A “fair” agreement isn’t always strictly equal.
- It doesn’t matter which method you use to split rent so long as all parties involved agree that it’s fair.
- The percentage paid by every renter could be split evenly, by square foot, by income, or even in another way entirely based on who does what around the house.
- Whatever you agree upon, put it in writing to help avoid misunderstandings later.
Housing costs keep getting higher. In theory, having a housemate to share expenses is the best way to combat rising prices. But, as with most things, there’s theory — and then there’s reality.
What seems like a simple solution to manage your personal finances can be a lot more complex when it comes to putting it into practice. Even something so fundamental as how to split the rent fairly can cause a lot of complications.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that everyone has their own idea of what’s “fair.” The goal is to find an arrangement that everyone can (literally) live with. There are a few ways you could interpret a fair financial split depending on your roles and relationship.
Option 1: Even split
By the most basic definition of a fair split, you’d each pay the same percentage of the rent (and associated utility bills). So, if the rent is $1,500 a month, two people would pay $750 each or three people would pay $500 each.
This method has the benefit of simplicity, but it works best when all of the rooms are roughly the same size and have the same amenities. You can’t overlook the difference between equality and equity.
What does that mean? Say the house you’re renting with two friends has three bedrooms: one master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, and two regular-sized rooms. In an equal split, everyone pays the same amount — but is that really fair to the people paying the same amount for less space? Probably not.
One way to split rent in a house or apartment with unequal-sized rooms is to split the rent the same way the square footage of living space is divided. This way everyone is paying for their own space in a more literal sense.
Since everyone will use the public spaces, you can ignore them. This makes the math simpler: Add up the total square footage of the bedrooms (and any other private spaces). Then divide each housemate’s private square footage by the total amount.
For instance, imagine two people will rent a two-bedroom apartment with a shared bathroom. One room is 350 square feet and the other is 250 square feet, for a total of 600 square feet of private space. Based on room sizes, they would split the rent 58% and 42%, respectively.
Option 3: Income adjustments
In some cases, the most fair way to split rent is based on your means, not flat amounts. Basically, you each pay the same percentage of your income toward rent. (This option is more common for romantic couples and committed partners than your typical housemate situation, but it could apply to anyone.)
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As an example, say the rent is $1,500 a month. Person A makes $40,000 a year and Person B makes $80,000 a year. Person B makes twice as much as Person A, so they would pay two-thirds of the rent — $1,000 — while Person A pays one-third, or $500. Person B may pay a larger dollar amount, but both people are paying 15% of their income.
Option 4: Balanced by responsibility
When considering how to split rent, you also need to think about how you’re going to split responsibilities — and the two areas may overlap for some folks. It comes down to how each of you values your time (and how much you value not having to do certain tasks).
Do you or your housemate love to cook? Is it worth a little extra money each month to not have to cook? If one housemate is taking on extra responsibilities, it may make sense to have the other person (or people) pay a little more of the rent to compensate for their time and effort.
These situations can get sticky quickly, so be sure everyone is clear on the expectations from the beginning. It may even be useful to have a written document that outlines duties and expenses — as well as shows everyone’s agreement to abide by them.
Option 5: Mix and match
Everyone’s living situation will be unique to the people in it. What works for one set of housemates may not work for the next. The nature of your relationship, your finances, the house — all of these and more can impact how you decide to split your rent and other expenses.
Be open and honest with your potential housemates about what you feel is fair and equitable. If you can’t come to an agreement about this, chances are good you’re not going to be a good fit as housemates anyway.
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