Common Problems With Flat Sharing

Here's what you need to know when you're having problems with your flatmates.

  • Who - good friends don’t always make good flatmates so have an honest conversation with them before deciding if you want to live together.
  • Budget - consider how much you can spend each month on rent. Put together a budget sheet and remember to include all the money you will have going out (bills, travel, books, phones, meals, leisure activities, trips back home etc)
  • Where - students live all over London but there are some areas that are more popular with Imperial Students. Don’t restrict your area of research based on preconceptions. Have a good look around and use the help available to decide on an area.
  • Timing - most students look for a place between May and September. The housing market in London is very competitive and moves quickly so once you have seen a place, you will have to make a decision quickly. Don’t leave it too late as this will make the process more stressful. Leave yourself enough time to research the area and view a number of different properties before you make a decision.

Paying your share of the rent

What happens if one person doesn't pay their share of the rent? In a flat share, you usually all have equal responsibility for paying rent. Otherwise you could all be evicted and the landlord can try to get all the money from any one of you. This is called joint liability. However, there are other possible legal arrangements. It may be that you each only have legal responsibility for your part of the rent and your flat mate isn’t paying–you can’t be evicted.

Check the legal agreement you signed when you moved in. If you have a joint tenancy, you have joint liability and will have to cover the other person’s share of the rent and then try to get it back from them. You may be able to take legal action to get back the money.

Paying your share share of the bills

What happens if one person doesn't pay their share of the bills? The most common situation is that one of you asks for the gas or electricity to be connected? That person is entering into a contract for the supply. If their name is on the bill and they will be legally responsible for the whole of the bill until they end the contract. You will usually have to pay the whole bill and take legal action against the others for the money, even if you/they move out.

In some cases, the supplier can hold other people in the flat responsible for the bill. So if you're the person who asks for the fuel supply, it is best to get it accepted in writing by the supplier that you are asking for the supply on behalf of everyone else. If an account has been set up using the names of all the residents, the supplier can legally chase anyone named on the account for any outstanding debts.

The situation is different again if no-one actually enters into a contract for the supply of fuel. You might just carry on using fuel that was already connected when you moved in. This is called a deemed contract. In this case, any adult living in the property and using gas and electricity can be held responsible for paying for the whole of the supply.

As the legal situation is so complicated, you may need expert advice from