Lowering the rent for a roommate, but then deciding it wasn't a good idea.
June 22, 2009 3:45 PM   Subscribe

My roommate asked for me to lower his rent. I said OK. But now I'm not so sure I should have. What should I do?

My friend and I are sharing a 1-br apartment in San Diego. He is living in the bedroom, I am living in the living room. The rent division has been 60 / 40, bedroom / living room (it used to be like 65/35, but he felt that was unreasonable, so after the first year I changed it to 60/40. I occupied the apartment first and I do the bills. Our current lease ends in November).

Recently his whole department at work got a pay cut of 8%. He asked me whether I could reduce his rent by 8%. I felt bad for him, and my first thoughts were that in difficult times, friends help each other. So I said yes, and that he'd see the adjustment in next month's bill. I asked him whether his work would undo the pay cut in the future, and he said that it wouldn't, as a cut happened before in the past and was not undone.

So that was a few days ago. But now that I've thought about it, I'm not sure I should've been so quick to say yes. I'm living in the living room, and I'd be paying almost as much as he is, since the rent division would be 52/48. I suppose in an absolute sense, the additional amount I'd be paying per month is not A LOT, but it's not insignificant in the long run. I basically just gave myself ~8% rent increase. It's kind of a lot for me to take on suddenly.

I do want to help him out since we are friends. What is the best way I can do that, while getting myself out of this situation I got myself into? I was thinking of talking to him and maybe saying that "8% is a lot for me to take on, on second thought.. how about 4%?" or something (would it be too late to do that?).

Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!
posted by wuMeFi to Human Relations (10 answers total)
Can you afford to switch? It would be more fair if he were in the living room and *you* had the bedroom and privacy.
posted by booknerd at 3:49 PM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

So... as it sits you pay 48 percent, and he pays 52? A few thoughts:

1.) You've said yourself it's not "A LOT" of money, but perhaps it's the principal. Maybe he should make concessions in other ways? For instance, if the bedroom is more desirable, maybe he could give that up in exchange for you being so generous. Or, maybe you could help me him out more and pay 50/50 and take the bedroom...

2.) You've already agreed to it. Backpedaling now would be bad. Still, there maybe room to ask for concessions (see above.)

3.) You should ask about his job security. It sounds like his company is having a hard time. You may be asked to pay 100% of the rent if your friend looses his job. The fact that your friend asked for an 8% discount (probably a paltry sum) could be an indicator that his money is tight and he is living paycheck to paycheck.
posted by wfrgms at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2009

Change the math - perhaps you can reduce his total rent amount by 8%, so I think the split would be 8% of 60%, or 4.8%. The rent would be 55.2% / 44.8%.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2009 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You honor your commitment for the first month, but straightaway get back to him and say:

"Look, I know money's tight for you and I want to help, but I've given it more thought and I realize I've essentially raised my own rent by 13%, so we're paying almost exactly the same amount and I have nothing to show for it."

"Here's what I think is fair: I'll honor my promise to reduce your rate 8% for this month, but at the end of the month you either go back to paying that 8%, or you move into the living room and I move into the bedroom and I pay 60% and you pay 40%. If money's the biggest issue for you, then this will reduce your rent even more, plus I'll get a tangible benefit from paying more of the rent."

"Now, what do you think about that?"

If he's your friend, he'll consider his options and you'll work it out. If he's not your friend, he'll accuse you of having an oral contract or get pissed off or something else that will make it clear he's not really your friend. Good luck.
posted by davejay at 3:54 PM on June 22, 2009 [20 favorites]

Best answer: Well, aside from anything else, your math is wrong.
Let's say the total rent is $100/month. He was paying 60%. If you reduce his rent by 8%, that doesn't mean you reduce it by $8 : that would be 0.08*100, or 8% of the whole rent.
He should only get a reduction of 0.08*60 = 4.8

So the new amounts, if you stick with it, is him 55% and you 45%. (You got a 12% increase).
posted by jacalata at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

Change the math - perhaps you can reduce his total rent amount by 8%, so I think the split would be 8% of 60%, or 4.8%. The rent would be 55.2% / 44.8%.


My first thought when I read what you wrote was "He needs the amount he pays to go down by 8%" so jabberjaw's math would be correct in this case.
posted by anastasiav at 3:56 PM on June 22, 2009

I agree with jabberjaw -- 60% -> 52% is a ~13.5% decrease.
posted by JohnFredra at 3:56 PM on June 22, 2009

Response by poster: Shoot.. the math IS wrong. How do I edit my post? In any case, it's like this:

x = total rent
roommate pays 0.6x
roommate wants 0.92(0.6x)

Sorry :(
posted by wuMeFi at 4:03 PM on June 22, 2009

Best answer: FWIW, I've found myself in this type of situation before, and I've learned to say "I need to think about it and get back to you". Agree on when you'll decide and don't blow the deadline. But, yes, I think agreeing to it for this month and then renegotiating is the way to go here.
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:52 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is exactly why I've learned to sleep on big questions like that before giving an answer. You nailed the real issue...you gave yourself a substantial rent increase with nothing to show for it. You now have less value out of the arrangement.

Without knowing the actual numbers for your rent I can't say how much he is paying, but unless he is living paycheck to paycheck, you should tell him the following:

"After a lot of consideration on the matter, I've decided to honor the arrangement for this next months rent, but I feel that the arrangement isn't totally fair to me. Here's what I propose...if the money is the biggest issue, then lets switch rooms and I will pay the larger cut and you can pay even less than you would with the 8% change. This will help you stay afloat during your difficult time at work. If that isn't something you are willing to do, then I'd be more than happy to help you brainstorm ways to cut back on your expenses to help you make this work, but I really can't justify paying 8% more for my rent while getting no additional value out of it."

If 8% is breaking his piggy bank, you may also wish to discuss a "worst case scenario" with him regarding what happens if he gets laid off or if his pay gets cut further. You need to make sure you are protecting yourself, and if he can't cover his share of rent for whatever reason, you need to be prepared for that.
posted by Elminster24 at 8:55 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

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