EthicsFilter: Who should pay when a three way rental split gets interrupted by a breakup?
June 17, 2008 8:59 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I moved into an apartment with a classmate of his almost 2 years ago. We found a place in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is notoriously expensive but which we were able to all afford by splitting the rent three ways. Our room was really big, with room for both our desks and a bed. His room is about half the size but he also got the whole hall closet. Now that my boyfriend and I have broken up and he's moved out, we have a little problem.

When my boyfriend moved out, I stayed for a few months paying both of our rents (yes, I had to borrow money from my parents, something I'm not thrilled about but I couldnt find a new place). Now I've found a new place and our landlord has OKd me subletting the big room for the next 5 months until the lease is up.

Heres the problem: My roomate wants to find a subletter that will pay 2/3 of the rent (1,300) for that one room while he remains paying 700. The room and the apartment are nice for the neighborhood, but its still a little steep for someone, and if it were me, I would think it unfair that I would be paying twice as much for a room that isnt even twice the size. I'm worried we wont be able to find a subletter who will pay that much.

The way he sees it, its not his fault that we broke up, so why should he have to pay any extra rent? He thinks if we cant find a subletter who will pay 1300, then I should subsidize the rent and pay a hundred dollars or so a month. I understand his point of view, but he took a risk by living with a couple and the payoff for him was huge: there is no other way he would have been able to afford such a nice apartment in Park Slope if we had not been splitting the rooms three ways. So I feel that he should either eat the extra money to make a more fair rental agreement with the subletter, or we should at least split the cost.

This is tricky situation. I dont want to be unfair to my roomate, but I also dont think its fair for me to have to pay a hundred bucks or more a month for a place I dont live in anymore. What do you think?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total)
Seems like your ex has some responsiblity in this as well. All three of you are on the lease right?
posted by bigmusic at 9:07 PM on June 17, 2008

How many people are on the lease? It would seem to me that it would be unfair to him to start paying for half rent when it was agreed that it would be split into thirds. Unless of course there is only 2 people on the lease then he would be responsible to half of the rent.
posted by lilkeith07 at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2008

You and your boyfriend contracted to pay 2/3rds while your roomie paid a 1/3rd; at least until the end of the lease. You guys breaking up hasn't got anything to do with your roomie and you and your ex should be ponying up the difference between that 2/3rds and what you can sublet for.
posted by Mitheral at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

During the time of move-in, if the agreed upon rate was $700 for the classmate, then that is his rental rate. I agree, indeed, why should he be penalized because you ended your relationship? Of course the legalities of this should be spelled out in a written agreement that you (should have) formed when you moved in.
posted by Asherah at 9:11 PM on June 17, 2008

It's not his fault you broke up. You and your boyfriend are responsible for the amount that you agreed to pay, until your agreement expires. None of your justifications matter; you must honor your agreement.
posted by equalpants at 9:13 PM on June 17, 2008

Find another couple to sublet.
posted by slowfasthazel at 9:16 PM on June 17, 2008

Also, sounds like you're bitter about the lack of the situation being fair as you ponied up the rent that your ex should have been paying. How about going after the ex for your past rent instead of the remaining roommate?
posted by Asherah at 9:16 PM on June 17, 2008

I'm with him; he shouldn't be stuck with paying any more than his 1/3rd share because you and your BF broke up. That's not fair, and I don't think there's any sort of implied "risk" inherent in living with a couple that you'll maybe end up paying extra rent because they have a quarrel. I've lived with couples, and the assumption on my part (when I was the non-coupled person) was that if they had relationship issues, they'd keep that separate from the finances. That, to me, is the only mature and responsible way to handle it.

However, the person who's really getting off the hook, from the way it sounds, is your boyfriend. If he was on the lease with the rest of you, he should still be paying his 1/3rd share ($700 or whatever), regardless of whether he's living there or not, unless you explicitly agreed to take over his share of the rent.

And if you did do that -- tell him he could have an out, because you'd pick up his rent -- then you now own that 1/3rd share. Trying to shove it off onto the 3rd roomie, however convenient it may be for you, just isn't kosher.

The right thing for you to do, if you've let your ex-BF off the hook and can't get him to pony up, is to either find a tenant who's willing to take over 2/3rds of the rent (both your and your ex-BF's share), or continue paying the 2/3rds yourself, as you have been doing, until the lease is up and you can end it cleanly.

The only other solution I can think of would be to get together with the 3rd guy and see if he wants out of the apartment as well; if that's the case, maybe the two of you can find a replacement tenate who'll take over the whole place, pay the whole rent, and get you both out. But if he wants to stay, you don't really have any basis (ethically, morally, and I suspect legally) to force him to either pay more than his share of the rent, or to move out.

It's a sucky situation and I feel your pain -- you really got left the short end of the stick if you agreed to take over paying your BFs share when he left -- but I think you know that what you're asking for is unfair.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:22 PM on June 17, 2008 [9 favorites]

I agree with all the other posters. Your roommate shouldn't have to pay extra because you broke up. However, your boyfriend should be the one continuing to pay the rent on his 3rd. You could even argue he ought to reimburse you for the months you paid his part.

