Choosing Your Flatmates

Your flat is your home, so think about what “home” means to you. What kind of environment do you want to live in, and with what kind of people? A word of caution: best friends don’t always make the best flatmates.

The majority of tenancy agreements for students in Dunedin are joint and fixed term. A joint fixed term agreement essentially identifies all flatmates as one tenant (“joint”) for all intents and purposes. It is important to understand this because the impacts of a joint agreement gone wrong are massive. For example, if one of your flatmates stops paying rent, you and your other flatmates are responsible for any outstanding rent. This is just one reason why it is important to choose a flatmate wisely. Here are some questions that will help guide you when deciding who to live with. 

10 Questions to ask a potential flatmate:

  1. Is this a rent that you can afford throughout the length of the fixed term?

This can be an uncomfortable question to ask, but it is important to know from the get go. It is a good idea to talk finance early on in the relationship, because you are in fact entering a financial contract together. Sort of like marriage.

  1. What’s your position on cleaning?

One person’s ‘clean’ may be another person’s, well, ‘filthy’. Be honest with yourself about how tidy you are and choose a flatmate who is similar. 

  1.  What about washing up?

It’s no fun for anyone if you hate mess and your flatmate is happy to leave dishes in the sink for a few days. If you choose a perfectionist for a flatmate and you are fairly laid back about the odd coffee cup in the sink, you may find that you’re the one being nagged.

  1. How do you think food shopping should be organised? What about cooking?

Cooking with your new flatmates can be a great way to build friendships, as well as potentially being more cost-effective than cooking for one. Having similar-sized appetites and tastes in food is an important thing to consider, as well as dietary requirements. It’s no good being the only vego in a carnivore-dominated flat.

  1. How long do you tend to spend in the bathroom in the morning (especially if there’s only one bathroom available)?

If you work similar schedules and both want to be showering at 7am this could be a problem, unless you’re really chill about boundaries. Try moving any unnecessary tasks out of the bathroom, like applying make-up or drying your hair, in order to free up more shower time.

  1. What are your thoughts around paying bills collectively?  

Do you create flatting rules around shower usage? How do you actually pay your utilities? Do you want to create and fund a flatting account? These are important things to work out before starting your tenancy. Don’t be afraid to shop around for your utilities.

  1. Are you planning to have friends around regularly?

Some people are very sociable, while others want to head home from work to some peace and quiet. Find out if your potential flatmate plans on having friends around for drinks or parties and see if that fits in with your usual routine. 

  1. What about partners? Will they be staying over?

There’s nothing wrong with having a partner stay over one or two nights a week, but if they’re hogging the shower and have practically moved in then things can get a little tense. Be upfront with potential flatmates and let them know what you’d be comfortable with.

  1.  What can you contribute to the flat?

A potential flatmate who owns a couch or a TV could earn brownie points if you’re looking to furnish a new property. If your place is fully set-up, a flatmate who wants to bring a heap of furniture could be more of a hindrance than a help. Remember: shopping carts are a great way to transport furniture on the cheap. 

  1. Describe yourself in three words.

Get a feel for your potential flatmate’s personality and figure out if you’re likely to mesh well. You have to share a house with this person, after all!