Welcome to Modern Etiquette, a brand new series where we ask the pressing questions of 2018.
Once upon a time, many years ago, young people living in cities would rent flats all to themselves, or perhaps share with one friend. They had things called living rooms. Some of them even had spare bedrooms.
Nowadays those things are the stuff of mystery, with city dwelling 20 and 30 somethings crammed into houses of multiple occupancy, more commonly known as a shared house.
Shared houses can be amazing. Nights in watching Love Island, Saturday mornings on the sofa sharing your hangovers. Dinner parties, Sunday lunches, nights out. Living with people you click with is like being in a sitcom.
Of course that’s not always the case. As we saw from this terrifying advert for a flatmate, sharing a living space can be a nightmare. Whether it’s rows about the washing up or full blown cold wars about who uses the most fridge space or takes a 45 minute shower every morning, sharing a home is petrol for arguments.
Whether your house share is like a 2018 version of Friends, or an open prison, there will probably come a time when you’re ready to leave. Maybe some close friends are getting a house together, or you’re ready to move in with your partner. Perhaps you’re leaving the city or (shock horror) even buying a house. Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to leave a houseshare, but how you handle the complexities of leaving is the big question.
How to tell your housemates that you’re leaving is a thorny topic. General etiquette suggests that face-to-face is the most polite way to share bad news. However, anecdotal evidence actually supports the theory that an email or Whatsapp gives anyone who is upset the space to feel that in private.
Even if you do break the news in person, it’s smart to follow up with a written communication about when you’re planning to leave and what your exit strategy is, so that everyone has it for reference and you’re all on the same page.
Next you need to work out what kind of tenancy agreement you have.
Different types of tenancy, according to the Citizen's Advice Bureau
Tenancy arrangements in shared accommodation can vary. The most typical scenarios include:
- one tenancy agreement which each tenant in the property signs. You all share the property and its facilities and don’t have exclusive possession of any part, even though in practice you may agree to occupy a particular bedroom and pay individual contributions towards the rent. This is a joint tenancy
- each tenant in the property has their own tenancy agreement because they each have exclusive possession of one specific room while sharing other facilities such as the kitchen. In this case, each student has a sole tenancy
- one tenant in the property signs the tenancy agreement and has a sole tenancy. They then sub-let rooms separately to other students either as sub-tenants or as lodgers.
The most likely scenario is going to be that you replace yourself. Occasionally a landlord will decide to take on that role them self, if you had a sole tenancy and the landlord likes a tight grip on who lives in the flat.
It’s more likely that it’ll be your job to find a replacement. Generally speaking that means putting an advert on SpareRoom.com or similar, hosting interviews and saying lots of nice things about the flat you’re leaving.
Good etiquette dictates that you should try to find someone who the housemates who are staying at the house feel comfortable with. This person might not be their joint soulmate, but it’s not okay to just take the first person who applies in order to extricate yourself.
How to tell your housemates you're leaving
‘However valid your reasons for leaving are, the moment you drop the bomb to your housemates is never going to be an easy one. It’s usually possible to leave on good terms though. Keep these tips in mind and, even if you end up falling out, it won’t be down to you.
Don’t make it personal:
Even if you’re moving out because your flatmates are driving you insane, you’re sick of the mess, or fed up of their boyfriends always being around, there’s no need to go too hard on them. You’ve made your decision, and you’re getting out. There’s no need to be nasty about it.
Make sure you leave enough time for them to find a replacement. Even if it means another four weeks of living in a situation you’re not entirely happy with, just comfort yourself with the fact you’re getting out and do your time peacefully.
Communication really is key. Most issues can be resolved by talking and being honest with each other, so you know at every stage of the flatmate relationship what you should expect from each other. Even when you’re moving out
Make a graceful exit:
Which means no aggressive Post-It notes, no rubbish bags left behind and no last minute temptation to say ‘and one more thing….’
Matt Hutchinson, SpareRoom director.
If in doubt, agree a certain number of vetos with your housemate, meaning that they have to consider their use of the word no, but aren’t obliged to live with an adult Telly Tubbies enthusiast with a fondness for making their own Kimchi.
As with pretty much anything, communication is key. However, unlike emotional issues, housing negotiations really should involve written communications so that everyone is on the same page.
Also, remember that if you’ve signed up to a joint tenancy for a set period (usually one or two years, with a breakclause) then you’re not technically entitled to get out of the contract. Almost all landlords will allow it, but it’s their choice.
You’ll also have to foot the bill for the estate agents to change the names on the paperwork, which can be expensive. Shocker.
If you’re struggling with a rental situation, you can speak to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Modern Etiquette is a weekly series. Rather than telling you what to do with a salad crescent or which shoes are most appropriate for Ascot, we’ll be working out how to navigate shared houses, drugs, ex-boyfriends and that moment when you send the screenshot of the person you’re bitching about to them.
Next week, we’ll be discussing how to dump your personal trainer.