How to split costs with roommates

Guest post by Anna R
World’s Okayest Roommate Mug by TerrificApparel

My fiance and I are in the process of buying our first home together, and have offered to let a friend and her son move in with us and “pay rent” (part of the mortgage + utilities). Now, we’re not concerned (yet) about sharing spaces, etc, but my fiance does have a bit of a hang up on the payment situation.

Due to city housing ordinances, my friend’s son is required to have his own bedroom, so she will essentially be taking two bedrooms while my fiance and I have one. He thinks our friend should be paying more than just half because she’s taking more space — but the whole point of this exercise was to help her pay less so she can pay off credit cards and medical bills. My suggestion was that all of the adults (myself, fiance, and friend) all pay in equal “budget” (such as $500) to cover bills and mortgage and anything left over goes towards house renovations or something else.

Homies, how have you worked out splitting the costs between roommates in such a situation before?

Comments on How to split costs with roommates

  1. If her son is a minor, I’d honestly say that negates the “extra space/ extra person” argument. Maybe it’s just old-fashioned Midwestern ways talking, but I would just not make somebody pay extra rent for their kid. The idea is you’re helping somebody out, right? You’re taking a financial load off for them? I mean no disrespect or anything, I’m just stating my opinions here, & to me, personally, paying per space used seems petty.

    Here’s how it goes around in my head:
    Take my husband & I as an example:
    If we wanted to pay per space, I’m 4’11” tall & my husband is 6′ 1. He uses about 250 square feet of space in our apartment, & I use about 500. Wait, that can’t be right because the apartment is about 750 square feet–but part of it is because of the extra high ceilings on half because it’s a loft. Then there’s the stairs to consider…

    I know I’m hyperbolic; I’m just trying to illustrate how silly it seems to me to operate in that way.

    Maybe it can be worked out in a non-monetary sense? Maybe this person can do extra chores (gardening, grocery shopping–not paying for more than their share of groceries but the act of shopping, laundry, cooking, bathroom duty, car service? Anything? Bueller?)

    Or maybe it can just be dropped. I get that this may not be possible, but I think it’s worth examining. I mean, either way you’re getting a break on your mortgage & utilities, right? Isn’t that bonus enough? What about the generosity/ compassion of the act of giving someone a break?

    Really just my two cents. Disregard at your leisure.

    • I agree with C J, but I don’t think it would be fair to ask your friend to do more around the house in lieu of paying more in rent. She’ll be busy enough being a parent to her son without the added responsibility of being your maid on top of it. I think that if you are going to do a Nice Thing, then do a Nice Thing. If your fiance can’t handle it (as in, is going to gripe about it all the time, may hold it over your friend’s head about owing you something in return, etc) then it may be best to mention that to your friend so that *they* can make the decision about whether or not that is a living situation they feel comfortable in.

      • Honestly, I wouldn’t find it fair to ask them to do more, either, but if this person’s husband truly feels there’s some kind of inequality going on, I thought I’d offer up alternatives to money since the whole point of entering into this housing situation was to save money all around.

      • I don’t know that I would automatically assume that your friend would feel put out by being asked to do a bit extra around the house. If it were me, I would be thankful for the opportunity to help out with the house in a non-monetary way.

        • I’m the same way. I’d probably pull extra weight in the house without being asked just out of gratitude.

          Though I do like the suggestion that perhaps if the child is old enough to help around the house then that could be some sort of equalizing contribution…. but now that I type that it seems a bit like child labor… lol

          I think it’s been best said that you’re looking at two families: presumably there’s one with one income and one with two incomes. The two income family should be paying more.

          • Eh, I dunno if cleaning the bathrooms, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, etc. really counts as child labor. It’s just helping out around the house, really, and assuming the child in question was old enough, I wouldn’t feel bad about him contributing to the household.

          • I think the child could have daily chores (take out the garbage, help with dishes, folding socks) in lieu of actually paying more rent.

  2. I understand your husband’s concerns. If your friend was renting on her own, a 2 bedroom just costs more than a 1 bedroom, right? So, I see how it makes sense that she would be expecting to pay more.

    On the other hand, there are 2 of you, and 2 of them – so arguably you are going to be using an equal amount of space. Like, maybe friend and kid do more stuff in their rooms (since they have those spaces), but you and hubs end up doing more/using more of the other space (living room, office, etc) because you don’t have the space in your shared room.

