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When should guests pay rent?
February 4, 2014 8:15 PM   Subscribe

I'd like opinions about whether I'm being unreasonable in wanting an extended guest of my roommate (their spouse actually) to pay a small portion of the rent while they're here.

We live in a 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. His wife is visiting for 3 weeks. She has stayed for a week before, and even 2 weeks one time and I was cool with that. I feel like when someone stays for longer than that though, it changes the dynamics of the shared spaces in the apartment enough that the amount we pay should change as well. What are people's opinions or previous situations with roommates having guests for more than a week?

My roommate and I are on very good terms in general. We're friends and in the same department at school. When something apartment-related comes up (cleaniness, noise, bills, etc), we generally communicate well and it gets resolved without grudges or passive aggressiveness.

However he was surprised that having his wife live here for a while was an issue for me. He has stayed with her for longer periods and her roommates didn't mention it or ask him for rent. Apparently, in their house, his wife's room is quite private and is far from the common space so sound doesn't travel.

Our apartment however is smaller and sound travels readily between our two bedrooms and the common area. His wife is a considerate guest and we get along personally as well. However, I feel that just having another person in such close quarters can be a significant inconvenience regardless of whether I get along with the person. I'm a light sleeper, and having 2 people instead of one in the room next to me means that the noise level will be significantly higher (muffled and not so muffled talking at random times, door shutting and opening more, more bathroom noise, etc). The small kitchen will be busier (which will be cool sometimes, but it also means more noise because sound travels pretty well from there to my bedroom).

I've lived with my roommate for over a year now and I did know he was married beforehand, and that his wife lived on the other side of the country. We didn't discuss how much she might visit before we signed the lease and all, so we didn't have any expectations or ground rules going in. He assumed it would be cool if she occasionally came and stayed for a month or more so he never asked beforehand.

Basically I would like your advice and opinions about whether its reasonable for me to ask that she pay a little rent for the 3 weeks. It would be about $100 out of a total of $1200 for rent (plus an equivalent fraction of the utilities). My approach is usually to keep roommate/apartment issues separate from friend issues, and I think my roommate understands that I don't have anything against him or his wife personally. As a friend I don't want to create tension, but as a roommate I feel like adjusting the rent would be fair in this case.
posted by captain cosine to Human Relations (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think what you're asking is fair, but you're going to need to be willing to negotiate with your roommate on the specifics.

Does he spend time away from your place to stay with her? That would also change the balance a great deal.
posted by jaguar at 8:19 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


In every roommate situation I had, rent was split by the number of bedrooms but utilities were split by the number of people. Under that formula, he wouldn't owe you more rent because he's still using the same number of bedrooms but he should pick up a greater share of utilities for months when she spends the majority of her time staying with him.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:21 PM on February 4 [11 favorites]


Eh... He's stayed at her place for three weeks, while you had the apartment to yourself? It may not be a perfect trade, but it's adequate.
posted by samthemander at 8:28 PM on February 4 [52 favorites]


If your roommate was married when you two moved in, and he didn't immediately say "we're separated", this shouldn't be entirely unexpected.
posted by Oktober at 8:30 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't want to risk a good roommate situation for such a small amount of money. Maybe ask them to cook a few meals for you, or kick in toward a grocery run? But I wouldn't make a deal out of this. If he's gone a roughly equivalent amount of time compared to what she's visiting, all's fair.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:31 PM on February 4 [10 favorites]


I just wonder if opening this can of worms is worth $100. Seems like the money is more an acknowledgement you're being inconvenienced. Not sure it's worth it.
posted by Katine at 8:31 PM on February 4 [36 favorites]


I think it's okay to ask your roommate that his wife chip in with rent since you seem put out by her extended presence there, as long as you are willing to negotiate with him (or her) and come to an agreed amount that seems fair to both of you. It is obvious that you are put out by her extended presence, and as such there is nothing unreasonable about wanting to have that acknowledged in some way. Three weeks is not the same as "having friends over" or an overnight guest. You ARE being generous in sharing your home with her, when it imposes on your own comfort.
posted by Blitz at 8:31 PM on February 4


If he's been away for significant chunks of time, and you've had the place to yourself, then I think that offsets the slight inconvenience/increase in bills.
posted by kjs4 at 8:34 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I expected to read about months, not weeks. Honestly, it seems unreasonable to me to charge them.
The issues you describe will not change if they pay you $100 extra, anyway. So, talk to them if you find them too loud.

