Living with a roommate is carries its own benefits and pitfalls, but there are things to do to make having a roommate easier. Like having a clear and well-defined method for splitting bills. Often, unfair share of the finances is what drives roommates to look for a new place—that and eating their clearly labeled food items.
When you are looking for a roommate or have just found one, be sure to sit down and discuss your potential financial arrangement and define each party’s level of responsibility to reduce any discord in the future.
Types of Bills to Consider
The rent will be the largest bill you have to split—but you and your roommate will have to agree on the best way to split it: 50/50 or based off the size of the bedroom and amenities designated for each roommate? Will they be moving in with a significant other who will also be helping to pay the rent? By getting this topic out of the way, you can reduce arguments over financial burdens down the line by making sure all parties agree to the fairness of their share of rent.
This can vary based on what is or is not included with the rent. If you are sub-letting a room, you can include utilities in their portion of the rent as a way to attract more roommate applicants or opt to split any utility bills not included in the rent charged by the property manager. The spilt can be 50/50 or based off of other factors unique to your situation—like income, room size, or use of the utilities (like if your roommate always showers at their gym every day and not at home).
This one is as important to figure out at the rent. Do you plan to go in together on groceries or label everything to each other and not share ingredients? Is the one who used the last of it responsible for purchasing it? Will you take turns shopping or go to the store together? Find a method that both you and your roommate are most comfortable with and stick with it—even if it means you both get your own personal fridge for your room to avoid eating each other’s food.
This includes non-necessity items like internet, cable, Netflix, or a cleaning service. These items may be split equally if you both plan to enjoy the service or paid by the roommate who will be the sole user. Don’t forget renter’s insurance for each of you to protect your belongings.
Making a Plan
Put it in Writing
Once you have figured out all of the bills that need to be divvied up between you and your roommate(s), it is best to put the agreement in writing as an addendum to the lease or sub-lease. This will provide a reasonable resource to refer to during a dispute or even during bigger legal conflicts between roommates.
Designate a “Bill Collector”
It may be easier for you and your roommates to designate someone as the main bill payer. This person is responsible for collecting the funds due for each bill and submitting the payment. All parties should request a receipt from the bill payer, acknowledging they submitted their part of the bill, as well as a final receipt that shows the bill was paid in full. This detailed record keeping can help reduce disputes and make the non-“bill collectors” feel reassured that their part of the bill was used to pay the bill.
Use Technology to Make Payments
While receipts are important to show that funds were provided for your portion of the bill, using technology to transfer funds to the responsible party (the “bill collector”) will provide a secondary and digital record of the payment.
Overall, be fair when splitting the bill and make accurate records of all transactions. If there is a change in circumstances, like a job loss, promotion, break-up, or addition of a significant other, be open to modifying the current bill paying arrangement in order to keep the process fair at all times to all parties.
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