    My personal suggestion would be to stake out some space outside the bedroom for your stuff/activities. When I lived with a roomie, his bedroom was 2x as big as mine, so I had “dibs” on the HUGE storage space while he kept his extra stuff in his room.

    I would make it an issue of everyone having a fair amount of space since you’re splitting rent, rather than changing the rent to reflect them having more space… if that makes sense 🙂

  3. I’m in the same camp as your husband on this, in that my first instinct is to pay based on percentage of bedrooms taken up. However, there are obviously other factors at play.

    Whichever way you work it out, make sure everyone is 100% on board, or it can lead to conflict and difficulties down the road.

    I would also recommend pre-planning an “out” for both parties (length of notice required, etc) so that there are no hurt feelings if/when the situation arises.

    • Check out this site (and others like it) where you can create “contracts” or “agreements” between roommates. Sit down & hash this all out in writing. Include the “outs” for each party & notice & all that jazz. Then you’ve got it on paper so that even if things get confused or–more unfortunately, sour, & must go the legal route, you’ve got everything covered.

  4. The one-breadwinner family should not be paying more than the two-breadwinner family. They are using an extra bedroom, but it is a *house*. I’m sure that if you had plans for using the extra room, you can just move that over into a different room. A basement, a section of the living room, etc.

    In regards to the Household Tasks idea, maybe the child is old enough to do chores, and could do them. Then you’re not putting extra tasks on a busy working single mom, but still feeling like something is being gained by sacrificing some space. They could put away all the groceries, if they’re tall enough to reach and old enough to know what goes in the fridge. They could vacuum probably, or swiffer if you’ve got hard floors. I learned to do my own laundry in the 4th grade, they could fold laundry much younger though I would never trust a kid with my laundry. Even I ruin clothes sometimes! 😉

    And from what I have seen from looking at houses, there is usually one bedroom that is significantly bigger. You’re two people, so it’s only natural that you should get the bigger room or the one with more closet space.
    A bigger room is worth a bit more than a small room (to traditional single roomates), so it’s more like they would be using 1.5 of your room. Maybe that phrasing will help your fiance feel better?
    And it’s the child using the extra room, so he might feel like some chores done by the child are their way of providing input to the home?

    • “The one-breadwinner family should not be paying more than the two-breadwinner family.”

      I feel very triggered by this “should not”. I’m not sure I see what relation this has? The original questioner owns the house, and the friend and son are renting space from the home owner. I’m not sure why the home owner should automatically be expected to pay more/the same based on each individual group’s life choices? (Please note that it’s the “automatic” assumption that triggers me here; whatever they choose as a group is up to them).

      Perhaps I’d feel differently if both parties were getting together to share a rental space, I’m not sure.

      • Fair point. I guess because the situation was described in such a way that money/income seemed to be the issue that prompted this arrangement, it’s easy to go directly to treating it like income-based housing/ income-based rental agreements.

      • Because unless the single-breadwinner has a very good job, they are making less money than the dual-breadwinner family. I obviously made an assumption that that is the case, maybe only one person of the couple has income, but if they both do then they likely have more disposable income than one breadwinner with a child.

        As a child of a single parent, I am aware of and used to the sacrifices made when a less than average income has to take care of two people. It’s a matter of fairness, to me. If one group of people who are close can afford to pay more, and if paying more would greatly increase the stress placed on the other group of people, I feel it’s a moral obligation to acknowledge the privilege of having two people who work and accept that it is kinder (not always fair, but kind) to swallow some of the cost.

        You don’t want to watch your friends eat plain white rice while you order pizza, just so that they are paying “their share”.

        • I respectfully disagree. It’s a nice thing to do (a really nice thing to do), but I don’t feel that it’s a moral obligation to pay a disproportionate amount of rent. I would imagine the homeowners are paying for the property taxes and maintaining the home – costs they would bear, (maybe even taking on additional maintenance responsibilities), which means they are probably already offering a lower cost to living in that house.

          I agree that you don’t have to split it based on bedrooms, or based on number of people or whatever, but there are ways to do this that are both fair and kind.