But, your roommate had no control over your relationship, so he should have no responsibility for it's termination. I mean, who would agree to a rental agreement that was "$300 a month, unless I break up with my boyfriend, in which case the rent goes up to $450"
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on June 17, 2008

I'm worried we wont be able to find a subletter who will pay that much

Have you tried? It depends on the exact location, of course, but $2000 for a 2-bedroom in Park Slope is a steal, and $1300 for a big bedroom in a decent apartment will be pretty appealing to a lot of people. Spend a couple of weeks making your best effort to find a subletter who'll pay that, and only start worrying about other options if you can't find one.
posted by staggernation at 9:36 PM on June 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

You and your ex are both responsible for your thirds, but your former roomie is being unreasonable in saying he only wants one person in the master bedroom. Look for a pair of friends to split that room and take over your lease, not another couple, and he should have no reasonable grounds for objection.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:47 PM on June 17, 2008

Agreed that your friend should not pay more than the $700 he agreed to pay. However, you're unlikely to find someone who thinks the 1300/700 split is fair when only 1 person is living in your room. You and your ex should jointly pay what is necessary to bridge the gap between what the market will bear and 1300, assuming you were splitting the 1300 before and made no other agreement.

My way of thinking about rent splitting is that it's not based just on room size but on use of common areas. If A's room is twice the size of B's, A's rent should be more but not twice as much, because presumably A and B will have equal access to the kitchen and living room, be equally likely to have friends over or otherwise disturb the peace, etc. Two people living in one room should pay more than one person living in the same room (when there are 3+ people total) because they will use twice as many non-bedroom resources. However, utilities should be divided equally person by person among only the people living there, unless someone uses one disproportionately -- the underlying thought being that if you left a place you'd rented on your own, you'd be responsible for rent but could turn the utilities off.

Examples of what I think is fair: (a) My current roommate is away for the summer, so she is paying her half of the rent but I am paying all utilities. If I asked her if my boyfriend could move into my room, I would propose that he and I pay more than half but less than two thirds of the rent. (b) An ex and I broke up while we were living together in a 1-bedroom; we decided that he would keep the place, but it wasn't fair for either of us to pay my half of the rent alone since he hadn't expected to pay the full rent and I had to pay for a new place, so we more or less split it. And he paid all utilities.
posted by ecsh at 9:47 PM on June 17, 2008

It sounds like you felt it was a reasonable price when you lived there. I'm not clear why it would be excessive for another couple to pay.
posted by smackfu at 9:49 PM on June 17, 2008

You should probably still try to find a subletter, but your roommate made an agreement he still abides by - and that's all he needs to do, it's simply that simple. YOU are the one who took the risk in making your partner the sharer of the room. So do what you gotta do, but it's probably going to hurt.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:51 PM on June 17, 2008

The way he sees it, its not his fault that we broke up, so why should he have to pay any extra rent?

As others have said, it's not his fault and he bears no responsibility for the change from the previous arrangement.
posted by ericb at 9:52 PM on June 17, 2008

I agree with the other posters - this isn't your roommate's problem, and for the remaining time on the lease, you and your boyfriend ought to pay for the effects of your breakup. That said, you may be able to negotiate with him a bit by pointing out that if you find someone who'll pay the 1300 - that person may, upon finding out that he pays half of that, up and move out. Or become angry. Or otherwise inconvenience and force repeated craigslist efforts on him. And that it may be in his best interest to adjust the discrepancy somewhat in order to keep his new co-tenant. This would not be unreasonable, particularly given that he is not just renting his bedroom - he's renting the whole apartment - and there's more "value" in sharing a kitchen, bathroom, etc. with *one* person than with *two*.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:54 PM on June 17, 2008

I'm going to try to put myself in the remaining roommate's shoes for a minute, and you should too.

He's already been screwed over once by people sharing the room and then deciding it wouldn't work out. He's also already agreed to rent of $700. You're on the lease (and I hope your ex is as well), so the remaining tenant is responsible for what he agreed to on the lease.

Suck it up and pay the rent for the remainder of the lease. It's a legally binding contract, and when you sign those you do so with the intention of completing your end of the agreement. And I highly doubt that there is a clause saying that his rent would go up because you two break up.

ecsh's plan is a bit on the complicated side for me (too many arbitrarily decided numbers if I'm understanding it correctly). But he does have a point in that a strait up half and half split isn't a good idea either.

Really, the only thing you can do is help him find another person to live with who will either agree to pay 2/3 of the total rent or a price that the remaining roommate feels is fair. But until that happens, you're stuck for the remainder of the lease.
posted by theichibun at 10:38 PM on June 17, 2008

the new york housing market is extremely tight, and 1300 is not an unreasonably price for a big room in a good neighborhood like park slopeā€”if your roommate puts an ad for it on craigslist, he won't have any problems filling the room for that price within a few days of posting the ad.
posted by lia at 10:54 PM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why does the tenant you sublet to even need to know what percentage of the rent they'll be paying. The room's $1300. If they ask, you can tell them--some people won't care, some may--but no need to advertise it that way.

