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Ageing in place has become the latest house-sharing trend.
Moving in together and co-living (as it is called),
forming a mini-community,
could be the answer for many cash-strapped retirees. 

Worldwide, bosom buddies and strangers are enjoying companionship, a sense of security,
and saving hard-earned pension.


seniors playing games 1200



House sharing / co-living offers a very cost-effective alternative to home care for those independent seniors who like the idea of companionship, security and saving money.  The person who owns the home can charge rent and split the living expenses of the home, making a mutually beneficial living arrangement for everyone living in the home.

YEI’s recent article, Farewell Old Age Home, Hello Co-Housing, brought in a plethora of response, from many South African seniors who would like to explore this latest trend in retirement accommodation.


Ground rules/Household Agreement


Setting up rules and regulations in a Household Agreement has to be number one priority.  Expectations and ground rules need to be discussed before you get this off the ground.  A Household Agreement will cover topics such as rental, household duties, guests, kitchen use, meals, parking, pets, privacy, television/radio/telephone/internet use and the splitting of costs.

Set up a “work-in-progress” document that is revisited from time to time by both the owner of the property and the tenants.  This document could also include “Good Things to Know” which will include the location of the fire extinguishers, fuse box and water mains, plus instructions on how to turn off the fire alarm and reminders about garbage collection day, garden service day etc etc.  It will also include emergency contact details for the tenants and their next-of-kin.

It’s a good idea to get an attorney to draw up an agreement that outlines the expectations of both parties.  To ensure the safety of house owner and tenants, the consequences for breaking the agreement needs to be included in this document.


senior ladies having coffee


How to find potential tenants


With senior scams on the rise, you do need to search for potential tenants with extreme caution.   Protecting your privacy and adopting security measures are essential.   Your best bet would be to share with friends or friends of friends, but this is not necessarily a good idea either – you only get to know someone inside out by living with them!  There is no guarantee that your “match” will work out.  On the other hand, it could be the best thing you have ever done!

Use your network – your friends, family and colleagues.  You can check with your place of worship to see if you can post an advertisement on their bulletin board or in their newsletter.  You could test the waters with your local Facebook community page.  You could post an ad on the You’ve Earned It co-living Directory.  Word of mouth is always a powerful tool.


Screening of potential tenants and background checks


Finding the right tenant can be a challenge, and the screening process and background checks are essential.  Draw up a profile questionnaire – a questionnaire that could ask why the person is interested in house-sharing/co-living, what his/her hobbies are, pet peeves, whether or not they have pets, general questions that can give you a sense of what the person is like.  Then speak to them on the telephone and if you get a good feel for the person, then arrange to meet them in a public place, preferably with a family member or friend, in order to assess the person.  Thereafter, share the profile questionnaire with other tenants so that they can formulate relevant questions for the formal interview.

It is very important these days to run a criminal and financial background check.  Once this has been done, and you are satisfied with the outcome, proceed to invite the person to a formal interview with all the current tenants, or with family members or friends.  For security measures, don’t hand out the house address until such time as you are happy to go ahead with a formal interview.  And don’t forget to ask for personal and business references from your prospective tenant.


Before accepting a housemate:


  • Ensure that everyone living in the house has met the prospective housemate before you accept them. If long-distance is involved, meet via Zoom. 
  • Discuss in detail, the ground rules and household agreement that you have already drawn up, what to do if the house share does not succeed. Everyone should sign the agreement.
  • Ensure all deposits are paid – don’t accept instalments.
  • Discuss the pet peeves.
  • If feasible, share a meal together to get a sense of whether the arrangement could work.
  • Ensure your exit strategy, for house owner and tenants, alike, is drawn up and is loud and clear.

Conflict can happen when expectations have not been addressed and are unclear and there is no house-sharing agreement


seniors gardening


Initial lease


If everyone is in agreement with the decision to offer the person a place in the house, offer the new tenant a six-month lease.  This gives you an “out” if the arrangement doesn’t work.  Only renew the lease if there is unanimous agreement.

And on a positive note, co-living is fun.  It does come with trade-offs, but it is a great option which will ensure that your retirement savings lasts that little bit longer.  As the house owner, and as a tenant, make sure that your personal needs and your safety are put first.


Gerry Norris, a YEI member, has shared his story with YEI

His house-sharing has gone well,
but the challenge has come from an unexpected source!


I am blessed and have a very large beautiful home – three levels and multiple bedrooms and bathrooms on the mountain.  It’s a stunning area.  I happily took in two senior people so as to provide them with a roof over their head. Both are respectable ladies from good backgrounds who have fallen on hard times due to “living too long and running short on money”.  Both are aged over eighty – one is approaching ninety.  I had a great next-door neighbour, and we all got on very well for many years until he sold.  The new incoming neighbour who I have never met, wrote to me saying that I am running an illegal business – harbouring two people in a residential area!!!!  He believes that this is a business. 

I am sharing this with you, as this is one of cons of senior house-sharing.  Be prepared for the ugly side of humanity when you provide shelter and domestic assistance to others!    My opinion is that all I am doing is elder-sharing. I am homing two very respectable seniors in my large expansive home, one in which I would otherwise rattle around in.  Both seniors pay a modest amount monthly in return for beautiful accommodation in a walled garden estate with off street parking, wonderful relaxing garden, TV, internet, security services plus all utilities and paramedical services provided.  And this is the reaction I receive from a new neighbour – a protest against my benevolence. I am not sure who the new neighbour will report me to for homing the homeless, but I am prepared for anything! 

Relevant articles:

Farewell Old Age Home! Hello co-living!


The unique challenges of Retirement: Challenge #3 – Housing

Finding your sense of purpose in retirement

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