  5. We have a somewhat similar housing situation, so here’s what we did:
    1) Figure out what the costs were going to be for the house including all bills + $100 per month for maintenance + $100 per month for our “green fun” (likely to buy solar panels in a few years
    2) Divide the estimated sum by the number of people in the house (in our case it’s five) – this equalled $420 each per month
    3) Talk to the people in the house about how much they can afford – we try to operate on principles of mutual aid. We currently have a woman and her 12-year-old sister in the house, but they get financial assistance from their parents, so they’re able to pay $800 total. If they didn’t and it was just my friend providing for her sister we would make other arrangements. My partner and I share a bedroom but also have an office, but once our baby is a year old (next October) we’ll re-evaluate and see if we need even more space, and then likely pay more.

    So, I’d first figure out how much you actually need each month to pay everything off – if it’s going to be substantially more than $1500 and you and your fiance don’t feel like you can handle it, then you might want to chat with your future roommate. But if you can, just make sure you feel like you have enough space in the house that is “yours”.

    As an aside, you don’t say how old the son is, but if the mother was interested in sharing the room and paying less, how important are city ordinances?

      • Out of curiosity, what exactly is the ordinance? Are children not allowed to share rooms at all? It seems odd to me, and more like something that would apply to people in traditional landlord/tenant situations. As a follow-up, are you certain the ordinance applies to your circumstance?

        • Most places, a child is not allowed to share a room with a parent, they must have their own space. I doubt that anyone is going around checking, and that certainly does not mean that plenty of children everywhere don’t sleep in mom’s bed even if they do have their own room. However, if CPS or anyone ever had reason to get involved, or if the mother is getting any sort of benefit that requires home visit, it could be an issue.

          • Just curious, where do you live? I’ve never heard of children being required to have their own rooms before.

          • As a practicing lawyer, it sounds odd to me. I have never heard of an ordinance like this before. Further, a city shouldn’t be able to pass an ordinance that restricts state or federal benefits. I asked specifically because there are lots of rumors that go around about local housing ordinances that become basically urban myths–if you’ve ever heard of a “brothel law” prohibiting a certain number of unrelated women living together, that’s an example of a law lots of people seem to know about that doesn’t actually exist. I just wonder if the ordinance the question references isn’t one of those.

          • One simple Google search comes up with this:

            “There are no laws in place to stipulate sleeping arrangements for children in private homes; however, that changes when boys and girls are placed into foster care. Above all, the environment of the home must be safe and secure. ***Check with child protective services in your state to determine its specific requirements for children’s sleeping arrangements.*** ***Each state sets minimum parameters, but there are common threads.***


            Shared Rooms
            In some states, a separate bedroom must be provided to children over seven years old. In the case of siblings or half-siblings, they may share a room, especially when it’s an effort to keep them in the same home. The accommodations must be consistent with the health, safety and welfare of all the involved children.”


          • North Carolina. And mostly what I know about it comes from working as a Guardian Ad Litem for family court. One of the things we were supposed to look at when we did home visits for replacing children with parents was whether or not the child would have his/her own room. Siblings could share but not parents/children. That is pretty different from housing ordinance, though.

          • This can also come into play in custody arrangements. If your ex wants to point out that at their house, the kid will get their own space, it can affect the time you get with your child. This can be a big concern for single fathers who are in nasty disputes.

        • Also, in “traditional landlord-tenant situations” if a landlord were to try to say this mom couldn’t rent a 1 bedroom for her & her child–unless that’s actually in the state-specific requirements–it would be housing discrimination.

          • It’s actually very unlikely that would be housing discrimination; single parenthood is not a protected class. And as Bluecanarry said, CPS for placing a child who has already been removed from a home, and fostercare requirements don’t equate to a city ordinance, and violations of a foster care requirement don’t at all mean a child would be taken from a natural parent. A vague google search says nothing about a city ordinance, and I’m back to my original point that she should look up exactly what the ordinance says to make sure it’s not just something she knows “from a friend.”

          • It is considered housing discrimination. I asked a Realtor and a social worker–relatives of mine. The social worker also said that in some states as well as in some individual court cases the state/ judge will specify the need for a child (usually school-age, not younger), to have their own bedroom. This is also true of foster care.

          • I am not disagreeing, however, that CPS/ proper authorities should be contacted in order to clarify the situation and requirements.

