House sharing

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This is an interesting record of how we use to run a six-person share-house back in my PhD student days in Brisbane. I wrote this handout to give potential housemates who were really serious about moving in. A large reason I wrote this is because of the conflict that occured in our house! We didn't always follow the rules, but we created a few over the years and one day I decided to write them all out.

About Our House

  • Address: xxx
  • Contact Person: Andrew Noske

This little handout for "potential housemates" is designed to answer any and every question you have about our house! Yes, this handout is pretty long, so it's probably best to read it after your visit! Generally we'll cover the most important stuff after "the tour" - this handout will cover any other little questions you were too afraid to ask, or simply didn't think to ask!

Share-House Living

Being part of a "share house" can be a wonderful experience - but only when things run smoothly. If you've ever lived in a share house you'll know it's not a "walk in the park". When there is conflict between housemates life can get very difficult and so it's imperative everyone in the house gets along. Ours is a six person share house, and so it's especially important that everyone is considerate of one-another, and understand all the rules and policies we have in place! :-)

Finding a New Housemate

When someone moves out, it's that's person's responsibility to advertise their old room and organize people to come over. The remaining five housemates must all agree on a new housemate before they can move in. Up until a new person moves in, the old housemate must continue paying rent.

Unfortunately, our house has made mistakes in the past and picked people who were not suitable and/or fell seriously behind in rent - and been burnt by it. This could probably have been avoided if we were better judges of character and/or asked the right questions.... and so we have made a list of questions so hopefully the same thing doesn't happen again.

When we show a new person the house and they are interested in the room, the way it works is we all tell them a bit about ourselves and then we ask them questions.... unfortunately we often forget to ask a lot of important questions... so I've written all the most important ones down so we can read them out or (if it's easier) for the person to fill in with a pen.

I've put these questions here:

House sharing - questions for potential housemate

DISCLAIMER: Use these questions with great caution. Although useful they are also very likely to intimidate and scare off potential housemates. It's up to your judgment to decide if, when and how to present these questions!

Switching Housemates

When we all agree on a new housemate and they are keen to move in, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Get the new person to complete and hand in the ProRentals Residential Tenancy Application form (here) so they are officially registered with ProRentals!
  2. The new housemate has to pay bond money to the old housemate (preferably electronic transfer) before we change the bond to their name. The bond is equivalent of four weeks rent for the entire house divided by six (~$583 in 2009 - although increases each year).
  3. ALL of us must fill in and submit an RTA "Form 6" Change of Shared Bond form (here) to reflect this change in bond AND house-mate. NOTE: There use to be a "Change of Tenants" form as well, but no more
  4. The new person moves in and starts paying rent!

Paying Rent

Rent must be paid every fortnight for the fortnight ahead. To ensure we always pay on time, I pay rent for the entire house every fortnight, and everyone pays me back. We have never had a late payment, and this is one of the reasons ProRentals love us. The rent for the house is due Thursday, but I like people to pay me on Monday to give it time to get into my account before I transfer it to ProRentals on Wednesday. The best idea is to set up an automatic electronic transfer and include your name as the description so I don't get confused who paid what. I keep a spreadsheet of all payments, and obviously if you are going to be late for a payment I appreciate advanced warning! I take rent seriously, but I would rather you pay late than try to pay me in cash.

Paying the Bills

Generally one person will be in charge of all the bills: electricity, Internet bills and excess water (we don't have gas). For each bill that comes in, we typically just split it down the middle.... even if someone has been away - it's just easiest that way. Internet costs ~$4 a week per person (charged each month) and electricity is generally ~$7 a week per person (charged every three months) although is always more during winter. We don't have a home phone, because splitting these bills used to be a huge pain, and we all have mobile phones anyway. Each time a bill comes in, the person in charge will pay it, and then hopefully send an e-mail out to let us know to pay them back. We also have a special "you-owe-me-money" sheet in our kitchen, where entries like bills or other items (eg: money for alcohol) can be entered and ticked off when paid... this system generally works well. Personally I like to insist people make any payments >$10 to me via electronic transfer so there is an irrefutable record in the unlikely case of dispute, or the much more common case of "I can't remember"!

