The long-goodbye

Inevitably, at some point, you’ll want to move on. Either you’ll somehow find the dosh to buy a place, or meet the love of your life and want to give cohabiting ago. Or you may just decide that the situation isn’t working out, and opt to make alternative arrangements. While that’s all great for you, don’t forget, you’re now throwing the other party’s domestic arrangements into turmoil So treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves.

Source: moneysupermarket.com
Source: moneysupermarket.com

Sit them down and explain what you are going to do, and give them a reasonable amount of time to replace you (yes, I know no one is going to be as wonderful a flatmate as you’ve been but hey, they’re going to have to try). A minimum of a month’s notice will suffice, particularly if the relationship between you has broken down and neither of you can bear the sight of each other, but ideally, two months is better if you can afford to do so. Or, if you did draw up paperwork in the form of a Lodger Agreement, check the notice period and go from there.

If you are on a Joint Tenancy Agreement, check to find out when the break clause is (a specific date that’s been agreed when you can serve notice to vacate the property), so you’re not in breach of your lease. If you want to move out before the break clause, speak to the landlord or letting agency and ask if you can amend the agreement once your flatmate has found a new house-buddy. Chances are, if you’re happy to pay the fee involved (normally about L100 to change an agreement) and the new party checks out with references etc., you won’t have a problem. But do ask the appropriate questions.

Remember to inform your utility companies that you’re moving on if any accounts are in joint names (don’t forget your Council Tax either). Make sure you’re up to date with your share of the bills too, particularly if you are not parting on amicable terms. No matter how unpleasant the situation is, leaving loose ends about finances will somehow come back to haunt you in the long run. It may even negatively impact your credit score,

which isn’t what you want, so as boring and potentially aggravation as it is, get it sorted and make a clean break.

Conclusion

For many, flat or house sharing is an effective solution to a short or mid-term problem. If you’re a lodger, it means you can afford to live in a much nicer property than you would be able to on your own. If you’re a landlord, it makes that monthly mortgage payment a bit easier to manage.

I’ve made some very good friends from sharing in my earlier days, and if you get it right, hopefully you will too. I saved a fortune on rent when I was starting out on the career ladder in London, and lived in some great places with some lovely people who ended up as close friends that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. Apart from the odd glitch, at the time it was the best thing I could have done.

Just don’t use up the last of the loo roll without replacing it, OK?

Sharing is caring

Along with housework (or lack of it), other major flash points in a shared-abode set up are viewing habits and provisions.

With regards to the TV thing, in my experience, most guys would watch tiddlywinks if it were televised, so in an all-male household, there are rarely going to be any complaints about football, cricket or golf being on. The whole weekend.

source: moneysupermarket.com
Source: moneysupermarket.com

Therefore (sexist comment alert) if your housemate is a bloke and you’re female, forget any righteous may think you have regarding the remote control. Won’t happen. Safest way forward, if finances allow, is to get your own telly for your bedroom or acquaint yourself with the joys of catch-up services.

In terms of supplies, always try to be generous and pool resources. Unless absolutely necessary, separate cupboards and shelves in the fridge are very divisive. Get into the habit of writing a shopping list together every week and then each contributes financially, taking it in turns to do the supermarket run. Of course, it’s fair to lay claim to any `special purchases’ or ingredients for a particular meal you’re cooking, so do ask before you take anything that you think may have a specific purpose.

The idea is that you can trust each other – so marking a line on the bottle of wine in the fridge to ensure it’s not being snaffled behind your back isn’t really on. you use the last of the toilet paper or milk, replace it Don’t think about it,just do it.

Entertaining etiquette

It’s perfectly reasonable to want to bring friends or suitors back to your pad, but it’s also important to check that it’s okay with your flatmate and, if the occasion is appropriate, to ask if they would like to join you. If it’s not convenient, then offer to reorganize – there’s nothing worse than trying to get an early night because you have to be up at the crack of dawn, to find that your home is full of party animals enjoying an all-night bender, with accompanying Pacha inspired soundtrack. Been there, done that (as in I was the one who had to get up at 5am) and I wasn’t a happy camper.

