Getting Started

Common Concerns about Shared Living

It’s natural to have some concerns or questions about sharing a home with others. So, we have pulled together the most common ones into this article.

We have offered suggestions because for most of these issues, there are no set answers. Each homemate group has to determine for themselves how they will manage these things.

It’s been said that flexibility is the single most important attribute needed for successful shared living. I think you will see why after you have read this article.

Can I share my car too?

Cars are expensive to maintain, particularly if you only use the car once a week or less. So sharing a car might be a great solution for you and for your homemates.

There is a lot to discuss and consider, of course, but we found a great resource to help you make decisions. Go HERE to learn more about car sharing.

What about cleaning?

Not many of us love to do the cleaning but sharing the tasks can actually be fun, if you approach it the right way.

The first thing to do is to find out what your prospective homemates opinions are about what “clean” means. And whether or not it is a deal breaker for them.

For some, clean means spotless. For others, it means tidy. And so on.

Then together, you can discuss the specific “rules” you want or need in regard to:

  • who will do the cleaning and how often
  • will each person clean their own bedroom
  • how will you keep the common areas (living room, kitchen, bathrooms) clean and tidy

Naturally, rules should be somewhat flexible and account for certain times when the cleaning does not get done for good reasons. Also, everyone has to be tolerant about how the cleaning is done because everyone will likely have various ways of completing the tasks. For instance, one person may prefer to dust first and then vacuum, but another homemate may do it the other way around.

It’s a mistake to expect your homemates to do things the way that you do them. Just keep that issue to yourself and be grateful that the job is getting done and you don’t have to do it.

However, you might want to consider what you will do if one homemate never seems to get her jobs done or if she never fully completes her jobs. Then, include your decisions about this in your homemate agreement.

Instead of doing the cleaning themselves, some homemate groups hire a cleaner once a week or so. Others hire a cleaner to do the harder jobs (ceiling light fixtures, windows etc.) once or twice a year.

Who’s cooking tonight?

Meal preparation, grocery shopping and kitchen clean-up usually require lots of discussion.

You and your homemates will need to consider things like:

  • how many shared meals, if any, per week
  • the timing for cooking and kitchen use when not sharing meals
  • who will do the clean-up when you share meals; how soon after using the kitchen should a homemate clean-up after herself
  • how will we organize grocery shopping and the costs of shared meals

Again, flexibility is essential because not everyone may want to eat the same foods or at the same time of day.

Whose furniture to keep, store or give away?

Check out our “Less can be more; Downsize first!” article for
more information on this topic.

This article assumes that everyone in your homemate group has already gotten rid of things they no longer need or want, or they are in the process of doing this.

Naturally, it is preferred in shared living homes, that each homemate’s personal space (usually just a bedroom) is hers to furnish and decorate as she sees fit. However, which furniture and decorations end up in the shared spaces is generally decided by all homemates together.

So, your homemate group will need to share information about the furniture each member has and wants to keep. It can be helpful to visit one another’s homes to have a look at the furniture, pictures etc. and then decide as a group which pieces will work best in the common areas of the shared home.

There may be a need to store some furniture and/or personal belongings, and some homemate groups will get a storage locker and share the cost. Sometimes, there is a basement or garage where things can be stored.

The most practical solution is for everyone to get rid of what they don’t need before moving in together. However, some homemate groups have a garage/yard sale after they are living together, and this can also work out well.

What about guests…..

Living with others means that we can’t make independent decisions about some things any more. Inviting guests, friends and/or family to visit is one of these issues because it affects everyone in the home, not just you.

Here are some of the things your homemate group needs to discuss:

  • how many guests at a time; how often and for how long
  • just adults or also children
  • arranged ahead of time or on the spur of the moment
  • how to manage extra costs related to guests, like food

Overnight guests is a more complex decision. For instance, will your homemates be okay with you having an intimate partner stay overnight?

Naturally, the size of your home will determine how many guests can be accommodated for a visit and whether or not there is a place for them to sleep. So some decisions need to be made after you have found a place to live.

Managing outside maintenance…..

Most people are not aware that landlords are required by the Residential Tenancies Act to maintain the yards and walkways of their rental units. This includes houses, not just apartments or condos. So, your landlord is responsible for snow removal and yard maintenance like grass cutting, removing or repairing hazardous things in the yard etc.

(Once you are a member here, you will receive more specific information about this issue.)