      • I live in Pennsylvania and came across this problem when I was trying to rent an apartment. As a single mom and AmeriCorps member, I could not swing the cost of a two bedroom apartment but most of the towns and boroughs around the city had ordinances which stated that children must have a room separate from their parents. It sounded like a load of illegal, discriminatory bull to me but at the end of the day there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. Even areas where that wasn’t the case, a lot of landlords do not want to rent to a single parent who seems like they can’t afford the space. If it is against ordinance, the last thing you want to put your friend through is having to live in a space where the idea that CPS could just come in and declare the environment unfit for her child. That would be hell and not worth saving the money for having to pay the cost of two rooms.The younger the child, the harder it is. It sounds like you’re doing a really amazing thing for your friend and her family. Honestly, if it was me and I knew the conflict between you and your husband to be, I would just walk away from the offer. If there is already an issue of feeling like I wasn’t paying my fair share I would constantly worry about what would happen if you guys started to feel like I drank to much milk, or if my kid took up too much television time. But I’m a paranoid roomate anyway.

    • I agree with this, take all costs into consideration and just be open and honest.

      Side note- am I to understand that if my husband and I had a child in our one bedroom condo we would be violating some ordinance? This is really upsetting me right now.

      • Depends on the state, and the age of the child. For the most part, if you’re not on the radar of CPS or anything, it’s going to go undetected. No, you aren’t going to just lose your child out of the blue, nor is there some housing authority that just checks this out willy-nilly. However, if there’s any reason for you to get a home visit (adoption agency, foster care, CPS call–like the kid’s teacher or a friend of yours calls after learning from your kid that she/he doesn’t have their own room–which is probably pretty unlikely because I think most people find this situation pretty harmless in most instances) it could become an issue.

      • I hope you’re not too worried about this. I think it becomes an issue when it comes to custody disputes, or if you’re on the CPS radar for some reason. I also know that in my jurisdiction, this isn’t within a city’s power. This sort of thing would be enforced and decided upon at the provincial level here (which is where family law and child protectives services lie).

        The bylaw officers (our version of someone who enforces a local bylaw) here don’t have arrest powers, though they can hand out tickets if you’re willing to show them your identification. If a bylaw officer approached me about a family issue (e.g. we recently had them show up at the dog park), I’d challenge them and refuse to show them my identification.

        Basically, what I am saying is that 1. you’re probably just fine, and 2. this might not even be something that is truly enforceable at the local level.

  6. We had my partners brother live with us for awhile, and I have to say that while I love them both tremendously, it did cause some resentment for me when everything was split into thirds but the brother in law was clearly using more than we were (in terms of space in the house, as well as in utilities). Mostly, we split things the way we did to help him out & get him on his feet in a new city. Then when circumstances changed, there was no re-negotiation & things were not equitable. I felt taken advantage of because we ended up spending beyond our means & eating into our own savings so that his brother was able to build up his savings account. not happy.

    Communication is key. What are the underlying concerns your husband has? If he’s worried that you’ll end up in a similar situation that I was/am in… it’s worth re-evaluating your stance. Talk to your husband first, because his reaction is valid and it’s better to be honest now than to feel resentful (and guilty about being resentful) later.

    While I totally get the “the kid’s a minor and him having an extra room shouldn’t be charged for” stance, the simple fact is that a 2 bedroom apartment is more expensive than a 1 bedroom apartment because it is. And no landlord gives you a discount for having a kid. But… if the intent is to help your friend save some cash, it just doesn’t seem right to charge for two full rooms. So find a happy medium that will work for her budget — but don’t ignore yours.

    I would say that where you’ll notice a difference is in utilities. If it feels more equitable to split utilities by person rather than into thirds, that’s nothing to sniff at. Kids use just as much electricity/water/whatever as adults (sometimes more if we’re being honest), so a 50/50 split with you & your husband and your friend & her child could ease some tension your husband is feeling. I wouldn’t split rent/mortgage and bills the same, though. This may be just because of how things get charged where I live, but I consider them two different things.

    Once you and your husband have hashed out all of his concerns, then bring your friend into the mix. Be honest about the costs. Be honest about how much you and your husband can and are willing to afford. Ask your friend to be honest about what she will be able to pitch in & then settle on a divide. She might end up paying a little more for the rooms she’ll be using than you originally thought. Or maybe utilities & bills will be split equally 4 ways. Whatever it is needs to be talked about and agreed upon, because ultimately the benefits should be mutual and equitable (though not necessarily monetarily equal).