It’s also very important to discuss with your flatmates the partner situation. In other words, how many nights is it OK to have your boyfriend or girlfriend to stay. Most people would say three nights a week is the maximum. This is important, because unless you agree otherwise, no one wants to take in a flatmate or lodger and then end up sharing with a couple.

Remember, if you agree in writing to a maximum number of `conjugal visits’ per week and exceed them, you will be in breach of your Lodger Agreement, as well as royally hack off your landlord or flatmates in the process.

Another thing: besides your beloved, it’s okay to have people to stay over, but do ask first. Never- and I mean, ever- offer out your housemate’s bed to anyone without checking and getting agreement first then changing the bed sheets afterwards. Rather than invading their space you should sleep on the sofa or floor and let your guest use your bed.

One last thing on this – if you are renting a room from the owner of the property, their word is the last word, regardless of the situation. No arguments.

Cover yourself

I appreciate it’s dull, but if you are in a flat or house share, you’ll need to consider some contents insurance for your possessions. Yep, it’s not sexy, but better to consider it now rather than after something horrific has happened.

If you’re the lodger, think about it: how much would it cost to replace your clothes/hi-fi/stock of rare Japanese comics should your housemate decide to leave a load of candles unattended and burn the place down? Exactly, more than a fiver. As a tenant, insuring your own personal effects and possessions is your responsibility – you’re unlikely to be covered by the landlord’s contents insurance – so if you’re renting a pad with a mate on a Joint Tenancy Agreement or a lodger in someone’s property, don’t for one minute assume that you will be covered any other way.

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Source: moneysupermarket.com

Most general household insurers do offer policies specifically for flats or house sharers, which normally cover up to L10,000 worth of ‘stuff -including items away from the home (so if your bike or handbag gets nicked while you’re out and about, that would be insured too). Expect to pay between L50 to L100 per year for a decent policy. Perhaps start by looking on the normal comparison sites, and before long you’ll find something to suit your requirements. Make sure you read the small print as some policies have some pretty kooky clauses about what they will and won’t cover you for or may require a lock on your bedroom door to insure your personal possessions, particularly if you’re sharing a property with more than one person.

If you’re the landlord and renting out a room, you need to tell your buildings and contents insurer. Chances are it won’t put the price up on your premium, but you have to inform them about any changes to your circumstances so that they can note it on your policy. And here’s the thing: if you don’t tell your insurers that you have a lodger, and do end up having to make a claim, you may well find that your policy is invalid. Not good.

So for the price of a phone call, it’s a no-brainer.

Guys ‘n’ Gals

Sharing a place platonically with a member of the opposite sex can have its upsides: if you do end up fancying each other, you can forget your Tinder app, and downsides: girls tend to be very fussy about cleanliness and blow small things out of proportion, whilst boys seldom see ‘a bit of dirt’ and their used socks hanging around the place as an issue.

Another potential benefit is if your flat mate does have an active social life, then chances are if there isn’t any attraction between the two of you, they may well have a fit friend who visits occasionally.

Bear in mind though ladies, if you are sharing with a guy and there is absolutely no way, not on this earth, ever-in-a-million-years that you would consider any horizontal liaison, don’t parade around in just your underwear or a towel It might lead to a drunken, amorous manoeuvre from the other party at some stage, and that’s just awkward for everyone.

On a similar note, it’s a girl thing to be a bit territorial when another woman comes to visit. So if he brings a lady friend back, be nice. Don’t make catty comments, regardless of how unsuitable you think she is, and turn a blind eye if she steals a bit of your shampoo. Remember, you’re going to want to do some entertaining yourself, and you won’t want him sat there watching Match of the Day and farting while you try to create a romantic atmosphere. 7’reat as you would be treated.

To tax 07 not to tax?

If you own a property and are renting out a room, you are liable to pay income tax on the rent paid to you. Yes, the government wants a cut of that dosh as well.

