Things to agree in advance

Deciding who to live with is only the beginning. Next you need to decide whether you will have joint or separate tenancies - this will have a big impact on your rights. It also helps if everyone agrees on some basic ground rules before you move in together. If everything's clear from the start, it could save you from having major rows later on.

What kind of tenancy do you have?

First, you need to decide what kind of tenancy agreement to have:

  • separate tenancies

  • a joint tenancy

  • a tenancy in only one person's name.

This decision will have a big impact on your rights, so it's important to check that everyone you share with understands what type of agreement you will all have and what it means.

In some cases you may not have a choice. For example, your landlord may insist on you having a joint tenancy.

Find out more about the differences between these tenancies.

Remember, your rights will also depend on who your landlord is. For example, you will have different rights if you rent from the council, from a private landlord, or from a university. Check your tenancy type here if you're not sure.

Does the owner/landlord or lender know you're living there?

If you're moving in as a lodger or subtenant, ask the person you're renting from whether they have permission from their landlord or mortgage lender to rent a room out. If they don't, you won't have many rights. If the landlord or lender decides to evict the person you're living with, you will nearly always have to leave too.

Are there any house rules?

Just going with the flow rarely works. If you can, work out answers to the following questions before you move in:

  • Which part of the house or flat will be your part? Are there any rooms you're not allowed to go into without permission?

  • Is there a cleaning rota, to save arguments over the washing up?

  • Is there a no smoking rule?

  • Do other housemates' partners stay over regularly? What about other guests?

  • What's the policy on parties?

  • What do the other people in the flat do? If they work, what are their hours? Will you be queuing for the bathroom in the morning? Or will you have to keep quiet during the day so flatmates working nightshifts can sleep?

  • Do any students live there? This will affect your council tax.

  • Are you allowed pets? Does anyone else in the flat own pets?

Will anyone be claiming benefits?

If you move in with someone else or someone else moves in with you, this may affect the amount of benefit you are entitled to receive:

  • If you move into someone else's home which they own or rent, their benefits could be reduced - even if you don't pay them any money for rent or bills.

  • If you are the tenant and are claiming benefits, your benefits could be reduced if someone moves in with you - even if they do not pay you any money for rent or bills.

  • If, when you move in, you are going to have a joint tenancy with your partner, parent or child, you or the person you are living with could have their benefits reduced.

If you or the person you are moving in with are claiming any benefits, you must tell the DWP or you could be overpaid benefit. You will then be asked to pay back the overpayment when you are found out. You could even be prosecuted for fraud.

If you live in a flatshare where everyone is responsible for rent or bills, it is unlikely that anyone's benefit will be affected. 

Who pays for what?

Most people who live together occasionally have rows about money. But it helps if you're clear about certain things from the start:

  • How much rent will you pay, when will it be due and who will you pay it to?

  • How will you divide up household bills? Especially the house telephone. Remember, even if only one person's name is on the gas and/or electricity bills, you are all jointly and individually liable for paying them. This means the supplier can chase up any of you for the money if the bill isn't paid.

  • Is there a kitty for communal items such as toilet roll and washing up liquid?

  • What happens if somebody breaks something belonging to your landlord? Does it come out of your shared deposit or does the person who broke it have to pay for it?

What's the situation with council tax?

If you live alone, you will receive a 25 percent discount on your council tax bill. You will no longer be entitled to this if someone else moves in. If you and your housemates are all full-time students, you won't need to pay any council tax at all. If one person isn't a student, that individual will be sent a bill, but they will get a 25 percent discount if they are the only non-student living there.

Everyone in the home will be jointly and individually liable for paying the council tax. This means that if one person can't or won't pay their share, the other housemates will have to pay it for them, unless they are exempt.

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Last updated: 3 April 2018

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England