Many people will live under the same roof with other people who are not their family members at one or another stage of their life.
While this period is often characterised by a carefree time in one’s life, it is still vital that all parties living together are respectful and responsible towards each other.
Problems arising while you are sharing a property with roommates cannot only lead to unpleasantness, but if these problems are serious and persist they can even impact your creditworthiness going forward.
Steve van Wyk, from Seeff, gave the following tips:
• Schedule regular compulsory house meetings where the house rules are discussed, chores are divided and it is decided who pays for what and when these payments are due.
• Be fair. If one roommate has a much bigger room or indoor parking space while the other roommates have to use off-street parking, that person should probably pay more. Also keep this in mind when you split the water and electricity accounts for the month. If one roommate never showers, but baths twice a day or uses the oven for baking and cooking much more than the others, this should also be taken into account.
• The lease should be in everyone’s name. This means that everyone shares equal responsibility and it is therefore essential that all roommates pay their portion of the lease and utility bills on time. One bad payer could result in the landlord choosing not to extend the lease or even in the landlord taking legal action.
• Respect your roommates’ privacy. For instance, if you want to bring someone over to spend the night at your shared residence, check with your roommates first. Also avoid bringing your guests into the common space too much as they may invade the privacy of the people who pay to live there and who call it “home”.
• If you are planning to move out or if you are trying to back out of your lease before it expires, check with the agent first what your rights are. If you are permitted to get someone to take over your lease then make sure you give your roommates adequate notice. Don’t just get anyone to take over your lease in order to get away. Ask your roommates to weigh in as they will be the people living with this person.
• When problems arise amongst roommates always try to resolve them amicably and internally before involving the landlord. Remember, the landlord is only looking to earn an income on an investment and doesn’t want to get involved in domestic disputes and internal drama when it is not absolutely necessary.
• Respect the rules of the property set out in the lease agreement and remind your roommates of them too. If, for example, there is a “no pets” policy or you are not allowed to insert nails into the wall, make sure these rules are adhered to. Remember – it is your deposit on the line too.
• If one roommate moves out a proper inspection should be done if that roommate contributed to the deposit. This is very important as a disagreement may arise with the withholding of the deposit if damage has been caused and one cannot apportion the blame to a specific tenant.