daily californian logo


Welcome to the (March) Madness! Read more here

Spent with my rent

article image


We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

APRIL 04, 2014

I’ve suffered for the last year paying an unfair and disproportionate rent — I’m not doing that again. What’s the best way to split up rent with my roommates?

Your rent’s like a personal plate of late-night nacho drunchies: You know you have to contribute and share with the gang, but you also need to protect your precious assets — this starts and ends with communication.

Communicate that they need to reciprocate. Don’t wait to get it straight, or you’ll face the same fate but with extra hate.

Making agreements between roommates is always a little awkward, as is any conversation involving money or the codeword for getting sexiled. But once it’s hashed out and over with and agreed upon, all you have to do is stick to it. (Easier said than done, but at least the thinking part is over.)

You should always, always, always be honest with the people you’re living with. Begin by telling the truth about what you can afford. By the looks of it, you weren’t open about what constitutes “fair” to you. The only way to fix this is to voice your concerns and let them know where you’re coming from; there is no way or reason to be passive about fairness. Recognize that a limited budget will absolutely be an inconvenience, and suck it up. But look at the bright side: The extra $30 you might be saving each month could translate to 10 Top Dogs. TEN.

Here’s an unbiased basic formula for rent division: Literally measure out bedrooms plus common areas and divide out the costs for persons per room. (Include closet space!) It really doesn’t require Math 1B or Model UN negotiation skills. It might sound overly technical, but it’s really the most objective way to come up with an exact and fair number. Who can argue with algebra?

Put a sticker price on rooms before choosing who gets what, also considering extra space such as cupboards for the person with the most pairs of cowboy boots. Those with extra things require extra space and therefore pay extra. (Duh.) Create clear boundaries between personal and common areas: Living rooms are supposed to be for sharing, and making it personalized with a desk or bed hurts everyone more than you might imagine. But if you think you can make it work, just know what you’re getting yourself into (i.e. sharing my study space with her Netflix space usually isn’t fun for either of us).

The harder part is the subjective stuff and putting a price on convenience. Have everyone establish a price range: a minimum and a maximum with descriptions for what each entails. For example, $500 means I have to share a bathroom and a weekly allowance of toilet paper, but a maximum of $650 says I don’t, and I get to keep my three-foot espresso machine. #compromise.

After your compromise is figured out and finalized, it can get really hard to change it. But staying quiet about a problem can be worse. It can create resentment and lead to the point where the most you could do is blast JoJo’s “Too Little, Too Late” at your pity party. So either be happy and stay happy, or set absolute short-term deadlines for any trial situations and then reconvene. Know that every apartment, every roommate and every year will be different. Ultimately, you should be flexible and agreeable and not take things personally, but know that if someone is paying $700 a month, their nachos are “not-yo’s.”

Noelle Reyes writes the advice blog. Contact her and ask her for advice at [email protected].

APRIL 03, 2014