The state of housing availability in the UK has long been a bone of contention as both rents and house prices rise and young people find it extremely difficult to get a foot on the property ladder.
For many of you, though it's not about buying but finding somewhere decent to live, whether you're a student or working full or part-time. You might also be in the position of being older and with a large property that has empty rooms, ideal for welcoming tenants if you get everything right.
House sharing is now a popular way to find accommodation that doesn't cost a fortune in rent and outgoings, so if you think that might be a good choice for you, here are a few tips to bear in mind when setting up a house share, whether it's just renting a room for yourself or living with a group of friends.
Prepare for the paperwork and initial costs
Whenever you make an application to rent a property, as a house share, a house, flat or just a room, be prepared to have money available for estate agent application fees, a deposit and the first month's rent in advance. Some letters ask for more than one month as they may have experienced problems with tenants either not paying on time or not paying at all.
Check out your rights as a tenant and read any tenancy agreement very carefully. Always ask if you're not sure about something to make sure you are covered if there are any problems during the tenancy. There will usually be a set period, generally, six months, that you must sign up for, and then there should be a rolling agreement so you or the landlord can give notice after an agreed length of time.
If you're sharing a house always make sure you pay your rent on time. It's fair to the landlord and protects you from the possibility of eviction if you build up arrears.
Insure your belongings
Your landlord will have buildings insurance in case of a problem with the property, but you will be responsible for insuring your personal belongings. You can get reasonably priced cover for your contents but also check if you need insurance for damages to carpets, curtains or furniture if the property is furnished. Spilt red wine makes a mess so protect yourself from carpet replacement costs.
Share your liability for bills
House sharing can be a real benefit regarding reducing your outgoings so work out what your share will be as accurately as possible. Utility bills can be paid through a monthly direct debit which will attract a discount that will help offset the higher costs in the colder months. Also, bear in mind internet and TV subscription charges. Sharing bills will mean you have more disposable income at the end of the month than you would if living on your own so factor that in when you make decisions.
Access to kitchen and bathroom(s)
Shared kitchens can be fun as you gather round with housemates and swap recipes or cooking tips. Fridges, freezers and cupboards can prove tricky in terms of what belongs to whom. So that people know what is and isn't theirs, lay some ground rules. Sure, you can borrow stuff but always ask first.
The bathroom can be trickier, especially if everyone is leaving roughly at the same time in the morning, and even more so if a housemate spends a long-time showering/getting ready. You could set up a rota, but it's probably worth sitting down and talking through the options first.
For cleaning duties it is best to have a rota or designated areas that a person is responsible for - not just their room. If you need some bathroom window options for furnishing, look to window shutters as they're easy to keep clean. Your communal living area should be a pleasant place to relax so cleaning it regularly will give everyone a much more relaxed space to be in. The messier you leave a room or other spaces the more likely you are to have your deposit withheld at the end of the tenancy, so keep it clean!
There are many bulletin boards online where you can advertise for new tenants and it's worth getting a professional agency to screen tenants by checking their work situation and financial records, so you can be protected as much as is possible.
House sharing can be genuinely enjoyable provided you are well organised and aware of potential pitfalls, so why not consider taking the plunge?