Living with your friends probably sounds both great and also like an absolute nightmare – don’t pretend you haven’t noticed your mate’s hygiene standards. But once you have signed a contract together, it is legally binding, and you can’t just leave your house at the first dispute.
Too many rules can feel stifling, and after all, these people are your friends, are strict agreements necessary? But everyone has different lifestyles and expectations, so it is worth talking through practical things – how frequently the bathrooms will be cleaned, what food will be shared etc. – as soon as you move in. This way you have an agreed expectation that you can then hold people to if you feel uncomfortable.
It’s always best to try to talk through disputes before they get too heated. There’s no point burning with passive-aggressive resentment when a simple conversation can help. There’s a good chance your housemate simply hasn’t realised how their behaviour is affecting you. Remember to bring up the issue in a reasonable manner. Nobody likes a nagger.
A whiteboard in the kitchen can be a useful place to leave reminders about everything from bin collection dates to when your family is coming to stay.
It’s tempting to let off steam about a difficult housemate, particularly with other housemates, when they’re not around. This can create factions within your house and worsen the conflict. It’s almost always better to address the problem directly.
Even if your behaviour seems perfectly reasonable to you, remember that everyone has different habits and routines. Respect your housemate’s opinions if they say they are affected by your behaviour, and see if you can make any reasonable changes to help.
You may all be individual adults, but you have to function as one unit when it comes to decisions that affect the whole household. Make sure to reach an agreement that takes into account everyone’s opinions on such issues.
Life at University can be hard. Make sure to take a couple of minutes to check up on your housemates when they seem out of sorts. Creating a supportive environment can be one of the best things about living with friends.
We would always suggest trying to resolve issues between you and your housemates informally in the first instance. Are there things you could put in place to help alleviate the tension? For instance if you are losing sleep because of a night-owl housemate’s midnight shower routine, you could suggest all housemates shower between 08:00 and 20:00, or if you and one particular housemate really aren’t getting on, you could suggest you cook at different times to prevent further arguments.
One way to do this is by arranging a ‘house meeting’, where all housemates get together at the same time and speak about any issues. Your landlord or agent may be willing to attend the meeting to aid discussion; this can help ensure the conversation is productive and may also encourage all housemates to attend.
Invest in some ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones for those moments when you need a bit of peace and quiet.
Most disputes result in nothing more serious than a heated debate, but if a dispute or uncomfortable housing situation escalates to the point that you feel threatened, make sure to seek help. Your landlord/agents may offer to act as a mediator, or in extreme situations, you should involve the police. You can reach them for non-emergency cases by calling 101.
If you are unable to resolve the issues informally, and wish to find out about what other options are available, you can ask for help from our Advice Service. Simply fill out the enquiries form here.
Page last reviewed: 30/01/2019