Let’s talk about sharing bills
Do we really have to talk about sharing bills? Well, yes, we do!
With energy bills increasing, many home-owners and flatmates are worried about how to pay additional costs. The large majority of flat share and house sharing agreements are inclusive of bills, so there is a real possibility of tensions growing between live-in landlords and their flatmates unless this is discussed.
Discussing bills with your flatmates is never an easy thing, however the current economic situation will most likely bring up the topic in one way or another – it is hard to see how anyone cannot have noticed energy prices increasing.
But in many cases, there may well be long-standing lodger agreements as well as a recognition in the part of the landlord that housemates cannot afford to pay much more. That said, you must discuss this openly and calmly. We had generally good reports during the pandemic about landlords being understanding and there is no reason to believe they won’t be at present.
Here are our top tips for discussing what to do about rising energy bills:
1. Remind everyone concerned that sharing the cost of accommodation and energy bills makes even more sense now that the cost of living is increasing relative to growth in earnings. Try and agree on how to change your energy consumption for everyone’s benefit.
2. If you are a landlord, reassure housemates that you are discussing this to avoid any possibility of selling your property or of evicting them for any reason. If you are thinking of selling up, you must be honest about that too.
3. Be transparent and share the details of the energy bills you have received (and mortgage changes, but only if relevant). Focus on the amount used rather than the direct debit amount paid each month. Direct debits are normally reviewed only half-yearly, but energy companies also hold a positive balance from unused direct debit payments, so your rate of consumption, visible in the detailed bill, is what is important rather than the rate at which you pay the direct debit.
4. Aim for a compromise. In the medium to longer term, increases in bills due to increases in energy prices cannot simply be absorbed by a landlord. Added to which individuals will have differing attitudes towards saving energy. So talk about the energy bills and how to share them; compromise is key. Increases in mortgage rates may or may not affect this too, as some people are on long-term fixed rate mortgages that will not change until the deal expires, whereas others have no mortgage and others still have recently renewed, or imminently renewable mortgages that will increase in monthly cost significantly.
5. Working from home now has different implications than before. In the distant past the cost of additional heating in the day might not have been too much concern, and during the pandemic was a more equally shared cost. Now, working from home can have an adverse effect if only one person in a household is doing so. Discuss an amicable and fair solution rather than ignoring this concern.
6. Have a glass of wine! Remember, It’s better living together!
Things will improve once the energy price rises and high inflation work through. We are all old enough to know things work in cycles. The fundamentals of house sharing do not change – it makes sense to share the cost of living.
If you have any tips or advice concerning this issue, please share them with us and we can pass them on to other members.
There are a number of apps now available to making the sharing of expenses easier and less awkward. Splitwise is that helps you keep track of your shared expenses and balances with housemates.
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