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How do you split stuff up when one person's not around?
January 16, 2009 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Should I ask my roommate to pay her share of the utilities when she was gone all month?

My roommate is in China for the entire month. We usually split the bills 50/50 (electricity, internet, cable). She paid her rent for January, so that's not a problem. On the one hand, I can see that she shouldn't have to pay utilities because she's not around. On the other hand, neither of us is around very much some months, and I feel like in the end, it's all a wash. The internet and cable bills are a flat rate every month anyway no matter how much we use. What do other people do? Thanks.
posted by bluefly to Work & Money (26 answers total)
 
She could have sublet.
posted by k8t at 11:51 AM on January 16, 2009


Yes. I live alone but I still have an electric bill when I am on vacation; it is lower, but you know, the fridge is still running and whatnot.
posted by dame at 11:52 AM on January 16, 2009


I'd just ask her if she'd be willing to. Tell her exactly what you posted to this board.

I usually pay the utilities even if I'm gone just b/c sharing the cost was something my roommates and I agreed upon when we moved in together, esp. if it is a flat rate. It's been great b/c sometimes we had two roommates leave for a few weeks at a time while two of us stayed but we never had to sort out the money situation.
posted by HolyWood at 11:59 AM on January 16, 2009


It would have been reasonable for her to ask [gonna assume this wasn't an emergency trip] if the split could be different - something like 67/33 is probably closer to the actual distribution of costs. But if she didn't bring it up then, I would say she should pay utils.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:59 AM on January 16, 2009


You don't use double the electricity, internet, cable when she is gone.

If you had a hotel room would you not pay for it because you were not there the entire time you had it reserved for?

I would expect to come back from China and pay my half regardless of how much time I spent at the apartment if any.
posted by ttyn at 11:59 AM on January 16, 2009


In every situation like this I have heard of/experienced, it is always that they continue to pay their half of the bills.
posted by gwenlister at 12:10 PM on January 16, 2009


If you were both gone, you'd both still be on the hook for the internet and cable (unless your provider would be happy to just turn it off for one month without a reconnection fee) so she's still up for half of that.

I wouldn't think of asking to pay less for electricity/gas when I was away for a month (which I often am), but we're splitting it more than two ways (so a person's share is not a high enough number to be worth quibbling over). And I wouldn't want to open up the can of worms about who uses more electricity when we're all here, who keeps turning the heat up vs who prefers to wear a coat inside, etc.

If she brings it up, or if you just want to be fair about it, I'd probably split the non-flat-rate stuff 70-30, or make your best guesstimate on what the bills would be if it were your house and you were trying to sell it (ie keeping it reasonably warm, keeping the fridge on, giving it a good vacuuming, washing the bedding, letting a prospective buyer spend a weekend in it, etc) and split that in half to get her share.
posted by K.P. at 12:10 PM on January 16, 2009


Another vote that if she didn't make a special arrangement up front (find someone to sublet, split bills differently), she should pay the full 50% as usual.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:11 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't see why she wouldn't pay it. I still pay these bills when i'm on vacation.
posted by chunking express at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2009


Unless you specifically worked something out ahead of time, stick with the 50/50 split. Her going on vacation shouldn't impact what you pay, or cause you to stress out over the issue.

If you still feel bad then make her dinner or buy the alcohol one night or whatever the token "nice thing" is in your relationship.
posted by adamk at 12:15 PM on January 16, 2009


I'm with the aboves -- if there wasn't an agreement beforehand, then she owes the standard split. If she argues it, then perhaps offer to make such an agreement, retroactive to this month, and delineate exactly when each of you is expected to pay less. "If one of the occupants remains out of the apartment for 48 continuous hours, that occupant is responsible for 1 percent less of the utility payments (50.5-49.5 split)..." or the like. Make it as precise as she's comfortable with, and then stick to it forever.

But that's just for electricity. I presume that your internet and cable bills are standard monthly fees and don't fluctuate with use, so she has to pay half of those no matter what. Or ask the companies what their cancellation and activation fees are, and she's responsible for some percentage of the equivalent. That is, if you're paying $100 for cable, and it would cost $80 to turn it off and then turn it on again, then maybe she can only pay $40 if she's gone for the whole month.

But the key is to establish an agreement, especially if you think this is likely to come up again.
posted by Etrigan at 12:17 PM on January 16, 2009


Standard split, UNLESS for some reason the bill is significantly more than usual.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:20 PM on January 16, 2009


I share a 3-bedroom apartment with my two roommates. I was gone for three months over the summer, and we agreed that I would pay my share (1/3) of the cable and internet but they would cover electricity and natural gas. I thought that was fair.
posted by kookaburra at 12:26 PM on January 16, 2009


I think the internet & cable should still be 50/50. You could surf the net while watching Mr. Belevedere 24 hours a day or be in a coma and those bills would be the same. For the electricity, look at last January's bill, if you've been living together that long. Unless something changed drastically, I think you should pay the same amount you paid last January for electricity (for 50%), and she pays the rest (up to 50%).

If you can't do that because you haven't been living together that long, take December's bill and you pay the same amount you paid in December, and she pays the rest (up to 50%). That seems fair to me.

It kind of depends on what you're running in there though. If you have a washer and dryer that she obviously won't be using, but you use it a lot, that's a consideration. If you have to have the heat up a few several degrees because her and her body heat aren't around, or conversely if you use less heat because she liked it hotter whereas you like to damn near sleep with the windows open, those are considerations too.

