What could go wrong?
Having a roommate is a great way to save money on an apartment or house, and it can be fun to live with other people. However, getting a roommate also comes with financial risks. All roommates are expected to contribute to rent and utility bills. But, if one roommate doesn’t pay their share of the rent, the penalties affect everyone on the lease. With utilities, only the roommate whose name is on the bill will be negatively impacted if someone doesn’t pay their share.
Unfortunately, another issue you could run into with roommates is theft. As much as we would like to believe people have the best intentions, most theft is committed by someone we know. Roommates may have financial issues they haven’t told you about, and they have easy access to your personal information, account information, and credit and debit cards.
Set yourself up for success
Before selecting a roommate, try to find someone you trust. Living with someone you know well will hopefully reduce any financial conflicts. Once you have chosen a roommate, try to find a leasing company that allows separate leases for each roommate. If this is possible, everyone is legally responsible for only their portion of the rent. For other bills, talk to your roommate about having some in each of your names. For example, one person could be in charge of electricity and another could be responsible for the internet service. By sharing the responsibility, it will be less likely that one person ends up paying all of a bill.
To prevent identity or property theft, it is a good idea to keep your most important items and documents in a small safe. Also, be sure to shred any sensitive documents you no longer need. Keep your bedroom locked when you are not home for added protection.
How do I fix it?
Resolving financial conflicts with your roommates can be awkward, especially if you are close friends, but you always need to be an advocate for your own financial success. If your roommate can’t cover part of a bill, try reaching out to the company to talk about alternative payment arrangements until your roommate can get caught up. If a solution cannot be easily worked out with your roommate, many schools offer mediation services. A mediator is a third party who meets with the people involved in the conflict to help negotiate a solution. As a last resort, you can file a small claims lawsuit against your roommate to try to recoup the money they owe you. Instructions for filing a small claims lawsuit can be found on your city’s website, and many universities offer legal services for students that may be able to further assist you.