Building Housemate Relationships
Moving to University and having the opportunity to meet new people, and try new things, can be really exciting. For a lot of students, this is their first experience of living away from home and living with peers.
Here are some tips on how to maintain good housemate relationships both in University accommodation and living in student houses.
Having good housemate relationships
Building and maintaining a good relationship between housemates can help to avoid issues escalating into problems. A good relationship will also make living in the house more enjoyable for everybody. Having a good relationship does not necessarily mean being best friends but should involve a level of mutual respect that allows everyone to feel comfortable.
Identify your relationship needs and make a plan
When (or ideally before) you move in it is a really good idea to have a house meeting and agree on the things that can later cause arguments and/or tension. Identify what you need from each other in the housemate context and come to an arrangement on:
- Cleaning and using communal spaces. If your property has some form of living room where you can watch tv, invite people over etc., how do you want that to be used and do you expect people to clean up after them as they go? Someone leaving their mugs to pile up by a sofa may seem trivial at first but can quickly become a problem if another housemate likes to be clean and tidy, especially if they then end up having to clean up to be able to make a cup of tea. How do all housemates feel about people inviting friends over? Do you want some kind of notice and do you expect housemates to use their own rooms if having guests? Issues like this may not seem too important at first but can become an issue if one or two housemates are constantly 'taking over' communal spaces;
- Washing up/drying up/putting away/keeping the kitchen clean (or not if none of you care). Different people will have different ideas as to what 'washing up' means. Some will feel that they have done enough if they wash their dishes at the end of the day and leave them on the draining board. Others will expect everything to be washed, dried, put away and the workstops and hobs etc. cleaned after use. This is not a matter of who is right or wrong but trying to reach an agreement on points that may cause arguments later. Constantly coming home to a dirty kitchen can be very frustrating and that frustration, if left to fester, can turn to anger;
- Arrangements for storage and use of food. Are you going to have a shelf each? Do you want to label food? Are you happy for people to help themselves to your food without asking or will this make you angry?
- Having guests to visit/stay. This is especially important if those guests are partners who end up staying over a lot. Other housemates may feel that they did not agree to an extra tenant and may be particularly unhappy if a regular guest is staying in the property without contributing financially. Partners can also create a different dynamic and a housemate may, for example, not feel comfortable going into the living room if the couple are cuddled up watching a film.
- Noise. A lot of tenancy agreements will say that you are not allowed to play loud music between certain hours (typically 10/11pm and 7/8am) and that you should not be a nuisance to your neighbours. The police and the Local Authority can also get involved under noise pollution laws and and may also report this to the University. Noise within the house, however, is more complicated and, provided you are not causing a disturbance to your neighbours, there is no-one you can report a noisy housemate to. It is important to think about individual lifestyles and study needs. You will need to be more considerate and quiet, for example, during a housemate's assessment period. If there is a mix of early to bed/late to rise housemates, you may want to consider a rule that avoids noise both early and late in the day.
- House security. Student houses can be prime targets for crime so you need to agree on rules about making sure windows are closed and all doors locked if people are out. Thefts have been known to occur when some tenants are in the house and they haven't even noticed because they are so used to hearing people coming and going. If no-one is in the kitchen, the back door should be locked. Further information is available on our Safety & Security page.
- Cooking rotas. What you agree in terms of cooking will depend on what is important to you as a house. You need to think about how you will use the kitchen; will you eat together and take in turns to cook. Most kitchens will not be big enough if all housemates decide they want to cook separate meals all at the same time. For a housemate that plans to only use the microwave, this is unlikely to be important but, if you like to spend an hour or so cooking your evening meal, you need to think about how that will work for everyone else.
- Heating the house. This is another issue that may seem trivial at first but can become a big issue. Noone likes to be too cold or too hot in a house and som emay take issue with having higher bills because one or two housemates feel the cold more than others. You will need to make sure you heat the house to a reasonable degree during colder months to help avoid condensation but, whether you want the heating on a set timer or if you are happy for people to turn on and off as they feel necessary, is a conversation worth having at the start.
- Putting the bins out. Cardiff County Council will fine you if you do not adhere to their rules on refuse and recycling. These rules cover what you can put in each bin, when you need to put those bins out and when you need to make sure they are back off the street. You can download the Cardiff Gov app and set reminders but you also need to agree how this is going to work in terms of responsibility within the house. It can be a good idea to create a rota to avoid one or two housemates ending up doing all the work and feeling unfairly treated.
- Paying bills. As a starting point, all housemates need to pay their share of the bills in a timely manner. If one or more housemates fail or delay in the payment, their actions can have financial implications for all. Misssing or late payments can also affect everyone's credit rating and that can start to cause some very emotive arguments. More information is available on our Bills & Council Tax page.
- Anything else the group think important. One of the most important things you can do in a shared house is to understand how your behaviour might impact on others. You may feel it okay to leave your dishes to accumulate over the day but others may find that seriously annoying. If you are using a shared space, it may mean that someone else has to wash up your pots and pans to be able to cook. Others like to cook and eat in a clean space. Always try be respectful and open to compromise. It is unhelpful to look at issues like these as who is right or wrong, who is reasonable or unreasonable. Everyone has the right to like things a certain way and you will need to make an effort to compromise if you disagree. The same is true if a group of housemates disagree with one or two others; being in a majority doesn't mean you are automatically entitled to behave in a certain way. Remember that these are your housemates and it is very important not to make anyone feel ostracized or bullied. Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure in their own home.
Schedule time as a house
Proper communication is vital so always try to talk and listen to each other in person. Group chats and messaging are great for quick bits of information but not for dealing with issues that may affect your relationship. Regular time together as a house can be a really helpful way to keep your realtionship healthy and stop issues from festering.
This can be as simple as factoring in a regular house night, where you have a meal, takeaway and/or watch a film together. You need to be mindful in doing this that ideally all should be involved, or at least feel genuinely invited to join.
It is a good idea to have a restorative house meeting on a regular basis (fortnightly/monthly). A restorative meeting is a space where everyone has uninterrupted time to speak and everyone listens respectfully. This will help to make sure any issues are nipped in the bud and everyone feels listened to. The house meeting needs to allow everyone to talk for a couple of minutes, uninterrupted, about how they are feeling and anything they wish to share, positive or negative.
A restorative meeting does not necessarily have to be about raising issues if you don't have any. You can use a structure to encourage conversation, for example, each member of the group
- says their best something and worse something (where in the world you would most like to travel, or the your worst ever meal); then
- list something that has made them happy/sad/worried/annoyed lately.
This may sound silly at first but can be a great way to build better relationships and get a better understanding of people. It can also actually be fun and you can bring cakes or have a takeaway. At the end of the meeting, agree who will start the next one and when it will be. This might seem very structured but it really can work well.
Sometimes, living with new people is not always what you may have expected, and things can go wrong. If this is the case for you, check out our advice on Housemate Disputes, and addressing issues early.
Contact Student Advice
+44 (0)2920 781410