Housemate money troubles
November 14, 2013 3:14 PM   Subscribe

What is a fair way to divvy up finances when two people move out of a four-person share house?

I've been living with three other people (B, S and K) for almost a year. Our lease is due to expire on 19th November, however we need to give 28 days notice in writing of our intention to leave if we want to end it. On 5th October, I asked B and S whether they were planning on staying in the house the next year, and the answer was 'probably not'. Since then there has been very little discussion about housing. I just found out a couple of days ago (through K) that B and S had applied for a new house and they were approved on Monday (11th November). They're planning on moving out in the next few days.

Tomorrow morning the four of us have a meeting with the real estate agent. B and S want K and I to sign them off the lease so that they can leave. I feel like they should have given us more than a week's notice to find someone to fill their rooms. I think they thought that we could all just leave on 19th November, which we can't - we need to give 28 days' notice. I would have been happy if they had sat down with K and I a month ago and given us dates, but everything has been via hearsay and so I wasn't in a position to make an informed decision about whether to stay or go. In fairness, perhaps I should have instigated this conversation a month ago. However, I feel like it was probably their responsibility to bring it up!

Making things more difficult is the fact that K is in a difficult financial situation right now and will struggle to cover his rent plus half of theirs. We are all in the same, tight-knit (30 person) uni course and will be seeing each other every day for the next year, so I am anxious to resolve this as fairly as possible!

Legally, we have two options:

1. Sign them off tomorrow morning (which means they won't have to pay anything more and leaves K and I high and dry)
2. Refuse to sign them off and force them to give 28 days' notice (which is a horrible, self-righteous thing to do)

Is there a third option that will work? What is a fair way to resolve this?

Please help!
posted by lovedbymarylane to Work & Money (11 answers total)
Option 3: they pay until you find someone to fill their rooms - or - through the 28 day notice period, whichever ends soonest.

It's not "self righteous" to ask them to cover their obligations; in fact, it's "self sacrificing" for you and K to cover it for them.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 3:23 PM on November 14, 2013 [26 favorites]

Two scenarios:

1) if you're planning on staying in the house indefinitely, then you and K try to find people as soon as possible, and B and S pay until you do, or until 28 days max.

2) if you're all looking for a new place, then you call your landlord and ask if you can move out Dec. 1 (and everyone pays their share until then.)

It's not your fault they misinterpreted the lease. Let the landlord tell them that if need be.
posted by mercredi at 3:24 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Them not understanding their lease is not your fiscal responsibility. If they have to give 28 days notice per your lease, then they need to do that. Of course you shouldn't be paying for their mistake. They can help with posting the apartment on craigslist (or its Australian equivalent), getting people to visit, etc., and you can make it 28 days or when the room is filled, whichever comes first.
posted by brainmouse at 3:26 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

2 is entirely fair. You are all obliged to give whatever notice in the lease is, and they need to do that. If they can find someone to take over the place in 2 weeks, they can get refunded the extra 2 weeks they paid.
posted by jeather at 3:29 PM on November 14, 2013

This is difficult, because while they should have given written notice, they may indeed feel that they gave over a month's notice (on October 5), especially if you all are friendly and don't tend to have a super legalistic approach to the lease. They may have felt this type of verbal notice would alert you to the fact that you'd need to find new roomies or make your own plans to move out. I'm not clear why that never happened. I'm also not clear when they alerted K as to their plans to move out - it sounds like maybe it happened earlier, but K just didn't pass on the info. Again, not the most responsible on their part, but also not completely unreasonable. That said, if you knew about this 28-days written notice thing, why didn't you raise that on Oct 5 and say something like "Cool, just let us know 28 days in advance, that way we can find a replacement if you indeed decide to move." It seems like everyone in this situation communicated poorly. It seems like if you had knowledge of something in the lease that others weren't aware of, you really should have spoken up and made them aware of the provision - it may not be a legal requirement, but seems like the right thing to do.

What I would do in this situation is to start looking for replacement roommates IMMEDIATELY. It depends on the rental market where you are, but when I've been in similar situations in a group house where someone needed to move out on short notice for various reasons (in one case, a sudden financial problem, in another a family crisis), we were actually able to find replacements a lot faster than we thought we would be able to, and no one lost out on any rent money. So, be proactive about this, and get everyone else to be proactive about tapping their social networks, posting to Craigslist, etc.

I would also probably to try and use the real estate agent as a semi-neutral arbitrator. I would put it to them like this: "We're actively looking for replacements for these two spots on the lease, but we want to make sure the process of switching over the lease is as fair to everyone as possible. What are our options here?" Your landlord may be willing to work with you. We had a psycho roommate at one point and our landlord ended up agreeing to let her out of the lease early and we split the cost of her rent with him until a replacement was found, because everyone wanted to be rid of her. Probably the most fair thing is if the people moving out continue to pay until a roommate is found, or 28 days elapse, but where all four of you are very proactive about locating replacements (and not super picky about who they are).
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:52 PM on November 14, 2013

To be fair, mistakes were made by everyone here.

OP, since you and K also haven't given 28 days notice, are you locked into another lease?
posted by sm1tten at 4:23 PM on November 14, 2013

Saying, "probably not" is not a firm commitment to leave after 28 days and it's certainly not written notice to the landlord. Had your roommates not been approved on Nov 11 for their new place and had no place to go by the 19th, I'm pretty sure that they would have claimed that they gave no formal notice to leave.

They should pay until you and the other remaining roommate find suitable roommates that you can agree on, or until a formalized 28 day notice term has ended. That's fair and don't let them shrug off their poorly managed obligations onto your shoulders.
posted by quince at 4:40 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

one thing to consider is what the november 19 deadline really means, for example: are you committed to a certain amount of time, like a year? or after the 19th is it month to month? if it's the latter, then the easiest to do would be to stick it out in our house until the semester is over and then move somewhere else with K.

regardless, only being on the hook for a maximum of four weeks isn't unreasonable, and actually kind of generous because they could be on the hook for however long it takes to find a suitable replacement, or until the lease ends.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:25 PM on November 14, 2013

They need to give a month's notice. It's not you being self righteous, it's you protecting yourself and your financial well-being.
posted by spunweb at 6:56 PM on November 14, 2013

Yeah, I'd say #2: it doesn't seem self-righteous at all to me. As an illustrative midpoint, you could alternatively add up the total rent from both houses until the point that you and K can leave and split it four ways... but why should you and K have to bear any of the cost of their actions, at all?
posted by XMLicious at 9:30 PM on November 14, 2013

If you're negotiating with the real estate agent, they are unlikely to be nice and let anyone off early, though it is worth asking if you do actually want to move.

If you're in Australia, your roommates have no way to recover their bond until either you all move out, or someone pays it to them voluntarily. Use this - that is, if the other tenants don't help you out, and you don't get a tenant in time, take it out of the bond paid by incoming tenants before passing it on.

Sadly it's a bad time of year right now for getting tenants. Still, try Gumtree and it's also worth posting ads offering a discounted rate to lease over the summer (now-Feb) as it is 100x easier to find tenants at the start of a semester.
posted by Ashlyth at 9:44 PM on November 14, 2013

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