Just try to be fair with it.
posted by cashman at 12:33 PM on January 16, 2009


I'd split it standard. If she disagrees, remind her that particularly in the winter you guys would have to leave some heat on anyway to prevent pipes from freezing, not to mention if you both had been gone either ask or hire someone to keep an eye on the place to make sure it didn't get robbed. You've basically house-sat for her.
posted by libertypie at 12:36 PM on January 16, 2009


My roommate was recently out of the country for several months.

Services that I do not pay for (the cable bill, since I don't owe a TV) were cancelled.

He split the flat rate costs with me; whatever it costs simply to have water, gas, etc turned on.

I paid the full amount for gas, water, etc that were used. I was the only soaking up heat, and taking showers, after all.

We agreed on this beforehand, however, and my bills ended up being significantly more than they usually are when we split them.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2009


Yup, yup, yup. What everyone else said.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:49 PM on January 16, 2009


50/50 split. I can't imagine doing it any other way unless you specifically caused some abnormal utility usage, like you ran a space heater 24/7 for two weeks and the electric bill shot up. But then it would be right to cover the extra usage even if the roommate was there.
posted by 6550 at 12:51 PM on January 16, 2009


Pay bills as usual and take her out to dinner.
posted by desuetude at 2:20 PM on January 16, 2009


Jeez, I wish I could not pay my bills when I went on vacation. You're being really nice, but she still pays.
posted by meerkatty at 4:44 PM on January 16, 2009


Hey, thanks for the responses. She kind of balked when I sent her the usual monthly email of how much we owe in utilities, so I thought I would ask here in case I was in the wrong. I'll offer some sort of break on the electricity (it's a little less than last month) but stand firm on the flat rate bills. I'll try bringing up how much it would have cost to cancel the service and sign up for it again if she still resists. I've also been collecting her mail and newspapers, so that should count for something.

We've only been roommates for the past 6 months, and so far it's been good. This is the first time she's actually disagreed with me on apt-type things. I'm pretty sure she'll be going to Shanghai again this summer, so I'll try and encourage a sublet or a prior bills arrangement, so we don't have to do this again.
posted by bluefly at 5:34 PM on January 16, 2009


My last roommate frequently traveled for long periods of time. While she was gone, she paid her full rent and 1/3 of the utilities. We figured that she would still have to pay for things like internet and electricity while she was away since it's not like you turn those off for a month at a time. A 1/3--2/3 split seemed fair, especially when she started traveling more than planned--I hadn't signed on when we moved in to cover all those bills entirely by myself, and couldn't afford it. Also, I took care of the apartment while she was gone, got her mail, paid the bills and dealt with the super, etc.

If you hadn't discussed this prior, she really owes you half, unless you really want to be generous. If she's going to be traveling a lot, or if she does another long trip, just discuss it beforehand so you both know what's up.
posted by min at 6:36 PM on January 16, 2009


Hey, thanks for the responses. She kind of balked when I sent her the usual monthly email of how much we owe in utilities, so I thought I would ask here in case I was in the wrong. I'll offer some sort of break on the electricity (it's a little less than last month) but stand firm on the flat rate bills. I'll try bringing up how much it would have cost to cancel the service and sign up for it again if she still resists. I've also been collecting her mail and newspapers, so that should count for something.

You two need to sit down and talk about money, friendly-like, and nip this in the bud. It's always a little awkward to talk about money, and humans being humans, everyone always tends to secretly suspect that they're the one paying a bit more or doing more of the work.

You really do not want to get yourself into a situation where you find yourself earnestly arguing the "worth" of you collecting her mail and newspapers while she comes up with a complicated algorithim to determine what she thinks is a fair prorated electricity bill. (Hint: The electric bill was less because she wasn't there, which means her half is less, too. No need to try to meter her own usage.)

You're sharing expenses, which requires some trust on both sides. Get it all out in the open and make a plan now, and you'll hopefully never have to argue about money.
posted by desuetude at 4:33 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think maybe the best thing would be to split the fixed costs but then take on the variable costs yourself. For instance, if you pay water and the actual amount for water usage was $3 and the standard "actual having water" fee was $6, you each would pay $3 for the fee and then you would pay $3 for usage. Similarly, assuming she didn't have any of her own stuff plugged in and using electricity ("vampire power") then both of you would split standard electricity fees and then you would cover actual kwh usage.

Even though she didn't use internet or cable she is still responsible for this since it is a fixed amount, and theoretically if you had some kind of "pay as you go" plan for cable and internet it would be significantly more expensive.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:49 AM on January 18, 2009


On postview: what Juliet said.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:49 AM on January 18, 2009


I think maybe the best thing would be to split the fixed costs but then take on the variable costs yourself. For instance, if you pay water and the actual amount for water usage was $3 and the standard "actual having water" fee was $6, you each would pay $3 for the fee and then you would pay $3 for usage. Similarly, assuming she didn't have any of her own stuff plugged in and using electricity ("vampire power") then both of you would split standard electricity fees and then you would cover actual kwh usage.

The problem with this is that a) it's unnecessarily complicated and b) it's a good way to get into fights over ridiculous shit like whether roommate's 20-minute hot shower habit vs. bluefly's three-minute navy shower habit should be calculated into each month's gas and water bill. (Hypothetical totally invented for illustrative purposes.)
posted by desuetude at 11:37 AM on January 18, 2009


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