    • I’d like to add one more thing. Anyone negotiating a mortgage/rent + bills split in this sense should also have a solid talk about what would happen if someone were laid off, or if bills suddenly triple unexpectedly, or some such event that could change one or both unit’s financial situation. Even if the decision is just an agreement that you would all sit down and take a second look at the arrangement, without any promise to change it, this is an important thing to do.

      I feel like open discussion, while sometimes hard, goes a long way towards making these agreements work amicably.

  7. My first roommate situation had this trouble. Somehow we ended up with one person having the master bedroom while the parents had the small bedroom and the 3 year old in the matching size–combination of two bedrooms was the same size as the master. The rent got split three ways, so you could look at it one of two ways: the couple was using two rooms so paid 2/3, or the kid doesn’t count in the equation so the couple was paying twice as much for half the space. suffice it to say, this was a point of contention.

    Honestly, whatever your arrangement, as long as everyone is on board it doesn’t even matter what that arrangement IS. You could look at it as getting some money off your bills regardless of the split, and doing a good thing for a friend. Even if you split by room/square footage of private space, she may end up getting a deal on what she would pay at her own two bedroom apartment. But I recommend sitting down and negotiating rent, utilities, and chores all at once–just so that if she would rather pay more and do an equal share of chores vs pay less and do extra chores, then that can all be on the table.

  8. So, we have a not dissimilar situation. We have two housemates (who live in one room together) who earn significantly less than we do. When we were negotiating rent, we sat them down and laid out all of the financial details: this is how much the mortgage is, and this is how much we spend in maintenance each month. If we were dividing things equally, this is how much we would expect you to pay. What do you think?

    Their response was, “Well, this is how much we can afford.” And we went with that. It’s fine — we can cover our mortgage without their rent, so it’s not a big deal. We’re currently remodeling the basement, at the end of which they’ll end up having effectively a private two-room suite with a bathroom, and their rent will probably increase at that point.

    If you’re looking to have these folks be full-share housemates — i.e., this isn’t a temporary situation, you want them to be long-term people you are sharing your living space with — being as open and honest about all this stuff as possible is really valuable.

  9. Honestly, here’s my opinion: don’t do it. No offense to your fiancé, but if he’s already having problems with the logistics of the financial situation and you are already disagreeing about how it should be handled, then that tells me his heart is not really into the whole “helping her out” thing as much as yours is. Being friends with someone does not mean you can live with them. This sounds to me like a situation that will only lead to friction, drama and the end of the friendship. Not to tell you your business, just speaking as someone who has seen many friendships destroyed by moving in together, especially when some of the parties involved were in better financial shape than others. Bitterness and resentment build up over time, things get uncomfortable, and there you are living with so and so until they can find someplace else to be.

    If you do do this, whatever you decide about the finances, be EXPLICIT about it before the friend ever moves a single box in, and draw up a written lease.

    • I totally agree, but would like to add that if you do decide to charge less due to the financial circumstances, you include a clause that talks about how you deal with things should either of your financial situations change. If one of you is laid off or your financial stability is somehow put into jeopardy (a health problem etc), that may mean that subsidizing your friend becomes too difficult, or if your roommate starts to make more money or starts on a romantic partnership, you will want to re-negotiate.

  10. I personally would split the cost between all adults. My fiance and I split our bills 50/50 (For example, on the phone bill, he pays from his bank account, but I’ll pay him my half). If there’s three adults, I would just split the cost 3 ways.

    The price seems a little more feasible when you only have to foot 1/3 of the bill

  11. A really good talk with your husband first seems like it’s in order. Discuss why each of you is considering it. If he is looking at it as a way to mitigate costs and you are looking at it as a way to help a friend out, there may need to be some compromise from both of you because those two things can go very different directions.

    Also consider the timeline. Are you thinking of this as being for a year? For a couple years? Longer? It’s been raised before but it’s important to consider going in so both you and your friend know. Part of this is considering what you would plan to use those rooms for if they weren’t occupied by your friend and her son. Would one be an office? A nursery? A gaming room? Storage? Consider how long you would be cool with not having that space.

    As previously mentioned, utilities are something that should probably be calculated differently. If my husband were my roommate, he’d be paying WAY more for power and water because I love him but he takes really long showers, runs the water in the bathroom to create steam and uses a ton of power. That’s just being honest. So if the kid comes with a bunch of electronics, takes long showers, flushes the toilet a ton, requires extra laundry, uses a landline or the internet extensively, etc, then obviously you need to be treating him as a full share. I’d just sit down and talk with your friend about what her utilities are running her versus what your utilities have been running you.

