Renting introduction

Renting from your friends

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Renting from friends and acquaintances can be a blessing, a curse or both. If it all works out well, it can be the perfect answer. You get a landlord that you know and hopefully trust, who will give you less hassle and be less formal, whilst the landlord knows what to expect from the tenants. The rent may be cheaper than from a conventional landlord and you may not get into quite so much trouble for not paying it on time. You may even be actively encouraged to decorate your room in any style you wish.

Much of the time, it is as simple as that. But the job we have given ourselves is not just to paint a rosy picture, but to bring to light some of the issues and factors that can be aware of, so that you can hopefully find a solution that suits you.

So make sure you know just what you're getting into before you take the plunge or you may end up drowning each other!

There are two different scenarios that can involve renting from your friends - living with them and living separately from them. This section focuses on some of the perils of living with your landlord who is also your friend. Living separately from them is a slightly different kettle of fish and should be much the same as renting from anyone else.

Firstly, it is worth pointing out that many of the considerations that you should take into account when deciding whether to live with friends are still valid in this scenario. You have the advantages of knowing the people involved, saving money, constant company, a shared chore workload and hopefully having some fun. You also have some of the same potential disadvantages - arguments, cleaning, space and the changing nature of relationships. In addition to this, there are a few other factors that come into play and may change the dynamic of your household:

Command and control
Most people who rent from friends haven't had experience of owning their own home. And many landlords do not have experience of renting out rooms to their friends. This can lead to trouble. The landlord is quite within his or her rights to want the property treated in any way they see fit. They have splashed out and taken the responsibility for owning the property. But at the same time the tenants are equally quite right to expect to be treated as equals rather than subordinate. It is one thing to decide who has which room and to set some basic ground rules. It is quite another to give nobody any say with regards to any aspect of living together. Finding the right balance between the two extremes is not always as easy as it should be.

Taking liberties
This is similar to the above, in that you may feel that your life should be easier because you are renting from a friend. You may feel that you don't need to pay your rent or bill contributions on time if you don't want to, don't have to do your share of the cleaning, and shouldn't be responsible for any of the upkeep on the property. In some cases you're right, and you may all be able to live that way quite happily. But if your friend the landlord doesn't agree, things could get a little awkward.

Ever decreasing circles
If you have the same circle of friends you certainly won't be expanding yours by renting from a friend, and you may find you are spending virtually all your time with the same person or people. You can of course strike out on your own and do lots of things yourself to make new friends, but it is amazing how lazy people can be when they have ready made pub companions ready and raring to go.

Money and bills
Just like buses, bills rarely come when you want one and then usually all come at once. When renting from a friend this can often be a time of confrontation. Firstly, try to work out what bills you will actually receive, when and in whose name. Hopefully you can then try and budget so you can at least pay them. Decide who will pay what proportion of bills, especially with the phone bill. If one housemate uses it far more than the others, then an itemised bill and a night searching through you little black book may be the only way to ensure that everyone pays their fair share.

A quick call to you or e-mail to your utility supplier and they will usually give you and estimate of the likely amounts for each of the bills you will receive. That way they won't come as too much of a surprise and you can put enough money aside each month to cover it. Setting up a joint bill's account into which all the flatmates have a standing order can also prevent confrontation. As the bills come in, direct debits can go straight out to cover them. Easy.

The landlord is a couple
A whole new can of worms is opened if you rent a room from a couple. Aside from anything else, be wary of getting caught in the crossfire of their arguments as this can lead to a tense atmosphere - not that pleasant to live in. Taking sides is not a good idea. The worst case scenario is the couple splitting up - do you have a contingency plan in case the house or flat needs to be sold after a break up?

tenancy agreements
If you are renting from someone you already know, the chances are you probably won't sign a contract. One of the most important things to do is try and set some ground rules before you move in. Have a chat about the issues that you think might arise while you live there. This can prevent some awkward situations later on. And remember, if the boiler breaks you will probably be expected to contribute unlike having a conventional landlord arrange and pay for all those maintenance costs.

It's all up to you
Think hard and fast about the pros and cons. It may be a good idea to make a list or chat to others who have done the same. And remember your friends can turn out to be a little different when you live with them.

At the end of the day your friendship is probably more important than finding somewhere to live. There are plenty of places to stay and people to share with.

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