what to do when your flatmates suck

It’s a new year and that means it’s a new tenancy agreement. Whether you’re flatting with friends, took the plunge and moved in with strangers, or are living in a 9-bedroom flat of lads, lads, lads, student flatting can be a whole lotta fun but also a whole lotta stress. Flatting isn’t always red cards, experimental dinners, games nights, and post mono kick-ons. Sometimes it’s arguments over rent, passive aggression, shower hogging, and a sink full of dishes. It all comes with the territory of living in cramped conditions with multiple people. But what if your flatmate just truly sucks?  

Anyone can be a sucky flatmate, and this differs among people and flats. I had a friend whose flatmate never flushed his poop, leaving it to marinate in the waters — a clear flatting violation to me, but deemed an “endearing character trait” by her flat. Whatever your vibe, here are a few signs that your flatting situation isn’t ideal.  

Being at home stresses you out 

Do you come home from uni and instantly feel your shoulders tense up and your heart rate increase? Do you seek refuge in your bedroom and sneak to the kitchenAre you constantly trying to finds reasons to not be thereDoes the cold vastness of Haere-roa represent a warmer home than your own flat? If so, there might be a problem with your relationship with your flatmates.   

Too lit or not lit enough  

Some people live for the party; others just want to be left to Netflix in peace. The issue arises when flatmates are operating on different schedules, and different lit levels. Imagine it’s Wednesday night; one flatmate is celebrating a finished assignment with a nitro or two and the other has work at 7am the next morning. Cue door slamming, ear plugs, and “can you please keep the noise down 😊 passive aggressive texts. I guarantee the resentment will last through the entire 8-hour shift.  

Everything about them annoys you  

Their taste in music sucks. They chew with their mouth open. They’re too loud. They’re too quiet. They walk into a room and you’re instantly annoyed. It gets to the point where everything and anything your flatmate does irritates you. It’s likely your flatmate has no idea of their effect on you, or maybe they do know and are deliberately antagonising you. Either way, constant annoyance is a clear sign your flatting situation is getting toxic.  

Other notable sucky flatmates 

  • Sticky fingers: a flatmate with kleptomaniac tendencies is a sucky flatmate. Invest in a bedroom lock and hide your belongings.  
  • The non-flatmate: your flatmates boyfriend stays over. Every. Single. Night. Is it kosher to ask him to chip in for the power bill?   
  • Spoiled kidnot only does your flatmate hoard dirty mugs in their room and leave the pan to ‘soak’ indefinitely in the sink, but they seem perplexed at the idea of vacuuming. As you take the bins out for the fourth week in a row, you begin to wonder if your flatmate ever did chores growing up.   
  • Pickup artist: sexual tension in a flat can be fun, but less so when it’s unreciprocated and your flatmate can’t take a hint. There’s nothing worse than having a flatmate ask for cuddles when you’re just trying to cook noodles to eat while watching Parks and Rec.  

If your flatmate sucks, what can you do? 

Address issues early! If fact, it’s best to discuss your expectations before moving in with someone. Sometimes it’s less of an issue of good vs bad flatmates, and more to do with being compatible flatties. Although it’s tempting to move in with your bestie, it’s worth considering how well you’ll get along once you’re around each other all the time.    

Sit down with your flatmates and set some ground rules. Depending on the flat this might mean a meticulous chores roster, or simply an agreement to not ‘screw the crew’. Whatever you decide, establishing some ground rules early on will save you trouble long-term.   

Okay, you forgot to do that and now it’s Julyyour flat resembles a war zone, and two of your flatmates aren’t talkingThat’s okay – all is not lost! Although it’s easiest to establish things early on, there’s always time to set ground rules (or even revise them as the year goes on). Call a flat meeting and put all the issues out there.  

Know your rights! Hopefully most flatting issues can be resolved internally, however sometimes the situation is more serious. Whether you have a flatmate who hasn’t paid rent in three weeks, or you’re living in a home that feels unsafe, it’s important to know how you are protected under the law. Check out tenancy.govt.nz for more information or ask a law student for advice (check if they’ve done LAWS205 first).  

Communication is key! I know that sounds like a line from a self-help book, but seriously, open communication when flatting is so, so important. Don’t be passive aggressive by leaving a post-it note on the dishwasher or sending a message to the group chat. Talk about the issue in person! Learning how to deal with conflict is a vital life skill, so swallow your pride and address issues head on. 

Here’s some tips for effective communication. Firstly, don’t approach your flatmate when you’re angry (or hungry for that matter) as that’s going to put them on the defensive. Pick a time when you’re both free and in a good head space for a discussion. Secondly, don’t be accusatory. No one likes to be attacked, especially when your flatmate might have no idea that you’re annoyed. Instead, use statements beginning with “I” that express how you feel rather than placing the blame on the other person. Thirdly, be willing to compromise! Living with other people means you have to make allowances sometimes. Be tolerant of people’s idiosyncrasies because you’ve probably got a few of your own.  

At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to suck it up. Slumming it in a chaotic, messy student flat is arguably a rite of passage at university. Sure, living with flatmates who suck isn’t ideal, but it’s not forever! Next time your flatmate is blasting Macky Gee at midnight, try imagine yourself living in your dream home. Maybe it’s a studio apartment in New York, or a three-storey house in Merivale. It’s clean, warm, and most importantly, flatmate-less. Then remember that the current economy and housing market is screwedyou’ll never be able to afford a home, plus you’re probably gonna die from climate change anyway! Maybe flatting isn’t so bad after all.  

By Roshanah Masilamani