Living in London is expensive. With house and rental prices through the roof, it’s very difficult for people to have their own place, especially if you’re single. I have lived in London for 8 years and for 7 of them I have lived in a flatshare. Having done it for so long I feel like I’ve lived every scenario possible and know the process inside out. You could say I am a bit of an accidental expert in the subject! Having all of this knowledge I thought it was only fair to share my expertise with you which I why I have written this incredibly detailed guide.
I understand that the process of flatsharing can be incredibly daunting and scary and there is so much to consider, where do you even start? That’s why I’m here. I’ll be straight with you, this is not going to be a light-hearted guide where I tell you it’s all going to be rainbows and unicorns. I am going to give you the good, the bad and the ugly. I am going to give you all the information I wish I had when I first moved to London. Once you are armed with all the bits I am going to tell you today, you’ll be a total pro.
What is a flatshare?
A flatshare or houseshare is where you rent a room from a landlord or agency in a house occupied by others you usually do not know beforehand. You share communal living room space, a kitchen and most of the time a bathroom unless you have your own private ensuite. Your bedroom is private.
Types of flatshares
1. Run by a landlord
This is where the landlord of the house or flat manages the property. The landlord is your point of contact for questions, queries, problems and there is no third party.
3. Run by agency
This is where you have no direct contact with the landlord of the house as a third party manages it on behalf of them. This is usually an estate agent. The agency manages questions, queries and problems.
2. Live in landlord
This is where the landlord lives in the house with you.
This is where someone is already renting the room and they then rent it out to another person. Please make sure you check if you undertake a sublet as there is sometimes a clause written in a contract that sublet is not allowed. If you take up a sublet and the sublet is illegal you can be kicked out immediately.
This is where you sign a ‘lodgers’ contract which is a bit different to a live-in landlord contract. The landlord lives with you and you do not have the same ‘protection’ as a regular tenant. For example, the deposit protection act is not required for lodger landlords who rent their spare room to somebody. Read your contract carefully and make sure you are okay with it before signing.
Pros and Cons of flatsharing
You know I said to you I’d be totally honest? Well, these are my honest pros and cons of flatsharing and house-sharing.
- You get to meet new people and make new friends.
- You learn sooooooooooo much about yourself and understand what you like and don’t like, want or don’t want in life.
- You become more independent and responsible.
- You can (potentially) save money
- There can be a potential clash of personalities and values with housemates. Not all flatshares work but when you find one that does it’s wonderful!
- You have no control over the environment. People come and go as they please, bringing friends etc
- It can be unstable and change a lot with people moving in and out.
Preparation – Things to think about before you start looking
‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ … That’s my motto! There is no point in finding the perfect place to live only to realise it’s an hour away from where you need to be every day. Get prepared with what you need! Here are a few questions to ask yourself before searching for that perfect flatshare to make your search clearer, more focused and tailored to you and your circumstances.
Things to think about
- What area do you want to live in? (North London, South London, not fussed?)
- What zone do you want to live in? (Remember the higher the zone the more costly it is to travel into the centre of London. The lower the zone the more expensive it is to live in – catch 22 situation, I know!)
- How many people do you want to live with? (Personal preference but some people wants lots of company, others want just one other housemate)
- How much can you afford? (Be 100% honest with yourself – my budget planner will help below)
- What date can you move in and are you flexible?
- Do you need somewhere that allows smoking?
- Does your budget include bills or can I afford bills on top? (Important to clarify for when you input your search criteria)
- Are you fussy when it comes to what sex you live with? Do I want it to be all girls? All guys? Am I fussed? (Some people are very particular)
- What type of house do you want? A party house? A nudist house? (Yes, it’s a thing!) A quiet house? A vegetarian only house?
- Do you like pets and would you be willing to live with a pet dog, or cat or snake? (Yes, I’ve seen that advert)
- What type of housemate do you want? Someone very clean and tidy? You don’t mind someone a bit messy? Someone who is really keen to cook meals together? Someone who stays in their room? (You won’t be able to know this 100% from just the advert but you can get an idea when you meet them)
- Do I want to know my landlord? ( You may not have much say in this but as a general rule most houses are managed by an agency on behalf of the landlord. Some houses deal with the landlord directly. It doesn’t make a huge difference but it’s something to think about.
- How long approx are you planning on being there? (Look at the fine print for the contract. Most contracts are a rolling month where if you want to leave you have to find someone to replace your occupancy in the house. Some contracts have a strict minimum of 6 months or 12 months sometimes. The moral of the story is to make sure you ask!)
How much can you afford?
When you’re thinking about how much you can afford I really want you to be honest with yourself. There is no point of putting £50 a month on food if you know you spend £100. Yes, you can be smarter and savvier with money but you also don’t want to be miserable either. If £100 on food is you being quite extravagant, think about cutting back to £75 rather than right back to £50.
To make it easier I’ve put a little breakdown below of all of the categories you need to think about.
Starting monthly income: £ TYPE MONTHLY INCOME HERE
- Phone bill (Your monthly amount)
- Groceries (Estimate how much you tend to spend on food)
- Dining out (Estimate how much you spend on eating/drinking out)
- Entertainment (Estimate cinema visits, gigs, theatre trips)
- Direct debits and credit card payments ( Netflix, Spotify, credit card fees)
- Health and wellbeing (Clothes shopping, gyms, haircuts etc)
How much I have left for rent and bills: £
Starting the search for your new place
I want to find a room, where do I start?
You should start by using a dedicated flatsharing website like SpareRoom or Badi or IdealFlatMate. I can’t give you my opinions on each one of those as I’ve only ever used SpareRoom for my own personal flat hunts. In my experience, SpareRoom has been a great user experience but feel free to try others too!
