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Dividing Up Your Rent Fairly

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Imagine this scenario: you and your three best friends are incoming sophomores at The University of Texas and decide to move out of the dorms and into a house together. That’s so exciting, and you did the smart thing where you had a Housing Scout agent help you find your place.

When your Housing Scout agent took the four of you on a tour of the property, it was love at first sight. The North Campus neighborhood was a perfect fit and the old house was wonderfully charming and everything you all were looking for.

The house was a huge improvement from dorm life. Everyone was excited at the prospect of having a bedroom to themselves, and it was easy to overlook the fact that there were only two bathrooms. So much better than communal restrooms, it’s hard to even complain.

On top of the added personal space, there was a big kitchen, carpeting in the living room, and even a small backyard and a grill. Your one friend was already fantasizing about bringing their labrador up from Houston to live in the house.

You all agreed that this property was ideal for your group and applied for the house with the help of your Housing Scout agent. The total rent was $3,200/month for the entire lease, and it was specified in the lease that the rent was to be paid in one payment. Eager to move forward, all of you signed the lease without a worry about how to divide the rent. That was a discussion for later.

When August 15th rolled around – move-in day, everybody showed up at the new house with luggage and furniture.

You all brought way too many dishes, and that “large” storage space suddenly didn’t seem so large anymore. And, even worse, arguments broke out over who would get which room.

Sarah wanted the room with the big window facing the backyard.

Adam demanded a room with the largest closet; his collection of priceless soccer jerseys couldn’t possibly get wrinkled.

Brooke just wanted to pay the least amount of money possible — she would have gladly lived in the cupboard if you could squeeze an air mattress in there.

As for you, you assumed that the rent would be evenly divided for everyone. $800 per person seemed reasonable since you all obviously get to enjoy the same house and amenities. Plus, the rooms all looked about the same size to you.

After some heated discussion (that could have been avoided altogether) the rent was split accordingly: You paid $850 for a medium-sized room with a private bathroom; Sarah got the large bedroom with the big window (and big closet) for $875; Brooke got an 80 sq. foot, converted sun-room for $725; and Adam got the second medium-sized room (with a smaller closet and no bathroom) for $750.

In the end, everybody wound up relatively satisfied, but not entirely. The seed of resentment was planted. Some resented the more expensive rent, and the others resented the inferior rooms. It could eventually drive your friendships apart. Did it have to be this way?

#1 – Make sure that you and your roommates are really ready to live together and have compatible lifestyles.

#2- Talk to your Housing Scout agent about your total budget that everyone can agree to. How much is everyone willing to spend on rent every month? Your agent will find suitable options.

#3 – What is everyone looking for in a home? Discuss amenities, parking, pets, location & distance from campus.

If you’re unable to sort out how to split up rent fairly on your own, there is an algorithm created by Dr. Francis Su, a Longhorn undergrad, and his fellow researchers Elisha Peterson and Patrick Vinogorad, that can help. Rather than arguing it out, or playing rock-paper-scissors (which is binding according to the friend code, by the way…), use this fair Rent Division Calculator developed by the New York Times, drawing from Dr. Su’s algorithm and research!

Resent no more! You are all paying what you should. And in the end, don’t let something like money get in the way of your friendships. Hopefully, these are people you want to know in years to come, be at peace!

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