    Keep in mind things like property tax. Will that be factored in or is that something you plan to be part of your share as home owners? Because you do own the home, you may have more responsibility but you also are the ones with the longterm investment and tangible results. So when figuring this all out, keep that in mind that when your friend moves out, you’ll still own this house and be further ahead potentially in your mortgage and savings. She, on the other hand, will have hopefully saved a bit of money but will have nothing else to show. So even if she does have 2 bedrooms to your one bedroom, you will own those bedrooms when she’s gone but she won’t. This makes it very different from co-renting a house. Then you’re all contributing equally because you all have an equal share in it. In this case, you don’t. Your name is on the property which means legally you’re responsible but also you get the benefit of owning the home too. So regardless, you’ll still come out ahead.

  12. I don’t know… When I lived with roommates in college, I wanted my own room and they wanted to share a room between them. Because of this, I paid more because I had the same size room as they did all to myself so it was completely normal. You wouldn’t necessarily have to charge your friend a ton more (definitely not as much as she’d pay for a two bedroom apartment since you’re trying to help her out) but if it’s such an issue, maybe $50 more a month or something?

    Remember, you can always write something up and then negotiate with her!

    • I was thinking about how I worded my response and I want to clarify…

      I would probably look around my area to see how much one bedroom apartments went for (of the same quality as the house I bought) and work from there. Since mortgage depends greatly on what size house you have as well as the location, I can’t really guess how much yours is, but if you’re trying to help her out I wouldn’t charge her as much as the two of you pay together. Especially since you’re getting nearly the whole house to occupy and decorate as your own and she’s getting two bedrooms as hers (and her son’s).

  13. I don’t see anything wrong with continuing to share the space. I envision a book/puzzle/video game land with a child’s bed in it. Keep the dresser in moms room for privacy. And of course game time has to move to the kitchen table when kiddo goes to bed, but you get the idea. I still think like a studio dweller so rooms with doors mean nothing.

  14. Your friend is responsible for her son, including the space he takes up.

    In every roommate situation I’ve ever been in, we’ve paid by room.

    I agree with your fiance, he’s being completely reasonable and fair. I would be so very angry if someone who was taking up two rooms asked me (personally) to pay the same when I was sharing one. I would find it insulting, actually.

  15. I guess I would just cut costs in half. After all, it is likely they will be using one of the bedrooms as kind of “second living room” for themselves, and not just as a bedroom. And I also think that the main bedroom is larger than the others, so the “they are using more space” does not really apply. (Plus the amount of water etc. they are using does not depend on how much space they occupy, but rather on how many people they are.)

    I guess coming up with a decent rent based on m² and splitting utilities in half would be the best solution. Unless one of the persons involved is an “electricity hog” or likes pretending being a mermaid or such.

  16. We handled a similarish situation differently.

    We own our place, and we can cover the bills/mortgage between us. But a friend needed a helping hand, and we have spare room, so… we asked him what he could afford, and what what-he-could-afford should cover. He pays a flat amount, which is his rent and bills combined (food included).

    I was really reluctant to have a flatmate. But my husband talked me round, pointing out that if it didn’t work out, flatmate could move back out and we were all grownup enough to handle it amicably. Most importantly, he and I kept our own space, and Flatmate has his own space.

    It works for us, not least because my husband and I can do extravagant things (run the spa pool, etc) without worrying that Flatmate can’t afford his share – and Flatmate can enjoy living with us without resenting the things we do that increase the utilities unnecessarily!

    Obviously we’d rejuggle if it actually didn’t WORK, either personally or financially, but this is a really good deal for us (and for him). It’s been three years, and it’s great.

  17. Not advice, per se, but some experiences I’ve had that are sort of relevant here.

    When I lived in a shared flat in college, one of the room mates (about two years into living together) decided we should change all the rent and charge by square footage, instead of the existing way where everyone paid the same regardless of room size. This led to a LOT of upset – the guy in the largest room felt really bullied by it (especially as they’d already measured his room by the time they brought it up – made it feel a bit sly).

