Your legal rights with bad housemates

Starting the new academic year means a lot of students need student housing; sharing in halls is one thing, but your friendships are put to the test when you have to rent a shared house. While it’s great living with your mates, there are many grey areas to consider and even the smallest of things like cleaning, loud music and putting the heating on can cause stress and arguments. Avoiding drama with your housemates is easier if you know what your legal rights are, and can help you to avoid bickering about the bins.

Dirty and Dangerous  

Some of your flatmates may not be the cleanest people, constantly leaving dirty dishes stacked high, or not cleaning their share of the house, and it can start to become a real problem. If your housemates’ hygiene levels are not up to standard, it can affect your health. This is a serious issue which needs to be dealt with asap.

The best way to solve this is by calling a house meeting where everyone gets a fair chance to express their opinion (this method can be used in a lot of situations). Rather than putting it in the group chat where things can get heated, it’s always best to air out any problems in person. The fairest way to ensure your house is healthy is to make a cleaning rota for the communal areas, that way everyone is equal. However, if problems persist, contact your landlord, or even the Environmental Health Department for serious cases.

Live-in liability

Your housemate may have a partner who is there a lot of the time. At first, it was just at the weekends, then several times a week and now they practically live together! They’re using your electricity, heating and wifi, free of charge, and you’ve had enough.

Firstly, try to talk privately with your housemate to let them know that you think it is an issue. If they don’t listen, point out to them that you’re not allowed to sub-let or have anyone else living there long-term. Also, any behaviour that’s problematic for other tenants is against the rules so let your landlord know and they can deal with the problem.

Pet Pandamonium

Your housemate has got themselves a pet, and as cute as it may be, it can be a major problem. As the tenants, you have a joint tenancy agreement and you are all jointly responsible for any damage the pet causes, so it’s important to make your housemate aware of this and hopefully they will give up their furry friend.

Deposit Damage

If your landlord is trying to deduct money from your deposit for damage you didn’t cause or for damage caused by a previous tenant, you and all your housemates can be held responsible if your tenancy is shared. As long as you don’t mess anything up, your landlord can’t take your money unless they can prove they need the money to pay for any damage. Make sure you’re careful and make the landlord aware of any existing damages before you move in.

Bothersome Bills   

It’s that time of the month… time to pay your bills, but your housemates haven’t paid their share. Money can be a tricky subject to approach, especially when all your housemates are in different financial situations, (some people may be unsupported but not want to say anything) so be cautious and kind. Don’t assume they’re spending all their money on Deliveroo, think of the bigger picture and give them the benefit of the doubt.

But if they still refuse to pay after discussing it with them, then normally the person in charge of that bill will be contacted by the company in question. However, if this is ignored you may have to pay the bill yourself in order to avoid a final warning and get the money back from your housemate on legal terms.

Questionable contracts 

Before signing any papers, check that you agree with all parts of your contract so there are no problems later down the line. Most tenancies are covered if they are shorthold tenancies, however, in the first 6 months you and your housemates are secure anyway and this is not affected unless the landlord has a good reason.

Your landlord also has a lot of responsibility to sort out any problems in your house. If your shower is dripping or your washing machine has packed up, tell the landlord so they can fix it. Most landlords will send someone round pretty quickly. If you don’t alert the landlord to any problems that are not in the inventory, you will be charged at the end of your tenancy; just make sure that any fees you are charged comply with the Tenant Fees Act 2019.

Isabelle Marsh

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