House Sharing Considerations

The challenges and pitfalls of sharing a house with other students in Swansea

Sharing a house with other students can be difficult and stressful even if you are the best of friends. Therefore, it is doubly traumatic if you are not sure of the people you are sharing the house with and are not sure of their attitudes to things. You may have a best mate who is a wonderful friend, but who is incredibly disorganised and untidy. This can be an endearing and humorous trait when you are only in contact with the mess when you pop into their room in halls. But, if you decide t share a house with someone who is untidy and leaves dirty dishes around, it can be very annoying. You therefore need to think very carefully about who you decide to house share with.

The majority of student houses in Swansea have 5 bedrooms and so are suitable for five students sharing a house.  Therefore, you need to find four friends that you think have similar attitudes to life as you do.  You may want to have friends round occasionally for a few drinks before going out, but would you want your shared student house to be used for huge parties every other night?  Remember that someone has to tidy up after a party, and that any damage caused by friends who come round will have to be paid for by the students who share the house, if they can't persuade the person who damaged the house to pay.

You also have to remember that your neighbours may not be students and may not relish the idea of having a party house next door.  Conversely, if you like having large groups of friends round on a regular basis, you will not be very happy if you share a student house with friends who don't want any outsiders coming in and making a noise.  It is much better to talk openly and honestly about these things as you try to form a group, rather than to find that you fall out with friends when you have decided to house share with them.

The best way to resolve disputes is by talking things through calmly in an effort to find a compromise.  For example, loud music and parties are only acceptable on two weekends a month and not at all during exam times.  However, if your housemate comes home drunk and can’t be reasoned with, don’t escalate the situation into a huge row.  Instead leave the discussion until the next morning when tempers are less frayed and your housemate will have sobered up.

Another major stumbling block with shared houses is that of boyfriends and girlfriends. You may get on really well with your friend, but hate their choice when it comes to the opposite sex. Many housemates fall out quite badly over the issue, which can ruin a good friendship. Therefore, early ground rules are important in preventing disagreements later.  Also, under Swansea Council's regulations, each room is licensed for one occupant only, and you could break tenancy agreements if boyfriends or girlfriends stay over too often.

A common problem with students who share houses is over small items, like coffee, milk, tea and toilet rolls.  It is a good idea to set up a shopping rota so that you all pay equally towards items that you use as a shared group.  But, if a girlfriend or boyfriend stays for half the week, they should expect to pay towards the kitty for the time that they are there.

To summarise therefore, choose your house mates carefully. It may be better to share a student house with someone who isn’t such a close friend as to share one with your closest friends who are fun party animals, but who drive you mad with their chaotic lifestyles.  Your housemates will be like a new family and you will see a lot of them, even when you don’t particularly want to, so it is important to choose carefully.

Friends who are not so close, but who are organised, tidy and considerate to their co-sharers may be a better option as house sharers in the long-term. Conversely, if you enjoy going out and rarely feel the need to stay in and study, would you really want to be in a shared house with mates who think that a good night in involves a good book or a clean oven?

You need to be honest with yourself as well as with your prospective housemates.  For example, you need to think about how tidy you actually are, and how much is actually done by your mum without you even noticing.  You also need to think about whether you are more interested in studying or in going out.  Bear in mind that most Swansea students rent shared houses in the second year of their course, and often the second year contributes to the overall degree classification.  Therefore, if you partied hard in the first year of your course, but want to work in the second, make sure that the people you will be sharing a student house with feel the same. 

Remember that a mate who regularly woke you up at 3am in the first year in halls, may continue to do that, causing problems by waking you and all the neighbours in the street.

Also, if friends have become a couple, it is dangerous to sign a tenancy agreement with them, as if they fall out or split up, relationships between all of you can become unbearable. 

To avoid such disasters, make a list between you all of everything that you consider important. Include things like cleaning rotas: how often do you think the oven should be cleaned, or the kitchen floor? The bathroom could be a major bone of contention if your house mates think that the bath needs to be cleaned once a term and you think it should be cleaned after each use.

Talk about how often boy/girlfriends should be allowed to stay over and what would happen if he/she upset the other housemates. It is awful to feel uncomfortable within your own home, especially if the person making you feel uncomfortable is not even paying rent!

Discuss parties and other social gatherings to make sure that what you thought would be a small get-together for a few mates doesn’t become the must-go-to event for the whole of Swansea Uni. You also need to discuss levels of noise generally. You wouldn't want to try revising while your house mate upstairs is trying out their new work-out routine with floor boards bouncing and music blaring.  

Another bone of contention is sharing of crockery and cutlery. You need to make sure that your housemates have the same ideas regarding what is acceptable.  Your friend may think that it is fine to borrow the odd plate or bowl because theirs are all dirty and they haven't the time to wash them, whereas you want to find your plates where you left them - clean, and in the cupboard.

The same goes for food. It is sensible to share costs for toilet rolls, liquid soap etc, but you wouldn't want your house mates using the food that you just spent your last few quid on for their own dinner. Therefore, ground rules are best laid out early, before any misunderstandings and conflicts flare up.

The payment of bills is also often a major source of conflict between students, but, as the gas, electricity and water bills are all included in your rent, that possible area of disagreement can be ruled out.

Swansea University has recently taken part in a new initiative to improve relations with the broader community. Most residents are friendly and supportive of their student neighbours, but others have had bad experiences in the past and feel antagonistic towards students. To ensure harmony, the university recommends dropping a card through the door introducing yourselves and ensuring that relations start well. Many old people are glad to meet young friendly neighbours so that they have someone to turn to if they are concerned or need help. Conversely, students can gain valuable information about the area from residents who have lived there for a while.

If relations between a student house and neighbours break down because of noise, the Environmental Health Officer from the council can be brought in.  If he or she agrees that the house is noisy, a noise abatement order can be served on the perpetrator/s, and, if there are further offences, equipment can be removed and the offender can be taken to the magistrate’s court and fined up to £5,000.

It is much easier to avoid such problems by acting politely and courteously to neighbours and by keeping lines of communication open.