I am assuming that they pay for their own groceries, right? That would seem like the biggest expenses, going from 2 to 3 people. I doubt other utilities like water, energy etc. change as much over a period of 3 weeks.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:34 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't ask him to kick in extra rent for two reasons --

1. because it changes her status psychologically from that of a guest to that of a tenant. You maintain an upper hand in a "guest" situation that you sort of lose if you've agreed that $100 gives her the right to use the house like she's another roommate.

2. It is likely to cause more aggro than the money is worth. A good roommate situation is really hard to find. If he moves out, you'll be put out for much more than $100 worth of annoyance and cost.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:36 PM on February 4 [26 favorites]


Splitting rent by bedroom space only works if you live in a large house or condo. I have lived in very cramped apartments where if my roommate had his girlfriend over every day for a month, the shared spaces in the kitchen and living room would quickly start to feel overly crowded. Plus that's another person using the hot water and toilet paper. Its just not fair in my opinion to bring a whole other person info your apartment and pretend that it will have no effect on your roommate. I think its reasonable to tactfully ask your roommate to cover the groceries that month or some other concession to make up for your inconvenience.
posted by deathpanels at 8:36 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Agreed with samthemander: if he often spends time at her place, starting to nickel and dime over how many hours/days in a row she's spending at your place seems like it will lead nowhere good in a real quick hurry. (Specifically, in his shoes, I'd want to pay less during the weeks that I'm at her place)

I'd look at it from a completely non-financial route.

You say you're inconvenienced, and the primary problem seems to be noise. I'd work on THOSE things, instead. Understand that there's give and take, here. You can't demand complete silence 24/7, just like he can't really expect it's okay to be shouting at the top of his lungs to his wife until 3am. Why not talk with him about actual problems you've had (not hypothetical ways in which you might potentially be inconvenienced) and see what you two can work out?
posted by toomuchpete at 8:39 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


If you're significantly bothered by her extended presence there, you deserve to have that be a problem that is acknowledged and sorted out together (you and your roommate together), regardless of whether or not his wife's roommates are bothered by his presence. Whether this ends up working out in terms of rent or some other way, you deserve to have him work on a solution together with you. Especially if you are not putting him out in a similar manner that would make things equal. And "getting the apartment to yourself" for a while may not seem like a fair trade to you because you'd rather not have this situation on the first place. He shouldn't get to dictate what you get in exchange and take away your choice in the matter just the same as it would be silly for you to say "you're paying me an extra $800" without giving him a voice in the matter.
posted by Blitz at 8:39 PM on February 4


This is something you need to have a standing policy about.

Guests need X amount of advance warning, with length of stay specified in advance. If a guest plans to stay for more than Y time, they will be charged Z proportion of [foo] expenses. If a guest ends up staying longer than initially planned, communications need to be of [bar] nature, and if that time stretches to Y, $Z will be enforced.

You can't think of stuff like this on an individual level, like "well it would be OK, except A, B, and C reasons that specifically apply to this particular situation but ordinarily would not." We can argue back and forth about how long is too long for a shower. There needs to be a bottom line This Is What Happens kind of agreement.

I definitely would not rest the whole thing on you being a light sleeper. Either she needs to pay rent or she doesn't. Your sleep habits don't enter into it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:51 PM on February 4


I don't know, this seems really unreasonable and picky of you. I find your reasoning that she should kick in $100 because of a "change in the dynamics of the apartment" to be completely amorphous and arbitrary -- a figure pulled out of thin air -- as is your distinction between two weeks versus three weeks.

