4 ground rules to set before moving in with a new housemate


We’re all savvy to at least one housemate horror story of our own or that of a friend. Like the food freeloader that is forever scrounging dinner and snacks off you but never returns the favour. The messy housemate who leaves dirty socks and underwear littered throughout the house (and I mean everywhere, on the bathroom floor, in the hallway and on the coffee table). Probably most frustrating of all is the housemate that is perpetually late with paying the rent and bills causing unnecessary household tension and strain every time a payment looms.

If you’re moving in with your partner, a friend, sibling or a stranger it is worthwhile to make sure you’re both clear on your expectations and shared responsibilities by setting up some ground rules to avoid a share house of horrors.

Here are four types of rules you should discuss and establish prior to moving in with your new housemate to ensure your home is as harmonious and comfortable as possible. 

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1. Money matters.

To save you a lot of stress down the track, make sure you and your housemate come to an agreement upon the best method of paying rent, bills and shared household items (like toilet paper and cleaning supplies). Ensure it is clear if you are splitting the bills fifty/fifty and how you will divide the cost of household necessities before the expenses crop up.

There are a number of fantastic apps out there that take the awkward element out of having to ask your housemate for money. You can program them to send you and your housemate reminders when rent and certain bill payments are due.

The free app Splitwise is useful tool for tracking bills and other shared household expenses, so that everyone chips in their fair share and gets paid back.

HomeBudget is also a handy app for setting reminders for bill due dates and tracking and sharing household expenses with multiple users.

2. Common areas.

Discussing and making it clear what areas and things are off limits to your housemate and visitors (like your bedroom) is especially important if you like your ‘me time’ and personal space.

When setting up some ground rules about common shared space you should cover:

  • Noise. Make sure you have an arrangement when it comes to acceptable noise levels, time restrictions on parties and having large group of guests over.
  • Storage. To make it clear and fair discuss use of closet space and allocate shelves in the fridge, pantry and linen cupboards to avoid confusion. For example, if one housemate has little wardrobe space in their bedroom it only seems reasonable they should have some extra closet space in the linen cupboard.
  • Furnishings and decorations. Seeing as you’re sharing most of your space, it only seems fair to consult your housemate before putting up a poster from your favourite movie in the living room or buying a big purple velvet couch, which may not be to their taste.
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 3. Household chores.

Cleaning and mess is one of the more challenging issues to get right and agree upon amongst housemates. If someone isn’t pulling their weight mess and dirty dishes have a way of breeding resentment and conflict within any household.

The best and fairest way to share the cleaning load is to set up a roster for the common areas in the house that require frequent cleaning (i.e. the bathroom and kitchen). You could have a one week on one week off agreement, or simply take it in turns when the bathroom needs a good clean. Do whatever you both feel would work for you.

There are also a number of amazing apps out there (like HomeRoutines, Unfilth Your Habitat and Chorma) that can be a great way to divide up chores and set reminders for when they need to be completed.

A sink full of spaghetti bolognese stained pots and bowls soaking for days on end is enough to make anyone’s blood boil. So when it comes to dirty dishes discuss with your housemate what you think is a reasonable time to leave a dish in the sink before washing it, who should do the washing up if you are sharing the cooking and what method of drying you want to use (a drying rack or by hand).

4. Having guests to stay.

This is a very important topic to discuss for reasons of comfort, fairness and also personal safety. If your roommate’s girlfriend practically moves in without officially moving in, then it is not fair on you to have the space you’re paying for constantly invaded and footing the bill for her share of the rent and utilities.

When discussing the ground rules for overnight guests you should determine:

  • How many nights are acceptable? This is a key point of contention if your housemate is in a relationship with someone that isn't on the lease. In this case it is especially important to establish the difference between a visitor and a freeloader. Having a two or three night guest stay limit per week can be a good way to go about it. If a guest exceeds the agreed upon limit they should have to contribute to bills, chores and rent.
  • Who is allowed to stay? If you’re concerned with your safety, the security of your personal belongings and having random visitors lurking around your place, you should establish a rule on how long your housemate should know someone before they’re allowed to stay over, just to be on the safer side.
  • Can you copy keys? Decide whether you and your housemate should be the only ones with access to your place or if you’re comfortable with giving a spare key to someone you trust or to a long term partner who stays over regularly.
  • Use of household items. Also talk about whether it is ok for guests to use your shampoo, hairdryer, soap, towels, milk and other household items they might need when they come to stay.
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Hopefully setting rules around these four topics will help to ensure you and your new roomies can live in a happy, clean and conflict free shared environment.

What are some of your housemate hacks? Please feel free to share in the comments section below. 

For more check out our guide to finding the perfect housemate and four great apps for keeping the piece in a share house.

Happy house hunting!

From the Homely team

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