House-share from hell: Brits reveal lack of sharing leads to housemate squabbles

  • Four in five Brits admit to disagreements with housemates
  • Cleaning and bills key causes of arguments, according to new poll
  • People choose to live together due to financial difficulty of living alone
  • One in three pay more than their fair share, adding extra £339 per year
  • Quarter have even lost a friend due to a household disagreement

They say sharing is caring but new research reveals people might not have got the message when it comes to household chores and paying your way.

The research1 from Nationwide FlexStudent – the UK’s top-rated student account – polled more than 2,000 people who have lived in shared accommodation to better understand the pressures of communal living has on relationships. It reveals more than four in five (83%) Brits admit to having disagreements with their housemates.

By far and away the biggest issue for housemates is cleaning, with three in five (60%) admitting to arguing over who is responsible for cleaning the house or flat. However, it isn’t the only thing that creates friction because other topics of disagreement within shared accommodation include:

  • Food (cited by 33% of people)
  • Bills (30%)
  • Other using your things without permission (29%)
  • Music (18%)
  • Money (18%)
  • Boyfriends/Girlfriends staying over (17%)

Reasons to live together
While there may be disagreements, there are often reasons that people choose to live in a house or flat share. According to Nationwide’s poll, nearly three in five (57%) admit it is because they cannot to afford to live alone, a reason particularly prevalent in Scotland and Wales (65%), North East (63%) and London (62%). Students often don’t get the choice either, with more than a third (35%) saying they had to share because it was their first year at university. On a more positive note, more than two in five (42%) said they are sharing because they wanted to live with friends or other people.

Bills – share or not to share?
Bills are also a popular source of dispute with nearly a third (30%) admitting to arguing over household payments, according to the Nationwide FlexStudent research. This is perhaps unsurprising given that more than three quarters (76%) say they share bills equally between all house and flatmates regardless of use. However, 14 per cent say they take a different approach and pay their own individual bills, possibly to avoid disagreements. And seven per cent go even further, with each person paying a separate bill.

Gas and electricity bills appear to cause the most disagreement for more than one in five (21%) Brits, followed by food (12%), rent (8%) and the TV subscription (4%).

This latest poll follows on from Nationwide’s recent investment with property-tech start up, acasa, which uses an App to help people set-up, manage and auto-split bills in one place. Users can get clarity on household spending and track all household expenses within the App helping users get more from their money as well as choosing the offers which best suit their needs, with the potential to save users up to £200 a year. In addition, acasa is now partnering with property agents, managers and developers to use the technology to set up and manage rent and utility payments and other additional services, such as cleaning, through its App and website.

Paying more than their fair share
Despite attempts to share the bills around, nearly a third (30%) end up paying more than their fair share, costing them an additional £339 per year on average. This figure rises to £423 for those aged between 16 and 24 and £352 for 25-34 year olds. However, for more than one in five (21%) Brits, the unequal sharing of bills is costing them more than £500 extra a year on average.

The additional expenditure also has an emotional impact on those paying more, with two in five (40%) admitting that it leaves them resentful towards house or flatmates with 39 per cent saying they felt let down and 38 per cent feeling angry. Nearly a quarter (22%) said it made them distrust the people they were living with.

According to the FlexStudent poll, more than one in five (21%) say they have run into financial difficulty as a result of domestic disagreements. And, it is more likely to be younger people facing such issues with that figure rising to more than a quarter (27%) of those aged 16 to 24.

Communication is key
When it comes to dealing with issues, face-to-face is an important method of resolution with 39 per cent saying they have one to one meetings with housemates, while more than a third (35%) also choose to get everyone around a table. And when it comes to technology being used to communicate, text messages come top (18%), followed by WhatsApp (14%). But the more traditional methods aren’t completely dead with nearly one in five (19%) saying they choose to leave notes.

Enough is enough
Sometimes issues just cannot be resolved with nearly three in ten (29%) admitting they have moved out of the house because of disagreements, while more than a quarter (26%) sadly admitted they have lost a friend because of a house share disagreement.

Carl Burke, Head of Product Management – Current Accounts, comments: “Sharing accommodation should lead to a sharing of the bills but our research shows this isn’t always the case often leading to some people unfairly paying more than they need to. That is why we are delighted to be working in partnership with acasa because financial matters are often causes for disagreement. But they don’t need to be. Clear communication and an equal sharing of bills mean people can enjoy the benefits of living together with their friends.”

Nick Katz, CEO - acasa, comments: “I’ve lived in 18 homes with over 50 housemates and across 4 countries in the last 15 years. Each time, there have always been disputes amongst housemates over costs, bills and services and how fairly they are split. I’ve even lost friendships as a result. That is why acasa was created. acasa allows residents to set up, automate and split all their bills and now their rent, while also allowing you to make peer to peer payments and track anything else you may be spending as a household. By doing all this as a platform, residents are able to focus on living happily together and enjoying their home rather than arguing or feeling angry. It’s all about helping the world live better together.”

As the new academic year begins with students settling into new house shares and those with Nationwide’s FlexStudent current account will be moving in with their new student boxes. These contain a range of items for starting university life, all designed to encourage friendship and sharing. The box includes a card game, information from acasa on their app and how to keep happy, sweets, split headphones and a range of household items such as a doorstop and toilet cleaner.

1 - Research conducted online between 9-12 September 2019 by Censuswide with 2,001 people who have lived in shared accommodation.

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