Other House "Policies"

Since the very beginning (we first moved in Jan 2005) we've had a few "policies" in our house, which we tell new people, but never actually written them down! Like most good share houses, our house has developed it's own set of "rules and etiquette" to help ensure the smooth running of our house, to help avoid situations of resentment and to help keep things fair. So here they are in bullet point form:

  • Correspondence / Communication - If someone is coming to stay, or there is an important maintainable problem, or some other important house issue, you should let EVERYONE know so no-one feels left out! With people away at different time, e-mail is usually the best way to make sure you "catch everyone". If you're going away for a weekend, or there is a house inspection, it's a good idea to put it on the calendar too.
  • House meetings - Generally we're not the type of house that has "house meetings".... but feel free to announce one if something really important comes up.
  • Dishes - With six people dirty dishes can and has been one of the biggest causes of conflict in our house! Everyone washes their dishes after use. You should NEVER leave them overnight - else someone else will cave and do it for you - then harbour resentment. If you don't have time in the morning to clean your dishes leave them in you ROOM. Also: if the racks are full you are highly encouraged to empty them. We are too old to have a "roster" system - so obey the honesty system instead.
  • Shelf and Fridge space - we all get our own cupboard shelf and a couple of fridge shelves (depending on how many fridges we have).
  • Cooking - We mostly have different schedules, so we generally all cook for ourselves. Be warned: it can get crowded in the kitchen sometimes, but you'll soon get the hang of what times work... and learn that Andrew does usually does his BIG cook up for the whole week Saturday from ~2-5, during which time it's best to stay away! :-)
  • Cleaning - It is every-one's responsibility to make sure the lounge, kitchen and other communal area's stay clean. Your own room can be as messy as you like, but it is never cool to leave stuff lying around in the communal areas! If you notice the same person vacuuming the floor every week, offer to help or it will almost certainly lead them to resentment.
  • Mail - When you check the letter box, it's a nice gesture to slide letters under people's doors and not to leave too much mail or junk mail spread on the tv or kitchen table! We get a lot of letters to past residents, and we collect most of this in the cardboard box above the fridge.
  • Laundry - During the weekends there can be competition - the early bird gets the worm and the rest can put their pile in a queue downstairs. Also on the weekends it's polite to use the fastest setting. If the washing lines are full, you may take down someone's washing, but ONLY if it's bone dry, and you fold it neatly into a basket. Laundry powder is pretty much the ONLY thing in the house we share the cost of.
  • Damage to House - Since the floors upstairs are soft wood, ProRentals requires us to put sticky felt (which we can usually get from them for free) on the underside of all furniture, and also request we mats under roller chairs. You are not allowed to put blue tack or nails in the walls. The paint is now very old, and although we are allowed to use the (relatively expensive) peel-off "Command Strips" even these can cause paint to strip if not careful. If you do accidentally damage the walls, or break glass etc, we should e-mail our agent straight away.
  • Maintenance Requests - From time to time sockets break, or something leaks, and if it becomes a problem it's bets to let the agent know. In the past an e-mail was sufficient, but now they actually have a "Maintenance Request Form" to make it more formal. Upon hearing about a problem they're usually pretty good, and send over a guy to fix it within a couple of days. This contractor (electrician) will often call one of us to get let in, but usually we trust them and tell them they can just borrow the keys from ProRentals, as there is usually no-one home during business hours.
  • Ownership and Sharing of Items - Generally EVERY non-consumable item (eg: fridges, couches, tv etc) in the house is owned by someone. We do this so there is no argument over who takes what when people leave. However, the result of this is we often need new people to bring in certain communal items for the house to replace what we may have lost. Items like cooking oil, detergent and sponges we generally consider inexpensive, so in theory we take turns buying these things.
  • Lawns and garbage - Garbage night is Monday night. Andrew generally takes care of putting the garbage out and mowing the lawn. We borrow an old mower from Matt and Sharron over the road... it's not ideal, but the alternative is to pay >$100 for a professional!
  • Security - When you leave the house, make sure you lock both doors! We've never had anything stolen, but it's never a good idea to "assume" someone is home, or "it should be okay".
  • Privacy - As you probably noticed, none of the upstairs rooms have locks! For obvious reasons we have the policy knock before entering!
  • Dating - Becoming "involved" with someone within the SAME house (yes it happened once) is generally discouraged! If you bring someone over, keep in mind the walls are thin. If you partner wants to "moves in" (even briefly) you should consult the whole house to discuss first. :-P
  • Visiting friends / relatives - Bringing friends and/or your family members over to the house is absolutely fine. If someone wants to stay the night I have a spare mattress downstairs (and there is the couch), but if a stranger is going to be sleeping in the lounge you should definitely ask people first! Commonsense and courtesy applies, and YES; you are absolutely responsible for cleaning up any mess your visitors make. If a visitor stays in your room for longer than a week without contributing anything you should probably suggest to them we are suckers for little token gifts like alcohol. I'd like to think it was common courtesy to make nice gestures to people providing you free shelter, but at the risk of sounding old and bitter, I've met FAR too many people from the "me" generation who would ride the "freebie" train (i.e. not paying a cent) without giving back squat.
  • Parties - If you want to organize a party, let everyone know. If it's going to be late and loud we should probably also warn our neighbour directly beside us and behind us to reduce risk of police call out. If you go out clubbing and return late, please be aware of your noise levels, and even though you're probably drunk, try not stomp around too much on our floor, as the floorboards are not very thick.
  • Noise - Generally speaking, you shouldn't play loud music at all, as some of our housemates still have to study. You should however, be especially aware of the noise of the TV / computer / stereo after 10 pm. If you are trying to sleep and someone's noise is keeping you awake there is a good chance they are not aware. And so, you can toss and turn and "think" about telling them (like I use to), but it's best for everyone if you just tell them - even SMS if you have to. It's not something you should "think" about - it's a RULE. Tell them and they will probably be more than happy to turn it down. :-)
  • TV - First in best dressed... except in cases where you are outnumbered! This isn't usually a problem (many of us have our own TV in our rooms anyway). The bigger problem is when a couple "takes over" the couch. I know I've been guilty of this a few times..... just keep in mind that cuddling is nice, but can also piss people off. If someone else is around, be aware that they may also want to occupy the lounge without being "confronted" with heavy petting! You can do all the heavy petting you want in your own room. :-)