BIG TIP – In my honest opinion, I would stay away from using a website like Rightmove to find flatshares because it tends to be organised by an agent just filling up a vacant room rather than moving into a proper ‘home’. If that’s what you want then that’s totally fine but it’s something to keep in mind.
I have found a website to use, now what?
Again, I haven’t used any other site other than SpareRoom but I believe most of them work the same. To get started you build a profile which is weirdly a bit like a dating profile. You put a picture and write a short blurb about your personality, your likes, your dislikes, your requirements etc. You also put it your budget.
Great. I have my profile up and running, now what?
Now you have your profile up and running people can find you when they are searching for potential housemates if you match their criteria. On the other hand, you can put in your criteria and find suitable rooms that match your requirements. Once you find somewhere you like, you can drop the advertiser a short message to say that you’re interested in the room and that you would love to arrange to meet them. The website will have an email inbox and you can keep track of all the messages and responses.
BIG TIP – Some ads receive hundreds of messages. Do not copy and paste generic messages to potential flatmates. Make each one personal and unique to the advertiser if you want to stand out from the crowd.
What questions should I ask when I ‘interview’ for a potential flatshare?
- What’s the vibe of the house? Do you cook together? Socialise together?
- When is the move date and is it flexible?
- Do you know the landlord? Have you met them before?
- Is the house managed by the landlord or an agency?
- Are there any extra fees to be paid like an admin fee?
- Is there a deposit and how much it is?
- Will there be a contract and how long is the agreement?
- Are bills included in the rent? If not how is this managed between you?
- Do you allow friends and family to stay?
- Is there a cleaning rota?
- Do you have a cleaner?
Yay, I’ve secured by room! Now what?
Fees & Logistics
When you move into a flatshare you are typically required to pay fees and a deposit. You should of asked about this when you met your new flatmates or it should have been listed on the original advert
- Admin fees – These are usually only applicable if you have secured it through an estate agent. An admin fee is usually around £100 – 200. Honestly, I don’t really know what it is for but I believe it’s a fee to compensate for the agencies time in prepping contracts etc. The annoying thing is even if you have found your room via a flatsharing website by yourself, organised everything by ourself and you just go into the agency to sign a contract for 2 minutes, it’s usually still applicable. Annoying but there isn’t much you can do about it.
- Deposit – Most houseshares require a deposit, usually the amount of first month’s rent. For example, if your rent is £700 a month your deposit will probably be around £700.
- Advance rent – As well as a deposit, sometimes you will be required to pay a months rent in advance too.
- Moving Van – If you have a lot of stuff you will have to hire a moving van. In my first few flatshares, I used comparethemanandvan.com. With comparethemanandvan.com you have the option to search for the size of the van you need and if you need extra manpower to help load/unload. I have also used Zipcar to hire a car/van to drive myself. It depends on your requirements, how much stuff you have and your budget to which one you choose.
- Payment to your current landlord (if applicable) – One thing people always forget is that if you are moving from one flatshare to another is that there might be a bit of a cross over. What that means is you might have to pay two rents in the same payday, one for your new place and one for your old place, if the timings don’t match.
I think it’s so important to be completely transparent with you when it comes to money because people don’t realise how expensive moving can be when you total everything up!
Contracts, Bills & Repairs (All the boring stuff!)
Contracts: Whatever you do, make sure you read the contract in detail before signing. The problem is in London you feel so pressured to sign it ASAP as there is usually a queue of people lining up behind you if you don’t. DO NOT be pressured by anyone to sign anything you are not comfortable with and ask the landlord or agent to send you an electronic copy to read over PRIOR to you signing so you have time to read through.
Bills: Next to signing the contract, the next piece of the puzzle are the bills. You will want to think about and aks these questions to your new housemates.
- Are the bills included in the rent? If not. how are these worked out?
- Who’s name are on the bills?
- Do these come from a joint account or do you have to sit down every month, work out what’s owed and pay it manually?
- When/if you leave who is going to take over the bill if it’s in your name?
Repairs: Make sure you agree with the agent/landlord who deals with repairs and how they are handled financially.
- If the boiler breaks or there is a flood who do you call?
- Does the house have a handyman to help with general things?
- If a handyman is called out who pays for it? The landlord? Or the tenants who are reimbursed later by the landlord?
Important things to know & general tips
In my years of experience, I just wanted to sign off with some quick tips on things I’ve learnt to help you with your move.
- Don’t copy & paste messages when you are contacting potential rooms. It looks lazy and unthoughtful. Personalise them as much as you can!
- (Some) landlords will do anything to keep your deposit. When you arrive in your new place, photograph and document every tiny scratch to make sure you are not liable.
- Read the fine print. Then read it again. Then read it again.
- Don’t eat food that’s not yours from the fridge. You didn’t pay for it. Don’t be a dick.
- Wash up after yourself when you’ve finished eating. Especially when there are a lot of you in the house. If you don’t keep on top of it it will become a nightmare.
- Don’t hog the bathroom – remember others have to use it too.
- Don’t be crazy loud at 2 am in the morning. Respect this is a shared house (unless you’re that kind of house and you don’t mind)
- Remember the communal spaces are communal for a reason and everyone should enjoy them.
- Tensions can build easily in houseshares because tiny little things that people do can start to grate on you. Try and be as open with each other as possible so you don’t explode one day. Also, don’t be passive-aggressive. That’s the worst kind of flatmate.
- Enjoy it – when you find one that works it’s the most amazing experience!
That’s it from me, folks. I hope that’s been helpful. I’ve tried hard to cover everything you need to know about the world of flat-sharing – both good and bad. Hopefully, you will now be armed and ready to take on your new home. Good luck!
BEFORE YOU GO…
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