The good news is that you are allowed to receive up to L4,250 tax-free from a lodger under the government’s ‘Rent a Room’ scheme. To be eligible for this, you have to rent the room furnished(a bed and a wardrobe will suffice), and you need to live in the property as your main residence. Any income over the L4,250 threshold and you’ll have to declare it on your tax return.

Mortgage
Source: moneysupermarket.com

For details about what you can and can’t do check out: www.gov.ukirent-room-in-your-horneithe-rent-a-room-scheme

I know, I know, your lodger may be paying you in cash and you may, just may, get away with it, but trust me, it’s not worth playing games with HM Revenue & Customs.

However, if you are living together in the biblical sense (as happened to some friends of mine: she started off as his lodger, but six months later became his girlfriend and married him shortly afterwards) then the rules are different, and the tax thing is an irrelevance. This does not, however, give you carte Blanche to sexually harass your lodger.

Another party you need to inform should you be acting as the landlord is your mortgage company – chances are they’d never find out, but it is your duty as the borrower to inform your lender of any changes to your personal circumstances.

Get permission

If you are renting a property and decide that you want to have a lodger, you’ll need to get your landlord’s permission. Why? Well, this is classed as subletting and in most standard Assured Short hold Tenancy agreements it’s not permitted. However, you can change the tenancy and put it into joint names (which is called a Joint Tenancy Agreement) – again, with the landlord’s permission.

If you do this, just be mindful of the fact that this gives the other person the same rights to the property as you. So, if you don’t get on, you can’t just give them two weeks’ notice to remove themselves and their Twilight DVD collection. You’ll have to go through the rigmarole of both of you giving notice to the landlord to change the agreement. Worst case, if they won’t move out, you’ll have to.

Also, bear in mind that if you put the tenancy in joint names (or multiple names if you’re sharing with more than one person) it means you are jointly and severally liable – in other words, if they don’t pay the rent, you’ll have to pick up the whole tab, not just your share.

Lastly, if you do enter into a Tenancy Agreement in joint names and then decide it’s not working out, the landlord has the right to decide who stays and who goes. Brutal, but they’re the breaks. This decision can be based on income levels (so who the landlord believes will be the ablest to keep up the rent payments), credit score and previous tenancy references. The letting agency (if there is one) may also get involved at this point to review individuals’ situations to assess who is best placed to continue the tenancy.

This happened to me once when I was renting an apartment with another girl who turned out to be very difficult to live with. Although she found the apartment first and had lived there for quite some time before I moved in, we entered into an Assured Short hold Tenancy on which we were both named when I took up residence. When we fell out (following ongoing issues with her borrowing my clothes/shoes/cash and not returning them, as well as paying the rent and bills late), she tried to throw me out – pretty forcibly, as I recall. However, the letting agency informed me that we both had equal rights as it was a Joint Tenancy Agreement. Seeing as my `delightful’ flatmate wasn’t employed at the time (and hadn’t been for a while) and because I had a good job which I’d been in for a couple of years, they felt I was a more suitable candidate to stay.

The moral of the story? Be aware of what you’re signing and what youngsters are. No one else is going to figure it out for you.

The paperwork

For some people, a casual, verbal agreement to pay each month is enough (although I wouldn’t recommend it). For others, particularly those with a hefty mortgage, a more formal written contract with their lodger could be a good idea. This will outline responsibilities for both parties, the amount of rent and contribution towards bills that will be paid each month, and crucially, how much notice needs to be given on both sides to extricate yourself from the arrangement.

In other words, what you need is a Lodger Agreement.

Most solicitors can draw something like this up for you, and it should cost no more than a couple of hundred pounds. Or you can download a standard contract (for example, www.spareroom.co.uk have a Lodger Agreement template you can purchase for a very reasonable L7.50).

source: moneysupermarket.com
Source: moneysupermarket.com

If you go the solicitor route, I’d suggest it’s reasonable that the cost of doing so is split equally between you. However, whichever way you go, do remember that this is a binding agreement – you will be held to it once you’ve signed it. You are, in effect, both safeguarding you and giving the other party a leg to stand on. So don’t go into it lightly, especially if your circumstances are such that you may need the option of a quick ‘get out’ clause.

