Living well in a student house or flat

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Many students choose to move into private accommodation with friends after first year. This can be great or a challenging experience. Good communication, planning and organisation can help make this as good an experience as it can be.

Moving into private accommodation with friends can bring many benefits – you may feel a greater sense of freedom and be happier that you’ve been able to choose who you live with. Your living environment may feel more in your control and practically you may be able to keep costs down or choose your location.

However, whenever adults live together, some disagreement is inevitable and you may experience some challenges if you’ve never managed this type of living arrangement before. None of this is necessarily a bad thing – when disagreements are managed well, they can strengthen your friendships and learning to live more independently can increase your confidence. But some planning, organisation and communication are important to ensure that your time living together is as good as it can be.

There are some key areas that are worth considering and planning for.


Living in private accommodation can be more financially complex than living in halls of residence. You will need to budget separately for rent, electricity, heating, water and internet access. You will also need to agree with your flatmates who is taking responsibility for paying each bill and how this will work. In other words, how will the person paying the electricity bill be paid everyone else’s share of the bill?

It is important to remember that bills can rise and predicting how much each utility will cost is tricky. To avoid unhelpful conflict, it will help if you and your flatmates have clear agreements about bills and that you regularly discuss this, to ensure the arrangements are still working for everyone.

You can help yourself to plan your own budget in advance. Some students find that having a separate bank account for bills can help them to ensure the money is available when they need it. If you are experiencing problems financially your university may be able to help or provide useful advice.

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Making a budget can help you feel more confident in managing your finances.

Communal areas

You and your flatmates will probably have different ideas about how tidy you want the common areas of the flat to be and how these spaces can or should be used. It may help to draw up a rota for cleaning, taking out the rubbish etc. But you may also benefit from a discussion about:

  • When it’s okay to have large groups in the flat

  • How late into the evening noise is ok

  • If and when parties can occur

  • What ‘rules’ you want to establish around shared items

Agreeing these things in advance is usually easier and can help avoid unnecessary conflict.


One of the advantages of having your own living space is that it is easier to have guests stay over – be they friends, family or partners. However, it is important to remember that your new accommodation is not just your home – it is also your flatmates’ home. When you invite someone to stay with you, they may feel uncomfortable that someone they don’t know (or may not like) is staying in their home. Equally, you may feel the same if they invite someone to stay over.

Coming to an agreement about this can help everyone to feel more safe and settled. It may help if you discuss:

  • How much warning people need that someone will be staying over.

  • How long a guest can stay.

  • How often a guest can stay.

  • How comfortable everyone feels about guests using communal facilities such as the kitchen.

Keep the discussion going

While discussing these issues in advance can help to ensure a more harmonious home, it is important that you keep the conversation going. Some things might not work as you’d expected, circumstances may change for you and/or your flatmates or you may have misunderstood each other. Regular discussions can help you address things early and find quick resolutions. This can help everyone get along, enjoy their time living together and may even help to strengthen your friendships.

There are many challenges and rewards to living with someone else. Give yourself time to get to know them and iron out any initial problems that might arise while you’re still adjusting to moving in together. Expect a few ups and downs while navigating unique relationship hurdles with your new roommate — and the perspective will help you have the best experience whether you become best friends or not.

If you do need to address some things that are causing conflict or problems, you may benefit from reading our pages on Addressing conflict successfully.