Living with flatmates is both great fun and a cost-effective way to live. Most of the time you'll get along well, but inevitably you need work out how to share the financial responsibilities.
Rent is the main payment you'll be making. But what if one of your flatmates doesn't pay up?
Simon Thompson of Accommodationforstudents.com says you should talk with your flatmates as a group and also check what type of tenancy agreement you've signed up to. "Speak to that flatmate around the table and find out the reasons for why they're unable to make the payment. Can their parents lend them the money so you can afford to pay the landlord perhaps?"
Although a joint tenancy is most common, you have the option of an individual tenancy agreement, which gives each flatmate the responsibility for just their portion of the rent. "Most tenancies for students are for joint tenancy agreements," explains Simon. "If one person doesn't pay then you are all liable. However, you can get individual tenancy agreements as opposed to forming a joint tenancy agreement, so if one person leaves the group are not responsible."
Belinda Turffrey from Shelter says that its up to you to know the liabilities you're signing up to. "Its very important for a tenant to be aware of their rights and responsibilities before signing a tenancy agreement. You have your own responsibilities that you need to adhere to, so ensure that you don't try to break your tenancy agreement."
If one person doesn't pay then effectively you are all liable.
A responsibility you shouldn't dodge is paying the bills. If a flatmate does avoid paying their share, Simon advises: "approach that person and outline to them the money they owe. Put it in an email or in writing. Ultimately the bills are not the landlords responsibility, but your responsibility as the tenants."
Even if you get on well with your flatmates, at some point you may find someone will want to move out. Your contract is for a defined period, so if someone does leave you'll need to find a replacement. "It's normally perfectly acceptable for someone to leave a joint tenancy agreement but you have to make them aware that it is their responsibility to find another tenant. Otherwise you will be liable for them in the event that they leave and don't pay the landlord," explains Simon.
One common financial issue is your deposit. 25 year-old Sam remembers her first flatshare whilst at university. "We paid a deposit and I thought we'd get it back after we moved out and when I applied to get the deposit back they said it had been deducted off our last installment of rent. But we couldn't find a reduction in our last installment and nothing had gone back into my account."
Since 2007, landlords have been legally required to safeguard your deposit in a deposit protection scheme. This means that should your landlord withhold your money, you can appeal to get it back. "It's very strict now. Landlords have to itemise and provide a full inventory report if they have any cause for not returning your deposit to you," explains Simon. "Before you move out, you can speak to the company that performed the initial examination and ask to view the report or get them to come and review the property to see what state its in and whether they think anything has been changed." So it's best to carefully check the inventory when you first move in to protect yourself against unnecessary charges when you move out.
Where to go for help
Most of the time you'll be able to sort out problems among yourselves. If you are having trouble, there are organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter you can contact free of charge should you need advice or support.
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