If your homemate group prefers to do the snow shoveling or grass cutting themselves, you must get a separate agreement about this added to your lease and include how the landlord will compensate you and what equipment the landlord will supply, like a snow blower, shovels, ice melt, a lawnmower, rakes etc. Your landlord should lower your rent by a reasonable amount to compensate you.

Since none of us are getting any younger, SWLT recommends that your homemate group DOES NOT take on these tasks. Keep in mind that your physical strength and ability will wane as you age. For instance, at age 60 you may be physically able to do the work but at age 65 or 70, it may be impossible. Plus, if you get hurt doing the work and need special treatment to recover, an insurance claim might be needed and this gets complex relative to your landlord.

Gardening is a different issue, though. Landlords are not responsible for beautifying the property but most of them have no problem if the tenants do things because it improves the value of the property. So, if you enjoy gardening and want to spend the money and time putting in flower beds or a vegetable garden, you can likely go ahead. Just check it out first with your landlord.

How to handle the rent and utility payments…..

In shared living arrangements, with everyone responsible for a specific portion of the rent and utility payments, these portions need to be collected prior to the payment dates.

Your homemate group needs to decide how the collection will be done and who will complete the payments to the landlord and utility companies. It is usually simple for homemate groups to agree on how to do this.

What is a little more complex is determining how you will manage these payments for short-term or long-term absences, and if a homemate leaves for good. We provide lots of helpful information about these things once you are a member.

Safety Issues…..

A lot of women worry about being safe when they are living alone. Living with others appeals to many because of this.

However, there are still some safety considerations when living in a shared home.

A lot of landlords do not allow appliances like a kettle, a mini-fridge or a microwave in the bedrooms. This is due partly to the risk of fire but also these kinds of appliances gobble up electricity, and the home may not have enough capacity.

If your landlord will allow these kinds of appliances in the bedrooms, your homemate group needs to decide if it is worth the risk.

No one wants to be responsible for burning the house down. Let’s face it. We are not getting any younger. Although, our mental capacity and memory might be good now, how will it be in 3 or 5 years? Perhaps using electric appliances in the bedrooms is simply not a good idea.

Your homemate group may want to consider some other safety issues. Like no scatter rugs that are tripping hazards; checking that doors are locked; adding safety bars in the bathtub area; ensuring everyone has a spotter if using a stepstool.

A broken hip, arm or leg is not something any of us wants for ourselves or for our homemates.

What about insurance?

Your landlord must maintain building insurance, so you don’t need to worry about that. But contents insurance can be a good idea.

The problem is that it can be hard to get contents insurance for unrelated people living together. The insurance companies have not yet caught up with shared living rentals, so often they will only insure families for contents insurance.

SWLT has a relationship with an insurance broker who has been able to get contents insurance for some of our homemate groups. Once you are living together with your homemates, contact us for more information about this.

More information on these and other topics…..

If you have concerns about your pets and shared living, check out this article: Including Pets in Your Shared Living Home

For links to all of our “Getting Started” articles, go HERE.

Are you ready to become a member and start looking for potential homemates?
Go HERE to learn about our membership options.

6 replies on “Common Concerns about Shared Living”

Seems odd that someone who cannot afford to pay would be unwilling to help. For me, that would be a red flag before going into a shared living arrangement. I would first want to know if this person’s issue is one of unwillingness or if she is incapable of helping?

If its clearly unwillingness then maybe she is someone you can negotiate an arrangement with, one that is suitable for both of you. I would look for signs of outright defensiveness, anger/hostility/resentment ie being snappy with you and also if her anger takes the form of a seething resentment played out in passive aggressive ways ie getting back at you in other, more obtuse forms of behavior.

Living with someone who is incapable of compromise, honesty or respecting others feelings is exhausting. We are seniors, we don’t want to waste what precious life we have left on trying to change someone who is especially unwilling to change their ways even for the sake of harmony. This kind of person doesn’t want to live well with other people, they want to control others. In essence, they are re -creating the dynamics of a dysfunctional family system which they were brought up in…that is what is familiar to them.

The human brain unfortunately equates familiar with safe and as such seeks to keep you safe by thinking and doing what is familiar. As a therapist once told me, ” If change was easy Lucy, don’t you think everyone would be doing it?” Absolutely correct, my own experience has been that changing my old ways of thinking, emotional responses and behaviors is hard work. It takes constant attention on my part (awareness) and the ability to stop doing what has become automatic…and it means consistently applying new, and better ways, of thinking, responding and behaving. If its important enough to me only then will I do it. In short, there is little to no real progress, or chance of success, in a relationship where one person is completely unwilling. Hope this helps.