Rent Rants

'It's the people that count, not the property'
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The Independent Online

Cheryl Newton recalls her days sharing a rented house in Hull with four others while she was a student. She now lives in London where she rents a flat with her boyfriend

"I'd changed colleges and arrived in my second year knowing nobody." Cheryl soon found an advert on a college notice board advertising a room in a shared house: "I went to see the house which was an old terrace but it was in wonderful condition. I couldn't quite understand why the other four girls hadn't found anyone as they all seemed friendly enough."

Cheryl moved in and had been there for just a short time when she made a discovery about one of her housemates: "One of the girls had had a cold when I'd moved in and then the next week she was complaining about a stomach bug. By the third week when she was telling me about the tingling she was experiencing in her ears I started to suspect she was a chronic hypochondriac and I began to avoid her like the plague as whenever I saw her she'd bore me rigid telling me about her 'illnesses'."

While Cheryl avoided the girl with hypochondriac tendencies another of the housemates seemed to avoid everybody. "She would never socialise with any of us and spent her whole time locked in her room apparently writing letters – although very few letters ever arrived for her."

Cheryl became friendlier with another of the housemates who was definitely more gregarious: "She was very friendly and seemed relatively normal, so we started going out and about together to bars and clubs."

However, as Cheryl got to know her new friend a bit better she found her friendliness to be rather overpowering. "It turned out that she was man mad and we couldn't go anywhere without her making a beeline for somebody. She'd then bring him home and keep the rest of us up all night with the various noises that would emanate from her room until dawn."

The last of the housemates also turned out to have her own secrets: "She never ate with any of us and always claimed to be on a diet, but her room was piled high with old sweet and biscuit wrappers." Cheryl soon noticed that food items were constantly disappearing. "We'd go to bed at night and wake up in the morning to find that all our shopping would have disappeared. Everyone denied taking it but it was obvious that it was this one girl. She also spent hours in the bathroom, so looking back I think she was probably bulimic, although nobody knew what that was back then."

Cheryl threw herself into her studies but although the house itself was very comfortable, she found sharing a house with what she calls "an extremely odd collection" of people a strain: "My friends now tease me when I say this, but honestly I was the only normal one there. They were such a weird bunch that I soon began to doubt my own sanity."

Things eventually came to a head: "My sister came to stay for the weekend and while she was there the man-eater brought two different men back on consecutive nights and kept us all awake; the hermit didn't appear at all but we could hear Leonard Cohen playing in her room; and in the night the secret eater ate all the goodies that I'd bought specially for my sister and me to share. Over a frugal breakfast the next day I heard the hypochondriac telling my sister about her irritable bowel syndrome and I think it was then that I decided to move out before they drove me completely mad."

Cheryl moved into another shared house for the rest of her time in Hull: "It was a complete dump and the people I was sharing with were absolute slobs, but compared with the first bunch they were wonderful. It just shows that it's people that really matter not properties."