Moving away from home and living with other students is an awesome time in your life. You will finally get the chance to live independently, make loads of new friends, and have lots of fun! Shared student housing can turn into a nightmare if you have a housemate who doesn’t pay their share of utility bills. Unfortunately, many student houses have situations where one person conveniently “forgets” their bill payments, or moves out unexpectedly and stops paying bills altogether. This can cause stress on the rest of the house and make shared living less fun – nobody likes having to talk about money! To help you in these situations, here are our top tips on what to do when your housemate isn’t paying their bills:
Speak with your housemate
The first step should be to have a chat with your housemate and ask why they are missing their bill payments. You may find out that they have recently lost their part-time job or are struggling to manage their finances – as a student this can be pretty common. In these circumstances, if you’re money smart you could try offering advice on how they can improve their financial situation, including how to budget their student loan better or asking for financial support from a family member. It’s never a good idea to lend money to friends, as it can lead to further issues and arguments over repayments down the line. Make sure you explain the affect their actions are having on the rest of the house and encourage them to start making payments on time.
Manage your bills better
A housemate may be missing bill payments because they are confused about when and how they need to pay – being away from home and embracing adulthood can be a bit daunting to start with. To avoid this, you should try and get organised with your bill management, making sure that everyone knows how much they need to be putting in each month to cover utility bills. Using a bill splitting app can make managing your bills easier – we’ll do the hard work for you by providing all the utilities for your house and splitting the bills evenly between you and your housemates. Utilities such as gas, electricity, water, broadband, and TV licence are grouped into one super simple monthly bill and payment is made on the same date of each month. No more awkward conversations with your mates, better budgeting and everyone is only responsible for their share.
Check the terms of your rental agreement
If the above doesn’t sound right for you, then you should refer to the terms of the rental agreement to check what type of tenancy agreement you have in place. In shared accommodation, you often have equal responsibility for paying the total rent due – this is called joint liability. This means you and your housemates are responsible for covering any outstanding costs if a housemate suddenly stops paying their rent. Worst case scenario could mean your whole household being evicted if the total monthly rental cost is not being paid. However, it may be the case that you are only responsible for your part of the rent. This is known as an individual liability agreement. In this case, the landlord may choose to evict the housemate who isn’t paying their rent and find another student to move into the house. It’s worth speaking to your landlord and reading the tenancy contract to check where you stand legally.
Contact your utility providers
When it comes to utility bills, it can be far more complicated if a housemate doesn’t pay their share. Usually, the savvy housemate who contacted the utility provider to set up gas and electricity is entered into a contract with the provider. This means they are legally responsible to pay the total utility costs until the contract ends. If the other housemates refuse to pay their part of the utility bills, then the housemate with the contract in their name is responsible for covering whatever cost is outstanding themselves. This can get quite messy if they then try to get the money back by taking legal action against the others. In some cases, the utility provider will hold other housemates responsible for the payment, but only if they can prove that the person who took out the contract did so on behalf of the other tenants. To avoid this, you should always try to include everyone’s name on the contract when you set up the utility bills. This means that everyone will be equally responsible if any payments are missed.
Going to university should be one of the most exciting and memorable times in your life. For most people, living in shared student accommodation is an amazing experience. However, there is always the risk that you will end up with a housemate who doesn’t pull their weight or pay their share of the bills. This can lead to unnecessary stress and awkward conversations. You shouldn’t let a housemate ruin your university experience or damage your finances. Use the above suggestions to help you deal with a housemate who isn’t paying bills and contact the Citizens Advice Bureau if you need any further advice.