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Starting Out
independence is more than just "playing house"

Insurance is an area you may not have considered necessary. Most adults regard it as money down the drain; but only until something happens, then they're glad they took it out. The building itself should be covered by the owner's policy, but it's best to ask how far this extends. For example, does it cover a broken shower-screen, a plastic sink stained by hair-dye, or the replacement of a ruined carpet? The phrase, 'fair wear and tear' is a huge trap, depending who's interpreting it. I'd advise making a few enquiries to see how much it will cost for accidental-damage insurance. But even if you don't bother with it, cover yourselves - before you sign the lease, go through the place with a witness and a camera, taking shots of existing damage and faults. It wouldn't be the first time a dodgy landlord has dumped the new tenants with costs that the previous ones should have paid.

Contents insurance is a matter of choice, but worth thinking about, especially in consideration of sharing with others who may not place the value on their possessions that you do on yours. When my son moved out to rent a house with some friends, I recall visiting and being surprised by the litter of musical instruments left casually around the place, some even in a shed out back. They were mainly electric guitars and I suspect there was a drum set somewhere. Add to these the amplifiers, associated gadgets, plus audio and video players, the brown goods alone would have cost a small fortune to replace, had the place caught fire or been burgled. How would you feel if your Stratocaster wasn't there when you got home? Not so bad, maybe, if it was insured.

The day-to-day business of survival seems pretty simple. Costs of food will be shared, except for your sticky date pudding - you can't expect the others to pay for your eccentricities; the one who steals it when you're not looking certainly won't. Then there are the utilities - electricity, gas, phone and maybe water. Most of these will need to be set up by the new tenants and someone will be responsible for the bills. If that someone is you, are you prepared to finance the individual who spends an age in the shower, or the one who always washes their jeans at the last minute and tosses them in the tumble drier? And what about the person who lives on the phone? When the bill arrives, will they agree to pay their huge part? Will they even be around, or will they have already ridden off into the sunset?

I'm not suggesting you should do the same. Don't dismiss starting out - you will have to do it one day, and it can be a wonderful experience. Just take five, stand back and look at what might happen; then try to make sure only the good things do. Choose your new home and the friends you intend sharing with carefully. And when you discover the attitudes and behaviour of your house-mates are starting to irritate you, think back to the disagreements you used to have with your parents. Maybe they weren't so unreasonable after all. Maybe you should swallow some pride and pop round to tell them that. Call it another form of insurance. It will cost nothing, not money anyway, but in terms of your future and theirs, you'll find the benefits priceless.

Next issue:   Your Own Business - setting up and keeping going

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