I have many fond memories of my years flatting at Otago and elsewhere. That said, there’s good reason I chose to spend 11 years living at Selwyn College — one way or another.
First-time flatting is when you learn a bunch of things. First off, how good the food actually was at your college or boarding house last year, how warm it was and how good the friends you made there were. It is also when you see who got flatmate selections right, and who got them spectacularly wrong.
There are many views on flatting with close friends. The consensus seems to be that flatting with besties has downsides that are seldom outweighed by the upsides. Actually it is a lot harder to have frank conversations about annoying flatting habits when there’s a friendship at stake. Flatting with people you’d like to get to know better is less risky; it’s easier to hold on to the friendships you’ve already got, and chances are good you’ll make a few new ones.
What is undoubtedly also true is that you learn a lot about yourself when you flat with others. You learn how much mess you can tolerate, and whether the stress of living with clean-freaks is preferable. You learn whether cooking cost and convenience — or gourmet and atmospherics — float your boat. You learn how much you’re willing to pay for flat location vs. quality.
And you almost always find that after flatting for the first time, you’ll never make the same choices again.
Same is true in your selection of landlords. After hearing tales of a few friends who’ve been on the wrong end of a bargain, you’ll be unlikely to be so cavalier in your approach to property and the people who run it. If you do find yourself poorly served, remedies are possible. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau has acres of advice. And a big chunk of the work community law centres perform relates to tenancy disputes.
I’ve encountered one or two psychopaths, but most landlords are pretty good. They’re generally fair-minded people looking to save for retirement. You treat them fair, and they’ll do the same. They were young once too — and probably have their own flatting tales to tell.