Look, if all three of you had moved out, the landlord probably could have rented the apartment out for a high overall amount. Why shouldn't the remaining roomie benefit a little from having been there first, and having lived there for two years while rents in the neighborhood got higher? Proportionally, this is almost exactly the rent ratio that my old roomie offers my old room for, and my room was the smaller one. Her new roomies have never even asked her what the total rent was because the rent was fair for the arrangement.

Like others have said, you thought it to be fair rent--even a bargain--while you lived in that room. Why not just try to rent it out for that price?

But I'm not clear based on your question where the extra $100 is coming from. If the rent hasn't gone up, rent the room out for the price you paid for it. If the rent's gone up, split the difference somehow between the new roomie and the old roomie.
posted by lampoil at 3:58 AM on June 18, 2008

If your roommate worked for a big company and got transferred to the other side of the country and could only rent his room out for $500, would you feel obligated to pay the extra $200 because you took the risk of this happening by living with someone whose job could get transferred and you benefited from the situation anyway? I kind of doubt it. Unless you had some sort of agreement with him that should you two break up, he would pick up the extra rent, he is under no obligation, moral or otherwise (IANAL) to make up the difference. Now if he's refusing to live with another couple (or two people willing to share the room) that's another thing, but it was really you and your ex bf that assumed the risk of you two breaking up when you moved in, not him.
posted by whoaali at 4:43 AM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Concentrate on finding a subletter, either an individual or a couple, for the room for now.

And in future, before you get into a situation like this, make sure there's a contingency plan in place so everybody knows what their responsibilities are in the event that someone wants out.
posted by orange swan at 6:04 AM on June 18, 2008

Yeah, when I was looking for sublets there were plenty of rooms in 2 br apartments for 1000-1500 in areas like park slope and clinton hill. Subletters usually know they are going to be footing more of the bill than the person on the lease, and there's no need to tell them explicitly "you are paying 2/3 the rent".

I also agree with the other posters that this is in no way anyone's fault but your own, and you (plural, i assume the boyfriend is on the lease too) really need to pony up the cash per the lease agreement another renter is found. The roommate took no explicit risk by moving in with a couple and saying "the payoff was huge" is sort of ridiculous--you all were breaking up while living with him, and while I'm sure you're very nice people, come on...
posted by shownomercy at 6:19 AM on June 18, 2008

Just advertise the room at $1300. Someone will pay it. You're in Park Slope and a lot of people there wouldn't even sneeze at $1300. I know a guy who rents a crappy, tiny room in Park Slope and he has to walk out the front door of the apartment and walk down the hallway into the back door of the apartment to have access to the kitchen and the bathroom. And he hates his pothead roommate who has the room next to him. That guy pays $1200.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 6:20 AM on June 18, 2008

Unless your roommate is insisting that only one person be permitted to sublet instead of another couple, he's perfectly reasonable in demanding that his share of the rent not change.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:00 AM on June 18, 2008

OP: I understand his point of view, but he took a risk by living with a couple and the payoff for him was huge: there is no other way he would have been able to afford such a nice apartment in Park Slope if we had not been splitting the rooms three ways.

1. "I understand his point of view": Enough said. It sounds like you do, and I won't repeat the endless reiterations of it here. So I will focus on what's bugging you about it.

2. "he took a risk by living with a couple": Yes. Part of the way that risk is cashing out is the burden of looking for new roommates, the need to coexist with them, etc., so don't assume that he is getting off scot-free. You also took a risk. What we don't know, because it wasn't hashed out, is whether you assumed the particular risk of bearing the rent from your absent ex. If we assume that you two had a side arrangement for splitting the rent as between you, and went in together vis-a-vis the remaining roommate, I think you are on the hook -- jointly and severally -- if he fails to pay.

3. "there is no other way he would have been able to afford such a nice apartment in Park Slope if we had not been splitting the rooms three ways." Yes. But the time for you to reflect the advantage that gave him is in the original rent structure, not now. If you failed to do that sufficiently, this situation becomes analytically similar to a simple attempt to renegotiate the rent midway.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:18 AM on June 18, 2008

$1300 is not at all out of range for a big room in Park Slope. (Unless you're being much too broad with your definition of Park Slope, or there are other issues we don't know.) I think it would be well worth your while to advertise it and just see if you can find a good person willing to pay. If so: problem solved.
posted by allterrainbrain at 12:13 PM on June 18, 2008

As a data point, my partner and I would willingly pay that, were we in a position to move.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:21 PM on June 18, 2008

I wouldn't pay it either. My husband and I paid $1000 for spacious one-bedroom in Midwood instead. But plenty of Brooklynites will pay $1300 to share an apartment.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 7:55 AM on June 19, 2008

« Older Looking for an alt hip hop song...   |   Marriage therapist (in Illinois)? Marriage... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.