Second only to cleaning, bills are the issue most likely to cause conflict and become a barrier to living in a successful share house. Follow these guidelines to help split the bills without splitting hairs.
Set the ground rules
Rather than waiting for your first bill to arrive to breach the topic, when you start living together set the ground rules on who will pay the bills, whose name they will go under, and how they will be divided.
In the same conversation, look for ways to save – for example, it may be that one member of the household holds a concession card and may be eligible for a rebate. You might want to take this opportunity to explore new ways to reduce energy consumption as a household.
Discuss the variables
During these initial conversations, discuss the variables for paying the bills, such as what happens when someone goes on holiday, or when someone decides to sublet? How will it work if someone moves out? If one housemate has their partner over frequently, should they pay a larger percentage of the bill?
Put it in writing
Post-conversation, email everyone a simple summary outlining what was agreed so there are no disagreements down the track. It doesn’t have to be formal. A simple and friendly email will suffice to establish the rules and clear up anything that may have been unclear during your conversation. In addition, this written correspondence will serve as a reference when you need to find new housemates.
Divide and conquer
There are two options when it comes to utilities – a household kitty that is used for bills and other expenses, or a bill-by-bill policy whereby each bill is divided up and paid for.
Often a household kitty is the most efficient and stress-free way to pay bills. To start, use our online estimation tool to get a sense of what your electricity and gas bills will cost, and then add on additional shared costs such as internet and water bills. If there’s not enough money in the kitty to pay a particular bill, split the excess evenly, top up the kitty and pay the bill.
If you’re going on a bill-by-bill basis, decide how each one will be split and who will be in charge of payment ahead of time. It may be that each member of the household takes care of a different bill so the work is evenly distributed.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to revisit the bill arrangements with every departure or arrival of a house member. Everyone has a different approach to splitting bills, but with open communication you can avoid bill-related arguments in your household.