I’ve had my share of roommates, including more than one stint in one of those group houses where it seems like there’s a new roommate every other month, and have experienced nearly everything that can go wrong financially.
Roommates who don’t pay their share of the rent.
Roommates who don’t pay their share of the utilities.
Roommates who move out without any notice, before paying back the rent that they owe you (because you’re the “lead roommate” in a house of four people and it’s your job to send one check to the landlord, and you can either pay the rent in full or jeopardise everyone’s housing situation, so you agree to cover for this roommate just this once).
I have not, however, experienced the situation described by Bree Rody-Mantha in The Financial Diet:
We paid for Hydro (electricity), but not water or gas. However, our heat was electric, and therefore reflected in our Hydro bill. The bill was already in her name, and she had auto-withdrawals set up. When she emailed me after my first month and the bill was $50 and change, that seemed pretty normal to me. What didn’t seem normal was that instead of sending me a copy of the bill, she sent me a screenshot of the withdrawal from her online banking. I asked her why she couldn’t just send me a PDF of the bill. She told me she didn’t get the emails — maybe they went to her spam filter. It was clear I wasn’t going to get that bill, and I couldn’t force it.
Turns out that this particular roommate couldn’t send PDFs of the paid bills because she wasn’t paying the bills. She was pocketing the money—and when Rody-Mantha tried to contact the electric company to get the bills transferred to her name, they refused to talk to her because she wasn’t the person on the account.
If you’re in a roommate situation where you’re making rent or utility payments to a roommate instead of the landlord or utility company, always get proof that your money went where it was supposed to go. If your roommate won’t provide that kind of proof, tell them you’re not going to make the next payment until you get it.
You might want to ask to become an authorised user on the utility accounts, which will give you the ability to both make and review payments. You can also use apps like Splitwise to keep a record of which bills need to be paid and what each roommate owes—and, of course, there’s always Venmo.
If you’ve also been through your share of roommate and group house experiences, how did you ensure the bills got paid on time and everyone contributed what they were supposed to? Do you have any roommate horror stories, advice, or financial lessons learned?