How To Fairly Divide An Apartment re: Rent
March 26, 2010 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Who should pay what among a group of renters, subletters, and others for a summer?

So, the dreaded roomate subletting question....

Last year, roomates X, Y, and Z had subletters for the summer. Roomates X and Y were not in town, while Roomate Z remained in the apartment. The subletters were a couple, A and B, who lived in Y's room. They each paid $300/month (the Roomates all pay $550/month, totally inclusive) which went to Roomates X and Y. Roomate Z paid her full rent all summer. It all worked out fine, with no complaints. This summer though, is shaping up to be more difficult.

Again, Roomates X and Y are not going to be in town. Roomate Z is. Z wants her girlfriend (S) to live in the apartment as well, sharing her bedroom. Z thinks that this should mean S splits her rent, giving nothing to Roomates X and Y. X and Y think that since utilities are included in the rent, it is not fair for them to pay for Z and S's showers/internet/cable/air conditioning/etc all summer. As well, the apartment is small, with one common room.

Complicating the issue is the presence of two other subletters. They want to rent out X and Y's rooms, each paying $350/month. This means that X and Y will each be getting $350 per month from a subletter, and nothing from S. This also seems unfair to the subletters, who are in effect paying more to receive the same space and utilities as S.

It kind of looks like this:
Subletter 1 gives $350/month to Roomate X, who is not living in the apartment.
Subletter 2 gives $350/month to Roomate Y, who is not living in the apartment.
S gives ~$225/month to Roomate Z, who is living in the apartment.

Other Facts: Roomate Z is very tight on money and has been on the edge of eviction at least once this year, after paying her rent late several times. Roomates X and Y can afford their rents better than she, but are not exactly flush with cash.

So, my question is: What should S pay, and to whom?

I realize this is a lot of acronyms and potentially unclear explanations, so if you have any questions, please ask!
posted by hepta to Human Relations (12 answers total)
Do Subs 1 and 2 care about the extra person? If not, then Z and S should enjoy the savings for the summer and be prepared to pay X and Y after the summer. If the subletters mind, some of S's rent should compensate them as they are the ones being put out.
posted by Hiker at 2:51 PM on March 26, 2010

I would argue for a split like this: A, B, S, and Z all split the rent evenly for the summer. How you hash that out as far as who cuts a check to who is up to you.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:53 PM on March 26, 2010

What percentage of the total rent is utilities?

The original three, together, pay $1650/month. Lets assume ~10% of the that is utilities, so the room costs $1500 (rounded up for easier math) and utilities $150. Basically, each roomie pays $500 rent and $50 utils month.

X & Y's sublet price is irrelevant here; they're subletting at a discount to avoid having to move. It's a red herring.

Assuming all 4 people use utilities equally, instead of 3 paying $50, 4 should pay $37.50. (3*50 = 150; 150/4 = 37.5)

S is splitting the cost of the room with Z. That's $500/2.

Therefore, S pays Z $250 for half a ($500) room. And then she pays $37.50 for utilities, split between X,Y and Z. Each of X,Y and Z should get $12.50 each from S for utilities.

That's how it should work in my world, anyway...
posted by cgg at 2:56 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Utilities are inclusive in the $550 a month, so X and Y are not out anything by S's girlfriend taking a shower. If Sub 1 and 2 don't care about the loss of space pocket your $350 for the summer. If S is staying beyond the summer, then you need to talk to Z about your apartment being too small for 4 people.
posted by IanMorr at 2:59 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to ignore the subletting issue, which is irrelevant. You have three roommates, one of whom wants their significant other to move in. The question is how the rent should now be split for *four* roommates, given that utilities are included and that two of the roommates will be sharing a room. (The couple should probably be paying somewhere more than 1/3 but less than 1/2 of the total rent.)

After this is agreed, the other two will sublet like normal, to tenants who understand that there will be 4 people in the apartment, and who will pay whatever rent is agreed upon for that situation, and the subletting will not affect the two people sharing a bedroom.
posted by jeather at 2:59 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

If utilities are inclusive (i.e. won't go up just because S is there), then that doesn't really factor in. (If you are metered for utilities, but just fold that into the rent, then presumably S would pay 1/4 of the utilities.)

Neither does X and Y subletting their rooms---they sublet their rooms to tenants at an agreed upon price. The fact that S will be living there may effect that price, but how much S is paying and how much they are paying is a separate issue.

S moving in and sharing a room with Z, but also sharing the common areas with everyone else, is the issue. Just splitting up the rent 4 ways is unfair to S and Z, who are now paying the same amount, but only getting half a room each (or paying twice as much together, for only one room). However, just keeping the rents the same is unfair to X and Y, as they're paying the same price, but now have to share the common room, kitchen, bathroom, hot water supply, etc. with a 4th person. Sticking an extra person in the apartment, even if it doesn't effect their rooms, does effect their quality of life in the apartment. Or, if they're gone and subletting, it effects the rent that they can get for subletting their rooms. If adding an extra person to the apartment is okay with them, a rent in between dividing things up 4 ways and dividing things up 3 ways is probably fairest.

