Renting with other people can be a great way to share home costs, but it’s important to have a conversation about paying shared bills on time.

Services such as heating or your phone line could be cut off if you don’t meet your bills, and failure to pay Council Tax or your TV Licence could land you in court.

It can also result in a bad credit score, making it difficult for you to take out a loan or a mortgage in the future. This is the case even if you’ve paid your share of the bill.

Don’t panic though – with these simple considerations from the Money Advice Service you can make sure you keep a harmonious household.

Work out how you’ll share your bills

At the start of a shared tenancy you should sit down with your housemates and figure out how you’ll divvy up your shared bills. Typically, you’ll need to budget for:

  • Council Tax
  • gas and electricity
  • water
  • TV Licence
  • home phone and broadband

Make a list of all the shared bills you need to contribute to, then estimate what they will come to every month. Add up the total cost and work out how you’ll divide it so that each housemate pays their fair share.

Drawing up a spreadsheet can help show exactly what each person needs to pay into the pot.

The Money Advice Service has guides on how to save money on Council Tax, energy bills and your home phone and broadband.

Pay by Direct Debit

Direct Debit is the easiest and cheapest way to pay household bills. It also ensures they get paid on time, provided there are enough funds in the bill payer’s account when payments are due.

Nominate a designated bill payer who pays all the bills from their personal account. Everyone then sets up a standing order to pay their share into that person’s account each month.

Make sure the standing order is set up to transfer funds a few days before the Direct Debit date. This will help avoid problems if there are unexpected delays with the transfers.

You can also open a joint current account that each housemate pays their share into and set up your Direct Debits from there.

Only do this with close and trusted friends, though, as you are linked financially to the credit score of anyone you hold a joint account with. When you move out, be sure to close this account down.

Set up a kitty for the essentials

No-one likes paying more than their share for basics like milk, tea, bread and loo roll. So setting up a kitty so that everyone contributes to the essentials is a good way to nip resentment in the bud. That way the burden won’t fall on one person and you’ll avoid stocking up on too much of the same item.

And if one of your flatmates regularly has a boyfriend or girlfriend staying over, it may be a good idea to make a rule that they have to chip in too.

Use an app

You could take the hassle out of calculating shared expenses and let a web app do the maths for you. Free tools like Splitwise and Splittable make keeping track of and splitting bills a doddle.

They can even help split the rent fairly based on room size and amenities. After all, it’s only fair that the person in the master bedroom with private bathroom and walk-in wardrobe pays more than the person in the windowless shoebox.

Prioritise your bills if you’re struggling

Some bills have more immediate legal consequences if they’re not paid than others.

If you have to, prioritise paying Council Tax and your TV Licence. Not paying these could lead to prosecution, fines and even imprisonment.

Talk to your landlord or supplier immediately if you’re concerned that you won’t be able to pay your bills. They may be able to help you if you let them know your situation.

The Money Advice Service has a guide about how to prioritise your bills you may find useful.

Money Advice Service