The main areas any agreement should cover are as follows:

  • The names of the people entering into the agreement, in other words the landlord and the lodger.
  • The address of the property, details of the room that will be let out and which other parts of the property can be used by the lodger.
  • The amount that the lodger will pay the landlord per month for their room.
  • Which bills are included in the amount paid per month, or if not, what the lodger’s contribution towards the bills will be?
  • The day of the month that the money is payable on, or by what date each month the money should be in the landlord’s account.
  • The date the agreement has been made and how long the agreement is in place for (best to use dates, so for example ‘agreement to end on 31.12.15’).
  • The notice period, i.e. how much notice needs to be served by either party to end the agreement.
  • If the landlord owns the property, it’s a good idea to include in the agreement a notice documenting that the lodger, while paying the landlord rent, has no rights regarding any property claim or any right to the property.
  • Details of any deposit taken by the landlord.

That level of detail should be sufficient, and to be honest, it’s not like you’re getting married and looking for a prenup, so short and sweet is good.

Get two copies and ensure there is a landlord and lodger signature on both. That way you’ve each got a copy for your records. It may not be a bad idea to scan and keep an electronic copy as well. Fingers crossed, you’ll never have to refer to it, but hey, better safe than sorry.

If, however, you’re moving into a rented property and will be going on the lease, then you won’t need a Lodger Agreement. Instead, you’ll need to enter into a Joint Tenancy Agreement, which normally takes the form of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement or AST (see Section 2, ‘Understanding your lease’ under ‘The Realities of Renting’ chapter, for more information on ASTs).

If there’s a letting agent involved, they will need to check your credit and employment history, for which there may be a fee. (Ask how much it’s going to cost in order to avoid a nasty surprise.) They may also charge a fee to draw up a new Tenancy Agreement on which you will be named. Make sure they are doing this, and of course, get a copy, as well as asking how much you’re going to be charged for the privilege.

Now, while we’re on the subject of paperwork, a word about deposits.

There are two scenarios to consider.

  • If you’re renting a room directly from the landlord and they own and live in the property, you’ll probably need to give them a deposit against you trashing the place. As you won’t have a Tenancy Agreement (e.g. an Assured Shorthold Tenancy) this money won’t go into a Client Money Protection Scheme, so get in writing what you’ve paid as a deposit and also that, unless there are unpaid damages when you move out, you’ll get your deposit back.
  • If you’re flat sharing with someone else in a rented property under a Joint Tenancy Agreement, which is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, your deposit should be lodged with a Client Money Protection Scheme, and by law, you should be told where your money is being held. For more on Client Money Protection Schemes, how they work and how to safeguard your deposit, see Section 3, ‘Deposits’ under the ‘Realities of Renting’ chapter.

In the second scenario, it’s best if you can pay your deposit directly to the letting agent (if there is one involved) or the landlord. This way you can track where your money is, and it’s very clear what you’ve paid. If you’re replacing someone who’s moving out, I really wouldn’t recommend you giving them money for their deposit to `save on paperwork.’ It can get messy and lead to problems in the future.

The interview

So, you’ve done your research, been online and found a couple of suitable contenders for lodger of the year or potential rooms in the right area. You now need to take the plunge and meet with the other party/parties. This is easy if it’s you who’s renting out the room – you’ll be on home turf and therefore a lot more confident. Invite the individual round for a cuppa (or alcoholic beverage if their profile suggests it’s appropriate) so you can get an idea of how they might fit in, if they have any perceptible unpleasant body odour or sociopathic tendencies and, crucially, if you think you can trust them in your home when you’re not there.