You're okay with two weeks, but you feel that rent kicks in if she's staying three weeks.

Especially since you get along with your roommate -- there's no indication that these people are noisy assholes, messy, or inconsiderate. You are basing this all on very arbitrary line-drawing. Your roommate rents his share of the apartment, and he should be able to have his wife (whom you knew about) come for these entirely reasonable periods without the meter running on additional rent.

Let it go, man. It isn't worth it, and in my view you're in danger of showing your ass here.
posted by jayder at 9:01 PM on February 4 [9 favorites]


Money does address your real concern which seems to be noise. Instead of asking for cash let you roommate know that noise and disruption is a problem for you. They'll likely try to be more considerate about noise and shared spaces. Win!

Here's the deal. If she's paying, then she's a roommate for the duration of her visit. If she's a paying roommate then her needs are as important as yours. Decisions that were 50/50 are now made by 3 people. I'm not sure that's what you want.
posted by 26.2 at 9:25 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I think asking her to pay rent is absurd in this situation. There's absolutely no legitimate reason for her to have to "pay rent" in her husband's apartment while she's visiting. If she were going to be living with the two of you permanently for more than a few months, it would be a different story. But she won't even be staying a full month here.

I too would be annoyed if my housemate did not address this issue up front- that is, they did not let me know in the beginning that their spouse would probably visit for weeks at a time throughout the year- but it's something you just have to live with at this point. You don't pay for the peace and quiet of living alone, you live with someone else, and they have a life. He has to deal with your life too, and if you had an out-of-state girlfriend who came to stay with you, you'd probably expect him to be cool with it.

I wouldn't suggest making an issue of it. And if you really want things to be so supremely balanced and fair, start having your friends over a lot more or something to make your point.
posted by OneHermit at 9:28 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


I'm of a split mind on this. On the one hand On the other handAll that said you feel wronged and that your roommate is stepping over the line (with some justification) and rather than let that fester the solution is having it out with your roommate; preferably when the spouse is not there.

I wouldn't bring up a monetary compensation option as a first suggestion. You may find that your roommate will realize they were stepping over the line and will curb the long stays in the future. Try to come to some sort of frame work agreement regarding number of overnight guest stays per month, unbroken duration limits and notice (though the last isn't something I ever cared about if the guest doesn't care about me walking around in a robe). With an otherwise good roommate only if one can't come to a non-monetary arrangement would I bring up a change in rent sharing.
posted by Mitheral at 9:34 PM on February 4


if you really want things to be so supremely balanced and fair, start having your friends over a lot more or something to make your point.

That's heading even further down passive-aggressive avenue.

Don't ask for money: it's saying "hey, roommate, your wife's presence annoys me, and here's a spreadsheet I put together showing precisely how much, converted into dollars, and yes, cash is fine."

Could you seed the idea that as an escape from the cramped space of the apartment, he and his wife ought to treat you to a nice night out at a restaurant? It would be a recognition that even the best host/guest situations bring additional stress, but in a way that isn't expressly quantifying it.
posted by holgate at 9:46 PM on February 4


Having been roommates with long-distance married people before, a spouse does not count as a "guest" unless and until they actually move in, like give up their other apartment and bring furniture and change the plates on their car.

When you live with a long-distance married person, you (should) go in with the understanding that they're in a kind-of tough situation that WILL involve a lot of visiting back and forth: a lot of your roommate being gone, a lot of the spouse visiting the roommate.

The wife is generally considerate and you like both of these people; I think you need to just bite your tongue and give a little ground on this, realizing that while this is an inconvenience for you, it's probably a very lonely, expensive, and emotionally difficult thing for your roommate -- even if they cope well with long distance, it's just hard to be away from your spouse and traveling that much and then having roommates when you're together. As your roommate's good friend, you should let your sympathy and compassion and genuine liking for these two people be your dominant emotion and do your best to push aside your annoyance about it and cope with the noise issues as best you can.