I've lived in a 5 bedroom house, where one of the housemate's significant other moved in and shared his room. We payed utilities separately, and so split those 6 ways, but rent was different. We had each been paying about 20% of the rent. When the SO moved in, we each reduced the rent for each of the single-occupancy rooms by about 10% (i.e. to 18%), raising the rent for the doubly-occupied room to 28% of the rent, meaning that together they paid about a share and a half, or singly they each paid 3/4 of a share of the rent. As far as I know, everyone was happy with that division.
posted by JiBB at 3:22 PM on March 26, 2010

The two who are subletting there rooms should get over themselves. Why do they care if S & Z share a room. They wont be there. Utilities are included in the rent, so they wont see any extras expenses. Unless they have trouble subletting there room because of the added person they have no downsides. While every summer Z has to deal with 2 new short term room mates, which is a bit of a drag. Last year X & Y should have subsidized Z for the trouble. This year I would at least let S slide. What deal S and Z strike is between them.
posted by ihadapony at 3:53 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not even going to try and figure this out.

The only thing I can say is this: once you have come to an agreement... put it down in writing and have everybody sign it.

Otherwise I'll see you in a future episode of Judge Judy.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:45 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ihadapony: Thanks for your opinion, I hadn't really looked at it this way (I am obviously not Roomate Z, but it helps me see her perspective a bit better)

CGG: Thanks for the concrete numbers, it seems very logical that way.

Thanks guys, for the range of opinions. I'm going to take some of them to the group and see what happens.
posted by hepta at 5:14 PM on March 26, 2010

I think the $550/month in rent should be evenly divided by the number of people living in that apartment during the month. If one month only one person lives there, then they pay the full $550. If the next month 10 people live there, then each person only pays $55.

It's incorrect to protest that "I'm paying your utilities." Assuming that the $550/month is a flat fee, and that it won't go up if more utilities get used.

However, it IS correct that each additional person adds a burden of inconvenience on everyone else. It's one more person who might be using the shower when you have to pee, one more person who's roasting a chicken when you want to bake cookies, etc. (My guess is that this is what X and Y were fumbling to express, when they latched onto the utility issue.)

If you all want to set a special "sublet rate" which is higher than (cost of rent / number of residents), that's fair. Say that anyone who stays there less than __ months will pay (cost of rent / number of residents + $N).

Then it's just a matter of getting everyone to agree on $N, which shouldn't be too hard.
posted by ErikaB at 6:33 PM on March 26, 2010

Since utilities are included in the rent and don't vary based on usage, the issue of "subletters not wanting to pay for S's showers/air conditioning" should be excluded from the discussion.

Why four people shouldn't split the rent evenly, with each paying 1/4: Two of those people are sharing one bedroom, which I'm assuming is not double the size of the other bedrooms. If S's stuff was occupying the common area because there was no room to store it in Z's bedroom, it might be a different argument.

Why you shouldn't give Z a hard time: She put up with subletters and will again this year. She's had a hard time paying rent but she didn't up and leave, and she didn't stiff you, she paid it back when she could.

Honestly I'd just leave it as it is. If, and only if, you have subletters that balk at the extra person, decide on a fair price on the "inconvenience" of living with an extra person that S and Z can split (25 per person per month sounds fair). But in all honesty, Z puts up with living with 2 different sets of roommates, having dealt with roommates subletting and myself staying, that's just as inconvenient as having 2 people in 1 bedroom.
posted by kpht at 10:22 PM on March 26, 2010

I think the $550/month in rent should be evenly divided by the number of people living in that apartment during the month. If one month only one person lives there, then they pay the full $550.

With people coming and going for the summer this doesn't work, because under this system A and B could just not bother finding subletters and stick Z with the whole rent even though Z can't control whether A and B live there.

While S's presence does create inconveniences, those inconveniences won't bother A and B if they're not there, so the issue is whether subletters can be found that are willing to rent A and B's rooms at an acceptable price if S and Z are both living in the apartment. If they can then I concur entirely with kpht. If not then it seems fair for S and Z to pay some extra to counteract the other rooms potentially needing to be subletted at a lower price.

(I must admit that I have become entirely desensitised to fairness issues regarding sublet prices since moving to an area where the rental housing market is all kinds of broken. The guy that leases the house where I currently live pays some $280 a week to rent it, then sublets out the 3 bedrooms at $180 a week each. He turned the living room into a fourth bedroom so he could live here free and make a mad profit. I do have to compliment you on the fact that you're considering whether the arrangement is fair for your subletters at all.)
posted by narrativium at 9:25 AM on March 27, 2010

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