    This situation made me realise a few things that are relevant to this situation. Firstly, it’s easiest to work this sort of thing out before you all move in together. The situation where everyone paid the same no matter what the size of the room wasn’t actually fair at all, but it was just the way things were so changing it was hard and hurtful.

    Also, at one point the second largest room was up for grabs, but even before people wanted to fiddle with the rent, nobody wanted to move into that room because it got the least natural light. So sometimes it’s not about the amount of space – rooms have things that make them nice that aren’t just about square footage.

    In that house, before all the rents changed, we did it so that each room had its basic rent, then if a partner moved in and shared the rent, they paid a surcharge split between all the other tenants (about a quarter of the rent). Utilities (including tax) were always split equally between all persons, regardless of room size or whether they were sharing or not. There were no children in this scenario so don’t know how this would work out.

    Finally! My aunt is a super smart business lady and we’ve noticed whenever we’ve arranged anything with her (loaning a boat, moving into hers granny flat) she’ll always organise things to be “for six months and then we’ll re-evaluate”. Things things always end up being nearly permanent, but it’s given both parties an easy way out if things aren’t working out.

  18. I think that the amount you pay a month for your martgage should not really have anything to do with what they pay. It should be based on market value for a rented room, or whatever you decide to help your freind. Everyone’s mortgage is different based on how much the down payment was, what their interest rate is, and what the market was like at the time of the purchase. Payments vary widely from house to house.

  19. If the homeowner is going to abide by a city ordinance that’s largely unenforceable (it’s doubtful that once you’ve closed on the house and moved in, an inspector is going to demand to check out your bedrooms and see just who’s living in each one) is the homeowner also going to get whatever licenses/business permits/ tax ID numbers required for landlords in their municipality?

    It seems to me that unless the homeowners are dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” to become landlords to this woman and her child, they could (if everyone’s in agreement) just quietly bend the rules and have the kid share a bedroom with his mom (depending on how old he is and, again, how everyone feels about the situation.)

    If the kid absolutely must have his own room, then the homeowners should have an honest discussion with the mom before her move-in about how much she can pay, how much she’s *willing* to pay (they might be different numbers!) and how much the homeowners would like her to pay, plus logistics of who gets what space(s) in the home. Relying on things like doing extra chores to make up for some of the rent sounds great in theory, but can be tough to keep in practice. I’ve lived in that land before and in my experience it never lasts. Promises are diligently kept for a month or two, but then there’s something that comes up, then something else, then “I promise I’ll get to it when…” It’s just not an ideal thing to rely on, esp. since if the deal falls apart the owners can be left feeling like they’re getting bamboozled while the renter feels like a put-upon workhorse, and no one wants that.

    Like someone else said, if you’re doing a Nice Thing, just do a Nice Thing (LOVE that phrase!) Make sure everyone’s ok with the terms beforehand.

  20. Also, remember that the people who own the home get value from the home for as long as they own it. So, help with the mortgage is actually going into equity and can grow over time in a way that doesn’t benefit the renting friend. So she is paying more than the face value of her rent.

  21. Trying to condense my thoughts:

    The problem is in trying to create a “fair” situation for two family groups with very VERY different situations. You have an advantage, and you can EITHER make things “fair” and not be as helpful as you (apparently) want to be, OR you can be generous and simply ask your friend to pay the difference in the bills that their presence creates. No, you aren’t getting a kick-in to the mortgage, but it simplifies the relationship and the savings will be a real life-changing opportunity for her. And how often do you get a chance to help someone change their life?

  22. I think I’d split it half you+fiance and half friend+son. Yeah, he gets the extra bedroom, but whatchagonnado.

    I wouldn’t do 1/3 you, 1/3 fiance, and 1/3 friend, because then you guys are paying 2/3s for 1/3 of the rooms.

    That said, you guys are reeeeally brave to live with not only a friend but a friend’s kid. I’d make sure your fiance is totally on board with whatever you come up with because starting off with resentment is a really bad idea. Living with friends can be super tough, and I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to live with a kid who I didn’t have any authority over :-/

  23. On the other hand, since you are BUYING the house and she’s just paying rent, I don’t know that I’d split it at all, really- I’d just charge her whatever I felt was reasonable for rent for the amount of space and treat it more like a traditional landlord situation. After all, at the end of this, you’ll own the house, and she won’t. So maybe splitting it just like you’d split rent isn’t necessarily the best option….hmm.

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