Flat-share interviews used to involve a basic chat, or alternatively being casually bequeathed the room by whoever vacated, moving in under cover of darkness and explaining your semi-clad presence on the landing to your new roomies. Now it’s like trying to join the SAS.
I had some bizarre experiences in Germany, where flatshares are taken very seriously. By way of background, renting is the norm in Germany, and people of all ages share a homes with an entire culture and system of manners evolving around WG’s, as they are called.
There are two extremes: one is the type of WG where co-tenants sleep communally and ‘with’ each other (ah…the 60’s.) At the other end is the British way where all people share is the front door entrance and nobody speaks at all.
Somewhere in the middle is the flatshare where residents must befriend flatmates, even attending weekly film screenings and regular communal meals. I was checking out places to live, but they take those interviews very seriously, perhaps because German tenancies can go on for years, even decades.
I attended one interview which felt like I was being assessed for work in the secret service. I was offered Rooibus tea:
Not for me…
‘Are you sure?’
Yes – I never take milk.
‘Have you tried it with milk?’
I politely declined thinking ‘Enough with the ‘effin’ milk, please.’
But I chatted, and after an hour of extracting information about me (‘…so, tell me who you are?’) I was told how things would be (keep in mind, she didn’t own the flat.) ‘I want to know where you are. We will keep our doors open, when you will buy cheese I will eat your cheese and then I will buy cheese if you have no money for cheese, and when my family come to stay, they will also eat your cheese.’
Despite being incredibly proud of British dairy produce, I was slightly reluctant to keep the entire German nation supplied with cheese. I didn’t get the flat. The interview lasted two hours.
Elsewhere, there was an open viewing/interview, with a man who stood at the far end of his flat and held court. The game was to spend time chatting with him and making him feel good about his DJ’ing career, and not minding that there was no lounge. He even had friends who were giving all prospective tenants the once over. I didn’t take the flat.
Why does this matter? Rents are rising, mortgages are rare and given only occasionally to millionaires (do they exist at all?) while new HB rules mean that claimants under the age of 35 are only entitled to the rate for renting a room in a shared flat or house.
People will be stuck for years, hiding the fact that they have children who might be coming to stay, or that their work is not steady (but who’s work is?) So get ready for those new flatmate interviews to get a lot more serious here as well.