Rental health: What do you do when your roommate ain't so great?

While moving out of the family home is one of life's great pleasures – goodbye well-stocked fridge, hello independence! – living in close quarters with friends or flatmates can be tough. You don’t have a lifetime of history behind you, so it requires a little trial and error to discover your dynamic.

It’s not unusual for problems to arise – every sharehouse has battled through a month-long dirty dishes standoff – but constant bickering creates bad vibes for everyone. So if you’re living with someone who seems determined to make life difficult, here are some foolproof housemate hacks to help you out.

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Honesty is the best policy

There is nothing more frustrating than sharing a house with someone who is passive aggressive. Whether it's a series of post-it notes explaining how to best use the dishwasher, or a group text reminding everyone they “bought toilet paper, again!” passive aggressiveness can be toxic. The best way to nullify this behaviour is by getting everything out in the open. An honest conversation will allow you to get to the bottom of the issue, while also letting your housemate know that you’re aware of the signals they’re sending, and would rather talk than trade snide jabs.

Find a way to work together

While it can be so tempting to search for an ally when you’re dealing with a difficult housemate, the two-on-one tactic is a short-term-gain, long-term-pain fix. Say you’ve got a roommate who continually comes home late (and loud), waking everyone up in the process. Rather than text your other flatmate to complain the next morning, call a house meeting and raise it as a group. Work out a plan to solve the issue co-operatively. Ganging up on a troublesome roomy could come back to bite you if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of an argument, and that can be pretty isolating.

If in doubt, get out and about

When you’ve been butting heads with a particular housemate non-stop, before long, even the way they butter their toast will get under your skin. If you find that you’re feeling less forgiving, it’s probably time to escape the house for a hot minute. Going stir-crazy is totally normal, especially in a small rental, and it’s no surprise that cramped co-habitation can lead to heightened frustration. If you sense little annoyances becoming big issues, then take a tactical time out. Heading out for a coffee, going for a run or even sitting in the park will work wonders for the collective vibe.

Crush ‘em with kindness

It’s a fact of life that it’s impossible to be angry with someone who has cooked you dinner – food is the ultimate fixer-upper when it comes to fractured relationships. If you’ve been trading tough times with a tricky roommate, hold an impromptu Sunday Spag-bol session or shout UberEats. You're setting a pattern your flatmate will want to follow, while also letting them know you’re thinking about them. Plus, everyone loves spag-bol!

Big-ups for taking the first step to repair the relationship, and on the flip side, appreciate the little gestures that your roomies make for you!

Rules aren’t made to be broken

Ultimately, it pays to remember that you don’t have to be best friends with everyone you live with, but you do want to get along. If you’ve tried all the above strategies and still can’t seem to find common ground, then setting some house rules will at least guarantee a level of peace.

Having a ‘house rules meeting’ is a smart way to establish what you all agree upon, so if anyone drops the ball, you can point to this chat, without having to feel like it’s yet another flatmate fall out. From divvying up chores and grocery lists, to chasing rent, work out the rules that will make everyone’s lives happier and easier.

What can I do now?

  • Are you new to the renting game? Find out more about living with housemates.

  • If your not-so-great housemate has you considering a change of scene, read this timely reminder on surviving the move.

  • Living out with roommates can be's some tips on how to manage financial stress.


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