Whether it’s renting an apartment, leasing a house or letting someone move in with you at your place, rent expenses are often shared between one or multiple roommates. That’s because, splitting costs with a roommate isn’t a big hassle if you discuss everything up front, decide what expenses you want to share and then put things in writing.
Putting roomie costs down on paper helps avoid the miscommunications that can lead to problems, while also making sure that no one gets stuck holding the bag if someone decides to move out. And, because talking about money can always be tricky, we’re giving some tips on how to split rent expenses the right way, making it comfortable for everyone involved.
Write down the rent expenses you and your roommate will have that will affect you both. A few of these can include:
It’s a good idea to get renter’s insurance to cover your belongings. An apartment complex or landlord doesn’t provide that. See if one of your insurance companies will cover you both under one policy, then split the premiums. Generally, one of you will have to add the other to his or her policy. It might be better to each get your own policy, which can often be about the same cost.
Once you’ve listed all of the expenses you’ll have, decide which ones you’ll split. For example, you might want to split the cable TV and each pay for your own internet access. One of you might not need a covered parking space or use the gym.
If you’re leasing a house, also address how you’ll handle chores, such as mowing the lawn, changing air filters, detector batteries, cleaning the refrigerator and other landlord requirements.
If one of you is going to use more water, heat, cooling, parking, etc., consider having that roommate pay more than 50 percent. You’ll have to ballpark this, but it lets one roommate who is using more offer to pay a bit more.
If one of you wants specific cable channels or premium packages, let that person pay extra each month. You should easily be able to calculate these extra charges by talking to your cable provider.
Think twice about complaining about a 50/50 utility split if one roommate likes to take 20-minute showers, freeze the apartment during the summer and roast it during the winter. Utility bills for an apartment are usually pretty affordable, and one roommate might only create a $10 a month difference. After you’ve looked at two or three months’ worth of bills, determine if one roommate is going to cost you hundreds of dollars a year extra.
Who gets the nicer room? There’s always one room that’s bigger than the other, has a nice view or comes with its own ensuite bathroom. If you both want that room, or a covered parking space or some other amenity, don’t flip for it.
Whoever loses the coin toss will be ticked and this can cause friction for the duration of your time together. This will be especially true if you split the rent evenly.
Instead of flipping for it, bid for the room. If the rent is $800 per month and you had planned on splitting it evenly, the first bid is $401. Eventually, someone might want the nicer bedroom enough to pay $475 per month in rent, lowering the other roommate’s rent to $325.
The person who drops out of the bidding not only gets a break on the rent, but also has the mental attitude, “$900 a year extra for that room? No way!”
You might think it’s a good idea to split common food items such as bread, milk, butter and condiments, but someone always uses more. It’s also frustrating to come home ready to make that meal you’ve been thinking about all day to find your roommate has eaten the last onion, emptied the carton of milk or cooked the last of the rice.
It’s better to start out not sharing food for the first 30 days or so. This lets you see which items you might be able to split fairly.
Help make record keeping and expense tracking easier by using digital tools. Here are five apps that can help make sharing roommate expenses easier.
Creating a roommate contract isn’t a sign of mistrust. It helps avoid miscommunications and misunderstanding that are often the cause of roommate problems. You don’t need a legal contract that covers all items if you’re good friends, but you definitely want to set out who is the primary renter responsible for damages, cleaning fees, liability insurance, etc.
Remember, one person will have the apartment, utilities and other contracts in his or her name. This can affect his or her credit report for years to come if there’s a problem. That person will also be taken to court if there are damages or nonpayment. Agree in writing exactly how you’ll pay the rent.
Will one roommate pay the other in cash with the other roommate paying the apartment complex the full month’s rent? If so, make sure the roommate who’s paying cash gets you your money a few days early so you can deposit it into your checking account.
You probably won’t get your expenses and responsibilities perfect from the start. Don’t feel you’re both locked into contracts the day you move in. Agree to review your expenses after 30 days or so to see if any expenses need to be shifted.
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