If it's really too difficult for you, when leases come up, say to your roommate, "Look, man, I love your wife, but it's really hard for me to share space with two people because I'm so introverted and set in my routines, so I'm going to look for a different rooming situation." But if you ask to be monetarily compensated for your inconvenience, there isn't really any way he's going to separate the "roommate" and "friendship" issues, and it's going to damage your friendship AND make your living situation awkward for the rest of the lease (and doubly awkward whenever the wife is in town). It will seem cold and mercenary.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:49 PM on February 4 [9 favorites]


One more comment from me. You say you and your roommate are friends and department mates and his wife lives on the other side of the country ... I really think that under these circumstances, the sole thought you should be giving this is "I'm so glad for my friend that he's getting a three-week visit with his wife." This balance-sheet keeping you're doing (the doors are opening more, the kitchen is being used more, the dynamics have changed) is very ungenerous, is ridiculously parsimonious, and uncool. Instead of focusing on how you can extract some arbitrarily calculated pro-rata amount for hearing doors open slightly more often and so forth, focus on being generous and developing these people as lifelong loyal friends. You stand to gain a lot more that way.

And on preview ...

When you live with a long-distance married person, you (should) go in with the understanding that they're in a kind-of tough situation that WILL involve a lot of visiting back and forth: a lot of your roommate being gone, a lot of the spouse visiting the roommate.
-- Eyebrows McGee

Yes, this.
posted by jayder at 9:58 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


> I'd like opinions about whether I'm being unreasonable in wanting an extended guest of my roommate (their spouse actually) to pay a small portion of the rent while they're here.

Yes, this is unreasonable in my opinion, mostly because it's not about money, it's about your feelings about your space. You have a good relationship with your roommate. Talk to him honestly instead of making up an arbitrary financial reward which will not solve your problem. There are a hundred ways they can be a little extra-considerate in acknowledgment of the "changed dynamics" and extra noise and motion.

Also, if he visits her for three weeks at a time, during which you've got the apartment solo, I doubt that would you expect him to pay less than his share of the rent in your apartment, right? What if he were paying his wife's roommates a small amount of extra rent for his extended visits there, would that entitle him to a discount on your rent while he's away? See how this can go downhill? Don't make this about money.
posted by desuetude at 9:59 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Folks, please keep it cool and don't get into a debate with other commenters. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:11 PM on February 4


Unreasonable. Buy some ear plugs.
posted by mlis at 10:21 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


This can't be worth more than $200, which is not worth causing an awkward living situation with your roommate and won't actually eliminate your feeling of being annoyed. I don't think it's wrong that you find it annoying, but I think the actual solution is to find a roommate who won't have guests or live alone. I think he should be allowed to let his wife visit for three weeks in his home. Your feeling is that it's your home too and you don't want her there. So... maybe you need to find a studio apartment for yourself.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:21 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I get your annoyance, totally, but I also think trying to charge her some token amount of rent is just going to make things awkward and possibly adversarial.

Its definitely reasonable for you to expect advance notice for extended visits, and I think it would also be fair to ask to implement quiet hours and ask that they be especially careful during the night, with say, door closings and such.

I've been a long-ish term guest many times in my life, and I've always been kind of hyper aware of trying to not make life harder for people who are actually paying rent. Besides being extra vigilant about picking up after myself, I'd do things like picking up groceries for the bachelor buddies who couldn't be bothered to shop, cooking, doing dishes more than would normally be fair in my own household, treating people to meals out, etc.

As for having guests at my house, well, there's a lot I will forgive of a guest who does all the dishes (part of the reason I love love love the now husband of my old roommate; he lived with us for a couple months before they got their own place). It's not the same thing for everyone, but is there some chore at your place that roommate+wife could take full responsibility for during her stays, making you happy enough to basically balance out the micro-irritations?
posted by ktkt at 11:03 PM on February 4


Thanks, I really appreciate a lot of this input.

I agree that money will not change the inconvenience, and the best thing to do is probably just to talk about noise and other issues as they come up.

I am very happy for them that they're getting to spend time together, and I understand that a long distance marriage is really hard.

