We can walk through our front door at the end of a stressful day with the knowledge that you are walking into your very own Fortress of Solitude. The couch and your screen of choice (TV, laptop, iPad etc.) are there to welcome back their old friend, for another night of Netflix.
However, with the cost of rent continually soaring, living on your own is a luxury some of us can no longer afford.
Sharing the rent with others can be a cost-effective way of maintaining a lifestyle in the area of your choosing without having to live off ALDI 2 Minute Noodles every night (89 cents for a 5 pack…. Just saying!) Sure, it will put an end to the days of you walking around the house in your underwear and your exclusive rights to the couch/tv combo, but hopefully you’ll have a little more cash in your pocket.
There are some great sites that can make this process easier if you are looking for a flatmate or looking for a room in a share household. As with anything online, you need to exercise your own caution and screen your applicants well.
Some people living with HIV experience isolation and sharing a house can bring that much needed company, if you get the right flatmate, but first….
Choosing the area
A positive about share accommodation, is if you are not on the lease, you are generally not locked into any fixed term, so you have some flexibility,
Choose an area that is accessible to your work, medical and support services. No point living in Hurstville when you work in Parramatta.
Ain’t nothing going on but the rent
Ideally no more than a third of your income should go to rent. That can be more of an ideal than a reality, with rising rental costs. If you receive income support such as Newstart, it can be quite challenging paying any form of rent, even when if you get the maximum amount of rent assistance.
Obviously, the rent for a share accommodation in Mosman will be slightly higher, than say, Doonside. Paying the bulk of your allowance for rent can leave little to no money for food, transport and mobile phone costs. The financial challenge continues if you have other expenses.
Interview with the vampire
Yikes!!! The Spanish inquisitors went easier on heretics, than someone interviewing for a flatmate to share their space. This can be an overwhelming and nerve-racking process for the interviewee. Prepare to be grilled. Presentation and preparation are key. This doesn’t mean turning up in a three-piece suit but neither does it mean turning up in your ‘just around the house only’ well-worn trackie-daks. Come prepared with your own questions as well.
Beware that first impressions can be deceiving. A friend and I were renting a three-bedroom house and wanted to rent out the third bedroom to save some money. Our first flatmate was a guy we both met in the middle of the dance floor at 3am during the Mardi Gras party. A week later we were back on the market for a new flatmate and decided to advertise on one of the share accommodation websites. We noted that we were looking for the usual qualities: friendly, easy-going and clean-and-tidy. We settled on a lady who boasted all these qualities, along with assuring us that given her large social network, she’d hardly be at home. Reality told a very different story! From day one, when she’d set up camp in our lounge room, we saw neither hide nor hair of the alleged extensive ‘social network’ and we ended up moving out to escape her overwhelming company!
Who gets the smaller room
A common situation that often comes up with two people moving in together to a two-bedroom house, is there’s usually different advantages to each room. One bedroom might have an en-suite bathroom and a balcony with sweeping harbour views, while the second bedroom has just enough room for a single bed with a tiny bathroom and window overlooking the carpark. So, how to work out who gets what? Before an all-out race to take over the larger room or starting World War 3, one way to resolve the situation might be to flip a coin. Another is to have a realistic discussion around the associated costs with the larger bedroom, meaning the person who gets the en-suite bathroom also pays a greater share of the rent.
Bills, bills, bills
Logic dictates that splitting the bills 50/50 is the fairest option. This might not be practical, if you’re an energy saving Nazi and your flatmate is running gamma radiation experiments from their bedroom. I think the effort of individually observing and measuring each person’s kilowatt usage could be too much of a headache. A few years back, a mate of mine lived in a share household where he’d run his $23 dollar pedestal fan throughout the night as he slept. His overbearing flatmate saw fit to provide him with an itemised account, with a calculated kilowatt usage of the fan. Clearly this living arrangement did not end well. Stick to 50/50. Less stressful for all involved.
“I’m not scrubbing your skid marks” or “For the love of god, use the toilet brush” are two quotes I’ve yelled before at past flatmates. Cleaning up after yourself is a given (or should be). Divvying up the chores is fair to all tenants but what’s the best way? A household roster on the fridge can start off strong, but tends to go the way of the Dodo after a few weeks. What happens with your good friend Jan, who’s on bathroom roster on Mondays, suddenly feels less than 100% and needs to lie down every Monday, repeat, every Monday.
There is no easy answer to this one. Perhaps play to each other’s strengths can be a solution i.e. some one likes vacuuming, let them vacuum every week on a day that’s flexible to them.
Too friendly or not friendly enough
Some people seek out share accommodation to broaden their social circle and reduce isolation. Others may just want to pay cheaper rent and pretty much keep to themselves. No problem with either option but how do you manage an overfriendly flatmate, who wants to watch movies together, cook together and hit the pub together? Alternatively, how do you live with the flatmate that rejects all your offers of going Dutch on Thai takeaway and only emerges under the cover of darkness, when they hear the sound of your bedroom door closing.
Be clear at the initial interview with what sort of household you are looking for. This helps to set the expectations from the very beginning. Having an early conversation about boundaries what you might think is ‘normal’ in a share household, can go a long way to managing assumptions.
You are under no obligation to disclose your HIV status to your flatmates. This is personal choice for you to share when or if you decide. Some choose to share their status during the interview process thus weeding out any unnecessary discrimination from uneducated people. Others may like to build a level of trust first. All good. It’s totally up to you.
As we are all currently living through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to exercise social distancing rules and let your prospective flatmates know if you are feeling unwell when an interview has been arranged. Best not to get off on the wrong foot by sharing coronavirus!
If you are thinking about share accommodation and want to talk some of your options over, brainstorm some strategies, or get some support, give the Positive Life Housing Support officer a call on (02) 9206-2177 or 1800 245 677 (freecall outside metropolitan areas). A new world awaits!