether they would be good to live with or not.

Another way of figuring out if your prospective new housemates are right for your house-share is going out with them for dinner (and/or drinks). You’ll be amazed at how much alcohol can help lighten the mood and get people to relax. That way, you’ll get to know them a little better and if they move in with you, they’ll get to know you as well, so it’s a win-win. 

Getting on with your new Housemates

Arguably, this is the toughest part of trying to make a house-share work, you’ll undoubtedly remember the best and worst people you have ever had the privilege of sharing a home with. What you want to do is ensure that, no matter how different you may be to your new student housemates, that your accommodation works well for all of you.

Split The Bills

In Student House Gillingham properties, you never have to worry about electricity, gas, water or Wi-Fi bills, but there are some things you have to pay for, namely food and drink. At the start of each week, make a shopping list and then split the estimated cost between you when in the supermarket.

If that’s not to your liking, perhaps it’s worth writing up an individual shopping lists and ensuring that no one eats one another’s food without the permission. It might seem a little bit over the top for some, but a labeling system could work by putting your name on everything in pen.

Remember, essential cleaning equipment is the tenant's responsibility so factor this in when doing your weekly shop. Nothing worse than running out of sponges and using an old one.

Splitting costs between you could also apply to things like taxis on the way home from a night out, drinks and any soft furnishings you add to the house.  

Respect Everyone's Privacy

This is something that helps you and your housemates to feel comfortable. Whether you’re studying, on the phone or just having some quiet time, the last thing you want is to be interrupted by someone making a ton of noises. Having some sort of verbal agreement in place where you promise to give each other personal space will keep you all happy and free to do whatever you please. There's nothing wrong with chilling in your room and shutting the door for down-time.

To make sure that you respect the privacy of your housemates yourself, think of it from their point of view. Would you appreciate it if one of them came into your bedroom without an invitation whilst you were busy studying? Or do I really need to turn my music up full-volume at 11pm at night when my house mate has an exam in the morning.

To be on the safe side, some signs to hang on the door of your room saying things like ‘I’m busy. Knock if it’s important’ for example, might help to give you the space you need. That will give you some much needed quiet time for those essay deadlines that are fast coming.

Go out (or stay in) Together

Finally, to really get to know each other and get on throughout the year, it’s worth having organised days/nights out and some nights in together. You’ll be amazed at how this can help you all to bond and share some great memories. For nights out, decide on a venue or event, such as a gig or comedy night and stick with it. In the name of equality, let one housemate decide on where to go each time.

As for nights in, these are a piece of cake to organise. All you need are some snacks, a few drinks and something like a DVD (or Netflix subscription), board game or computer game and you’re set. As with a night out, either decide between you what you’d all like to do or let each housemate pick a film or game every time you have a night in. You could spend a whole night watching films, playing Playstation or just chat and catch up on each others live. This is so much cheaper than a night out and chances are you'll most likely remember the night's events the morning after!

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