Regarding the tradeoff that he goes to stay with her sometimes, leaving me with the apartment to myself: I have definitely considered this, but it doesn't really strike me as balanced. Him not being here for a couple weeks is not a bonus to me, its pretty neutral and doesn't change my routine much.

But I'm now leaning towards not wanting to do this "balance sheet" thing, and just rolling with it to support them, and just discussing noise/space issues on a case by case basis as usual. If in the future she begins to stay for a month or more at a time, it might be time to find a different apartment with better privacy between rooms (the walls are amazingly thin). Thanks.

Buy some ear plugs.
As a light sleeper I'm very familiar with earplugs. They work some of the time, but they aren't a magic solution.
posted by captain cosine at 11:03 PM on February 4


Try a sound machine. There are apps for them too. Extraordinary contraptions.
posted by lois1950 at 11:58 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Just to toss my thoughts into the ring here:

First of all, This is likely against your lease. Seriously. If they're not on the lease, the landlord could get REALLY mad about this since they can end up in a situation where the person is legally a tenant and would need to be evicted to remove, but isn't bound by the requirements of the lease. Check your lease, see what it says about guests staying for more than 7 days. Some have limits as low as three consecutive days. A friend of mine who was very respectful recently got kicked out of his girlfriends apartment for doing this pretty often and is, as i remember, banned from the premises now. I think she might be getting evicted too for violating the lease(!!!!!). You could seriously all get kicked out over this, i'm not exaggerating or anything.

Secondly, i think this is a bit of an exceptional situation. It's one thing when someone is actually living in that city and just crashing at their SO's house all the time and defacto living there. There's another layer to that when they're "between places" and doing that. However, not even living in town and just staying there during extended visits is sort of an 0.5 step before either of those. She isn't living there(In the apartment, or in the city), nor does she have some other place in town that's technically hers to go back to that she's just shirking off.

I'm generally on the side of "they need to pony up some cash and come clean to the fact that they're living there and not just "crashing sometimes"", and also not a fan of the "divide the rooms by the space, then the couple pays $300 each and you pay $600!" thing... but i just don't think this has quite crossed over in to that yet.

Like is she there doing this every month? or is it just maybe 3 times in a year so far. Because if it's very occasional, i think this is one of the rare occasions and extenuating circumstances in which this kind of thing can actually be ok.

Personally, i would be annoyed with this and i'd want to move out. But that would mainly be caused by me thinking that there wasn't really anything fair i could say or do, and it was just kind of a "take it or leave it" situation. I don't think he's doing anything that wrong, but i understand your annoyance and don't think you're being unreasonable by being annoyed by it. I just don't think there's anything quite unfair going on here, it's at worst vaguely borderline and i would accept many arguments as to why it was expected or acceptable. This is a preference thing.
posted by emptythought at 2:39 AM on February 5


"You know what would make a lovely housegift from our wonderful longterm guest? A white noise machine—for me! Yes, this one."
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:40 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


No. Your feelings stemming from unexpected space invasion are understandable given the rate at which fish and visitors begin to stink. But it's his wife and she's there temporarily, which makes this different and difficult and more sensitive. Charging rent would be a bad move that would create tension and awkwardness and bad feelings, which would carry over into the times she's not there and would sour things between all of you.

It sounds to me that what's really motivating you is the annoyance of the noise and the inconvenience of a guest's extended physical presence and activity, even if considerate. This is the one place on earth that you control and you periodically lose a degree of control of it and you don't like that. That makes the proposed rent a punitive thing, not a remunerative thing. You resent having someone in your space and you want to register your protest and to dissuade it. That's my armchair psychology analysis.