Living in Harmony

With that many people it's not uncommon for there to be problems/annoyances between housemates.... which is why we have the golden rule.

The Golden Rule of Sharehouses

If anyone has any problems/annoyances with anyone else in the
house they must approach them and talk about it!

If people just ignore these little problems they quickly blow out of proportion and that is when the real problems start. If people just talk about problems calmly talk about any problems they are usually resolved pretty quickly. These things can and do happen to the best of us, so it's best to be warned. Six housemates is a LOT of people! I've lived here for two-and-a-half years now and I've found that with that many people there is usually always something going on - two or more people who are frustrated with each other - even over something as trivial as doing the dishes (we're all suppose to wash our own dishes immediately after use but it doesn't always work that way).

Moving Out

As mentioned before we also have an important rule about moving out:

When someone leaves (i.e. which usually happens when people finish their degree etc),
it's that person's responsibility to give everyone advanced warning, to advertise the room
and to find someone to replace them that everyone else approves of.

Without this rule people could just leave and the rest of us would be stuck paying rent for the empty room! It seems to usually takes us two to five weeks for us to find a suitable new person, so it's a smart idea to advertise BEFORE you move out, to minimize the amount of rent you'll pay for an empty room! In the past we've tried to keep the balance of girls and boys even, but if we REALLY like the person their gender shouldn't affect our decision. :-)

Agent Details

Pricilla Hay (ProRentals)

Primary email:
Work: 0737216916 (primary)
Fax: 0737216966

Company: ProRentals
Job Title: Property Manager
Work Address: 49 Sherwood Rd, Toowong, Brisbane, Qld 4066

Notes: Are open 9-6 Monday to Friday.