Financial mortgage
source: moneysupermarket.com

Remember, this is not a CIA interrogation, so no polygraph is required. Mind your manners and don’t pry too deeply about relationships, religion, political tendencies or ethnic background. Any information volunteered is great, and with a few intelligent questions you should be able to glean enough to arrive at a reasonable verdict. For everything else you may want to know it’s pretty easy to find someone’s digital footprint these days with the click or two of a mouse.

Don’t think you need to make a decision straightaway – no matter how suitable you think the person is, explain that you are seeing other people and that you’ll get back to them in a day or so. Try not to leave it any longer, or else they may decide to go elsewhere. You can then invite them round again, perhaps even with a friend present who can offer an alternative opinion afterwards.

If, on the other hand, you are the candidate, do bear in mind that you will be under close scrutiny. Yes, you need to be yourself, but remember to be polite and treat the situation a bit like a job interview. Ultimately, you are sellingyourselfand the ability to be trusted with thefront door keyto someone else’s home.

However, don’t be so intimidated that you don’t ask questions yourself. You absolutely need to lmow if you will feel comfortable in the property and with the other person. Is this somewhere you can flop on the sofa and unwind without feeling like you’re intruding? Is there the possibility that a strict cleaning rota or house rules will be enforced? You should be able to relax in your home environment, so trust your gut feeling. If you want to

see the place a couple of times before committing, mention that you’re looking at other options and that you’d like to come back in a couple of days’ time.

Whichever side you are approaching the situation from, don’tforget to ask for references – you need to feel safe about the new arrangement, particularly if the other party is of the opposite sex.

At the very least, find out where the person works and what they do, so that you know they are in full-time employment and are (reasonably) trustworthy. If you’re a gal and you’d like some more tips on personal safety, a good resource is www.suzylamplugh.org.

Also, always follow your instinct; it really is your best self-preservation device. If someone gives you the creeps, no matter how nice they seem, or how well their references check out, find somewhere or someone else.

By all means be honest about what you can and can’t tolerate

By all means be honest about what you can and can’t tolerate – just be polite about it and don’t come across as judgementaL Also, be truthful about your budget in your profile; if you can afford to pay L500 a month, but that has to include all bills, say so. Better to be upfront so that you only look at rooms you can afford, rather than falling for a great room with someone you think you could really get on with, only to realise that you can’t afford it.

 

mortgages
source: moneysupermarket.com

If you are placing an advert for a room that is available, above all make sure the photos you use are an honest representation to avoid wasting everyone’s time. No Photoshop or quirky Instagram filters here, thank you. If the room has an en-suite, or comes with secure off-road parking or any other unusual features such as a private balcony or a river view, take pictures of that as well.


If you employ a cleaner, and the rent covers a contribution towards the costs, that’s worth mentioning too. Most sites have features that show the location of the property in relation to transport links, as well as a form you can complete that shows how much the bills are etc.
Should this particular route feel a little too clinical (or scary) don’t forget the good old-fashioned ‘word of mouth’ method – for that read ‘Facebook’. Even a friend of a friend of a friend could have some kind of recommendation, and it’s some comfort, even if small, to know that the individual in question isn’t a complete stranger.
Better still, if they are on the worlds’ largest social network, you can even (within reason) have a bit of an online stalk to find out who else they lmow and what they get up to in their spare time. Don’t forget, though, the reverse also applies.

Top tip:   Unless you lmow the person exceptionally well and socialise with them regularly, avoid sharing with someone you work with. Everyone needs time apart, and having to deal with the person who used all the hot water or bog roll that morning in the office doesn’t exactly make for a good professional relationship.
Also, the temptation to gossip to your co-workers about your flatmate’s bad habits or love life may prove irresistible, particularly if they’ve really hacked you off and you need to moan to someone. I speak from experience. Likewise, it’s not a great idea to take ‘humorous’ pictures of your flatmate in compromising positions and post them for all to see on Twitter or Instagram, nor make cryptic comments in Facebook posts about their lack of cleanliness/loud music/habit of emptying the
fridge.In other words, don’t air your dirty linen in (virtual) public.