Find another way to relieve your frustration and get yourself out of the house, such as exercise or visiting with friends or whatever. If it becomes too unacceptable to you from an annoyance standpoint, it's time for a new living situation. That's inconvenient, easier said than done, and nobody wants to have to do that, but that's what's really at issue here. You signed on for a one-roommate living situation in a place sized for two people, but periodically you get something other than what you signed on for. It's not what you want. The money won't really help anything and won't relieve the annoyance. What will fix it is for her to stop being in your space. The only way that happens is a different living situation, because it's not like he's going to stop being close with his WIFE. That's when you'll feel the relief and comfort and control of your home space that you want. Until then, don't make things worse with a petty jab.
posted by Askr at 7:16 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I think asking for money straight up is just a can of worms nobody wants to open.

That being said, how do you two handle groceries and other consumables?

If you buy your own, then everything's covered already. If you split on these things, I would hope he's a decent enough dude that he'll realize that he needs to kick in more while she's there.

Perhaps the best way to approach this would be a conversation along the lines of "So while your wife (who I adore and is wonderful etc) is here, how would you like to handle things like groceries and extra utilities usage?"

This allows for an honest exchange of views, and gives him the opportunity (even if he hadn't considered anything before) to say e.g. "Oh of course we'll cover the extra, sorry if I didn't make that clear before." Everyone gets to walk away gracefully without ill-feeling, given that you've said your communication is open and honest.

In terms of your feelings about inconvenience and routine change, you can also discuss that at the same time, and work out how to make sure you don't feel like an intruding guest in your own home--I've certainly felt that way with long term guests.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:21 AM on February 5


captain cosine: "Regarding the tradeoff that he goes to stay with her sometimes, leaving me with the apartment to myself: I have definitely considered this, but it doesn't really strike me as balanced. Him not being here for a couple weeks is not a bonus to me, its pretty neutral and doesn't change my routine much. "

But...your chief complaint was about sound, that the two of them being together in the apartment creates more noise. Well, zero other people in the apartment make less noise than one other person sharing the apartment. This would be a totally logical response to your specific concern.

Look, I know what you mean about a visitor changing the dynamics of the space, and I'm not arguing that your feelings are imaginary or invalid. But if the roommate gently reminded you about some preference/habit of yours that isn't his favorite thing that he accommodates without grumbling, would you get defensive, or could you be open to acknowledging that everyone does some compromising for the sake of harmony in a decent living situation?
posted by desuetude at 9:03 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Ok this would bother me depending on how often it was happening. Once or twice a year? I'd probably overlook it if the person was a good roommate or friend. But you didn't sign up to live with a couple, married or not, and your roommate is responsible for his rent whether he's in town or not so him being gone doesn't really make up for the fact that he's having guests for long periods of time.

However if things are generally nice I don't think asking for rent from her is the best way to solve the situation especially such a petty amount. The best way to solve things is probably to talk to him about mitigating any noise concerns/use of the common area concerns and finding out how often she is going to be there then when the lease comes up for renewal you can negotiate new rules or decide not to live together anymore.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:21 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


If it's noise from having thin walls that's the main issue then look into putting up Acoustic foam.
posted by Sophont at 10:41 AM on February 5


No, I don't think it's reasonable to ask for him to pay more rent because his wife is staying with you guys.

If you ask your roommate to pay $100 more a month in rent because his wife is staying with you guys for three weeks, then I think it would be reasonable for him to ask that you pay a higher portion of the rent, or at least the utilities for during the time he is away visiting his wife. If he goes away for two weeks to visit her, do you still split utilities evenly, even though he wasn't home to use the power/water/etc?

I think instead of making this about money, you and your roommate should sit down and have a discussion about what's bothering you and setting up some house guest ground rules, like asking for prior notification before she visits, cleanliness, groceries, etc.
posted by inertia at 12:22 PM on February 5


Renegotiating agreements is always a risk. If you do decide to ask for some compensation, keep in mind that your roommate may refuse, or feel that it's such an imposition that he starts becoming actively or passively aggressive. I agree with other posters that the benefit is not worth the cost, but if you decide otherwise you need to have an exit plan.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:42 PM on February 5


As a light sleeper who uses earplugs religiously - noise machines do not work for me. In fact, they (and fans and even freeway noise sometimes), put my anxiety through the roof, even in the middle of the day.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:16 PM on February 6


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