Seasoned Housemates will tell you that, occasionally, you will need to deal with some “difficult” housemates – and you might also have to know how to deal with landlords, estate agents or simply a family member getting unwantedly involved!  Knowing how to handle these people, however, can make all the difference.

So, here are our top tips for negotiating with “difficult housemates” and other people during your tenancy journey – you might even say it’s useful for life in general!

Before we start:

The purpose of negotiation is defined as – “reaching a mutually beneficial agreement or to resolve a conflict.” 


Right – On to how to resolve that conflict…!


Understand the other party.

When you are negotiating with difficult housemates it’s important that you investigate.   Use Open Questions (Who, What, Why, How, When) rather than Closed Questions (those which only provide you with yes or no answers) to gain insightful information.  Make notes and review past correspondence so you come to the negotiation understanding their position, as well as your own.  Ensure a quality conversation can take place by choosing a neutral location, such as a coffee shop, to chat where neither party feels that the other has “one up on” them.

Discuss, Question and Listen well.

Active Listening is key when you are speaking with difficult housemates.  Remember not to interrupt their thoughts, unless you must.

You might want to write notes on what they are saying, so that you can refer to it later.  If so, ensure that you also write down their “emotive” words and actions too.  Are they angry?  Are they sad?  Read their body language, their tone and what they say.  Remember, only 7% of the words we say are taken in.  38% of what we say is portrayed in our tone and, a staggering, 55% is in our body language!  Clarify your understanding by repeating what they have said back at them or by asking questions if necessary.


Consider all potential outcomes before any negotiations.

If possible, try to take a step back and evaluate your findings from both sides of the argument.  “Power” in negotiation is about – “how easy is it for me / them to walk away?”.  Whoever can walk away from the offered solution/resolution/deal more easily, is the one with the power to secure the outcome in their favour.

Ensure you provide a “trading” proposition

– A “Give and take” option.  BUT, and here’s the kicker, you should “take” first and “give” second.  This is phrased like this:

“If you ….. then I ….” 

Let’s use the example of your housemate refusing to wash up their dinner plates because the bathroom is untidy.  You would phrase this:

“If you wash up all the dinner plates you have left on the side by the end of the weekend, then I will make sure that we set up a bathroom cleaning rota from Monday so we can all make sure that it’s not messy anymore”

This way you ensure that you get what you need (a clean kitchen), and they get a solution that works for them (a clean bathroom).  It’s mutually beneficial.

Agree / Close the deal.

Many people forget to close their conversations well when dealing with difficult housemates, they simply want to leave the situation! Instead, take a quick moment to clarify the agreement with a simple “yes or no question” ie “We’ve agreed xyz, are we all happy?”   Get the confirmation!  If necessary, and it’s a legal discussion such as with an estate agent or landlord, follow up in writing (summarising conversations, outlining solutions and agreements made.)  Contract any items if necessary, and make sure you keep that signed copy!


Dealing with difficult housemates doesn’t have to be difficult in itself.  It’s about the strategy you use – coming to the conversation with an open mind, the ability to listen, a want to reach a solution and a plan of action to follow.