So you arrived at uni, moved into your new accommodation, and are ready to start your new adventure. Whether you’re living with friends or strangers, you’re excited about this new experience! The first week in the new flat is fine, a few dishes left out here and there, and your flatmate locked you out, but hey, things happen right?

Fast forward a few weeks, and you’re living in a dirty-dish covered, weird-smelling, music-played-round-the-clock hovel. You’re Googling ways to make extra money to afford your own flat, and also considering making the hour-long commute from your parent’s while your flatmate plays the same Taylor Swift song What can you do? How can you get things back on track? 

If you need to know how to deal with difficult flatmates—like yesterday—try these simple steps. 

Set Rules from the Beginning

When it comes to living with someone new, the best thing to do is set ground rules from the beginning. Think about how you want to use the space. If you share a room, then do you want to share the entire space, or split it down the middle? Alternatively, if you share a flat, what rules do you want to set out for the common areas? Some other points to consider include:  

  • What about guests? 
  • How quickly do you want dishes washed up? 
  • Will you clean weekly? 
  • Who is in charge of what tasks? 
  • Should you set quiet or study hours?

It’s a terribly boring (and potentially awkward) conversation to have, but it will help you avoid a lot of future strife. You might even consider jotting down notes in a shared document. 

Approach Issues Quickly and Directly

If your flatmate is doing something that irritates you, address it IMMEDIATELY. Admittedly, we Brits aren’t the best at conflict, and it’s often easier to let things build up than address them. However, addressing something at the moment (or just after) makes it less of an issue once it’s actually brought up.

The secret to this conversation is being polite but firm. Explain the exact behaviour that you don’t like, why the behaviour is bothering you, and suggest an alternative solution. For example, say your roommate keeps having friends round for pre-drinks on the night before you’ve got an exam. Calmly explain to your flatmate why this is inconvenient. Ask them to let you know when they’re hosting at yours a few days in advance, so you can make sure it suits everyone’s schedule.

Taking the time to reconnect and calling your flatmate up on their actions may be the only step you need. Some people, especially when they’ve never lived away from home, can be clueless about how their behaviour affects others. However, if you’ve spoken to your flatmate and things haven’t changed, you might have a different situation on your hands.

Have a Conversation

As you’re Googling ‘how to deal with difficult flatmates,’ you might be past the ‘ground rules’ stage. If you face continued issues and tried to address it with no amends, ask to have a chat regarding the experience as a whole. Think of this as a meeting where you can talk openly and freely. 

The key here is tact. Approach your flatmate gently, and make sure not to accuse. ‘I’ statements are very effective here. Explain how everything makes you feel, and what you’d like to change, instead of blaming the mess (or the issues) on someone else. Be sure to give your flatmate a platform to voice their concers, as well. Then, together, come up with mutual solutions that will make your living situation a happier one. 

Don’t Retaliate

After two conversations with your flatmate and no improvement, you might be at the end of your rope. It can be really tempting to handle these issues by being passive-aggressive (see: piling dirty dishes outside their door, hiding speakers so they can’t play their terrible music, or stealing clothes from their closet because they borrow yours without permission). But this kind of behaviour will only escalate the situation.

In the same vein, don’t play the martyr and do the things that you wish they’d do themselves. This will only lead to you quietly seething about them not caring enough, which is not a headspace that you want to enter—you’ve got to live with this person!

Talk to the Uni or Your Accommodation 

If you’re living in uni accommodation and things aren’t getting better with your flatmate, talk to the university and see if you can move rooms. Similarly, many private accommodations will allow you to change flats if the environment becomes truly hostile. Before talking to someone about making moves, though, make sure that you’ve done everything you can to resolve the issue by communicating with your flatmate. 

You CAN Live with a Difficult Flatmate! 

Though some flatmates can be tricky, don’t be discouraged—truly bad ones are few and far between! Just remember to positively approach the situations, and always talk openly and freely about your feelings and expectations.