How to split the bills with your flatmates, and survive.
If you’re moving in to a shared apartment in the UK, or if you’re still searching to find flatmates in London as a way to save costs, then these tips will help you figure out how to optimize the sharing of the overhead utility bills and charges.
A great advantage of having a flatmate or a roommate, besides the extra company, is that you can split the costs of the rent and bills, which usually means you will be able to afford a larger, nicer, modernly equipped and better located apartment to rent than you would be able to do on your own, as otherwise the costs would’ve been very expensive. However, when it comes to sharing the expenses in the end of the month, it might get.. “sensitive”, as is the case usually when it comes to money.
Everyone values money differently, some people like to spend more, and others tend to be more calculated, so before you sign a rental lease together with your flatmates for an apartment, make sure that you and your flatmates or roommates are on common grounds regarding finances, so none of you will be left disappointed, financially broke, or feeling bitter, which might affect the relationships in the apartment afterwards.
The first step is to define how you will split the rent and the other expenses. You might think that that is the easiest part, but if the bedrooms have different sizes, or if one person tends to use more amenities than the others, or one of the flatmates’ partner tends to stay often overnight, then these little differences might put quite a lot of strain on the atmosphere between the flatmates. So in this case, what can you do? Here are some tips that can help you calculate how much each flatmate is supposed to pay:
- Splitting the cost by the size: If the bedrooms you are using are different in size, you may want to consider calculating what each flatmate should pay based on the size of the room. To do so, first you need to figure out the relative size of room from the total size of the apartment or house. You can do this by dividing the cost of the rent by the total square meter of the apartment. To give an example, if your rent is £1000 per month for a 100 square meter apartment, the cost for a m2 is £10. Next step you need to determine how big the bedrooms are in square meter, and multiply the number by the cost of a square meter. If one bedroom is 30 m2 and the other is 34 m2 then the rental rate for the bedrooms would be £300 and £340 respectively. For the shared areas, such as the kitchen, living room and shared bathrooms you can split the cost, and this is how it will be fair according the sizes of the bedrooms.
- Checking the amenities: In addition to the square meters, you should also consider the amenities. For example, if one roommate gets a master bedroom with her own, private bathroom and a closet, and the other roommates are using a shared bathroom, and no walk-in closet, then the roommate with the private bathroom should pay more than the others, because she can use more amenities in the apartment. Imagine there is a balcony for the apartment, that you agree on, everyone can use. However, if there is only one door that leads to the balcony, and it is through one of the bedrooms, the other roommates cannot use the balcony as freely as the one with the direct way. To maintain the good relationship, and to avoid future frustration, it is worth going through these extras in the apartment to see how you can work them in the cost of the flat.
- Considering other shared expenses: When talking about how to split the rent it is worth to talk about the utilities as well. If only one roommate wants to have cable TV, but the others don’t feel it would be necessary, or they would not use it, it would not be fair if everyone had to pay for the expensive subscription. Also, nowadays Internet and Wi-Fi are a must, but there are different packages with very different prices. If one does not need a super fast and huge Internet, because they only need it to read emails, but the others want to stream and upload videos, the one needing the minimal Internet speed should not pay for the extra charge. Talk to your roommates what are the extras they definitely need in the apartment, decide how you will pay for these bills, so no one feels like they are paying for something they are not using at all.
When sharing an apartment with other flatmates, it is very important to decide who will handle the payments. It can be just one person handling them all, or you can decide who will be responsible for the bills, and who will handle the rent itself. Selecting one or two people for this task is a very good decision, because otherwise you can end up in a situation where everyone is waiting for the other to take care of the bills and rent, and as a result you will be late with the payments, and end up paying lots of money for late payment fees. Being organized in the matter of bills is crucial, so you don’t waste money on different extra fees.
When signing a lease you need to determine your payment method. You landlord will most likely tell you how you need to pay the rent; it can be in cash, via check or with money transfer. You need to discuss, whether one of you will handle it for all of you, or everyone will do it on their own. But if you signed the lease together it is very important that all of you pay for the rent promptly, because otherwise you can jeopardize your living situation if someone does not pay for their rent, and the landlord decides he does not want to keep the situation like that. To avoid this you can set up a reoccurring payment on your bank account, so you won’t need to worry about being late with the rent payments.
As for the utility bills – electricity, gas, heating, cable, water, Internet, etc. – you need to decide how you will want to pay for. You may decide to split the amount on the bills every month, or divide the payment by the average amount of the bill. Dividing every single bill every month can be a long procedure, but sometimes it is worth more, than just paying the averages. Anyhow, you need to find a method to keep track of who paid for what, who owes to whom. You can use a traditional spreadsheet placing it in a place everyone can see, for example on the fridge, or you can download bill-splitting applications, such as Splitwise or Cospender, which will help you figuring out the payments and help remind you who paid for what. These applications are not self sufficient, it will still take time to put in all the data, but it will make your life a lot easier. In addition you may want to discuss a due date until everyone gives their share of the payment, and everyone pays back everyone, to avoid future conflicts.
Sign a roommate agreement. When you have worked out all the details about how you will pay for the shared expenses, it is worth the time to write it down in a roommate agreement. It may seem strange and overly precautions to sign a contract with your flatmates and roommates, especially when you already know each other and you are friends, but having all the details written down can save you from arguments in the future. Other then the finances you can add the other rules you agree upon, such as cleaning schedule, pets and guests.
Renting an apartment with flatmates should not be taken lightly, but this does not mean it has to be stressful. If you are honest with your future flatmates, and you can work out sharing the apartment in great details, it will be a great experience, and good fun. Don’t get intimidated by all the things you need to figure out, sit down with them, and with these tips you can easily talk through the process of splitting all the bills and expenses. It can happen that after moving in the apartment you have to revise the rules, in this case you don’t need to get scared, just do it. Being smart with your finances doesn’t mean you are not flexible and fun, it only means you are a responsible adult, who cares for their future.
I hope these tips will help you figure out how to split the costs with your flatmates. Good luck on your new apartment, and don’t forget – if you haven’t found your room, roommates or flatmates yet, checkout the following link for listings of flatmates and rooms for rent in the UK.