‘I have to study during the week,’ says Durban student Bongiwe*, 23. The two Mtubatuba homies who invited her to share a one-bedroom flat said they did, too – then sleepover boyfriends, loud music and sex noises became the norm. ‘They said I was lucky I had the bedroom while they shared the lounge – but I was paying half the rent!’ With exams looming, Bongiwe forfeited three months’ rent and a kettle, and left. ‘I won’t ever share again!’
Sharing can be a way to live cheaply, safely and happily. ‘But it’s more than just sharing the load,’ says Samuel Seeff, chairman of Seeff Property Services. ‘It’s a business transaction. You need “rules of engagement”…’
BE WARY OF FRIENDS/COLLEAGUES
‘Sharing with your bestie can cost you a friendship,’ says Jacques Snyman, MD of integrated care solutions at Agility, owner of the Zurreal lifestyle programme. ‘It’s awkward confronting a friend about stuff such as dirty dishes – they may laugh it off and not change, or it may cause tension and result in a blowout.’ The best of work colleagues isn’t the best idea, either: no wonder, when you’ll be seeing each other 24/7!
BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT IN A FLATMATE
Some things will be non-negotiable for your lifestyle and values. Decide on the big ones and be upfront about pursuing them.
SPELL THINGS OUT IF YOU ADVERTISE
In the press or online (Gumtree.co.za, Howzit.co.za), list area, price and personality type. Party-loving? Animal-friendly? ‘Born again’?
CHECK THEM OUT
Google them and check out their Facebook page. Then meet in a neutral public spot such as a coffee shop and ask questions. Look for connection, not chemistry, and trust your gut – if you feel any disquiet, you can SMS your regrets afterwards.
Related: Facebook Safety
CHECK OUT THE PLACE
Take a friend for security and objectivity. Never sign anything or pay a deposit sight unseen. Look for red flags: dirty dishes in the sink, empty beer cans by the bin, Bieber on the iPod… You have been warned.
How much, paid by what day each month? What does it include: electricity, groceries, a cleaner? Can/will they pay? Running a credit check or calling their employer to substantiate their job can prevent future headaches. ‘Encourage them to do the same to you,’ says Snyman. If they object, wonder why. ‘Add in the payment of a deposit – this can be up to 1,5-times the monthly rent as surety, especially if you’re the lease holder,’ says Seeff.
GET IT IN WRITING
List each person’s share of the rent and expenses, who has which room, a schedule of chores (cooking, shopping) or whether each of you is responsible for her own (you should each wash every dish as soon as you’re done with it). Include a quiet curfew (when music is turned low), whether overnight guests are allowed and for how long, and the period of notice before moving out. Get it signed, witnessed and dated.
Related: 5 Ways to Be Cash-Savvy
DECIDE WHO SIGNS THE LEASE
If renting with someone new, putting both your names on it and sharing the deposit can work – but it won’t stop the landlord demanding full rent from you if your flatmate does a runner. Putting just your name on the lease makes it easier to get rid of flatmates who turn out badly – you have greater control. ‘Have your lease looked over by someone knowledgeable before signing,’ says Snyman. (Zurreal members can phone a free legal helpline.) – By Glynis Horning
*Name has been changed