Living With My Lazy Cousin - What Price Is Right?

Dear Sugar
I am curious; how do people split the rent in a fair way when they rent out a room? I have a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment that I am renting out to my cousin. Myself, my husband and my child stay in one room, and my cousin stays in the other.

We each use our own bathrooms and he has free roam of the house and everything in it. He never pitches in to clean up household messes or take out the trash and he never offers to buy communal items for the house such as: cleaning supplies, or trash bags. He constantly uses my laundry soap and things of the like.

Recently, he has asked me to stop writing bills out for him and he just wants to know what his portion of utilities and rent are so that he can write his own checks. When we moved in together, we agreed that he would put down one third of the security deposit and pay one third of utilities. We never formalized what his portion of the rent would be.

Ever since, he's been paying one third of the rent. I don't mind one third of utilities but isn't it kind of unfair that he is taking up half my house and only paying for one third of it? He doesn't clean up after himself and I am starting to feel like I am supporting him. His contribution certainly makes life easier for my husband and baby and I, but am I being taken advantage of? How do other people spilt it up? What is the proper way to handle this? I feel lost. Landlord Lana

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Dear Landlord Lana
Your cousin is definitely getting the better deal on the apartment since he's only paying one third, but he's also just one person and you guys are three people living in the same space.

Maybe you feel that you guys are getting the short end of the stick because you are the one paying more, but at the same time he's living in a house under the same roof as a couple and a child. He really is the "third wheel" and I am sure this isn't the ideal living situation for him.

That is why splitting things 50/50 isn't fair to him either. But as far as any expenses to the house that are communal, you should just tack them onto his utilities bill. Chances are that if you tried to rent out his room to a stranger, you wouldn't have too many takers who would be wiling to pay half of the rent and utilities etc..when they are one person living with a family of three.

It seems pretty clear that you made an agreement when he moved in, that he would be paying one third of the rent and utilities. It's not wrong for him to assume that this was his end of the bargain.

But if you feel that is unfair now that you have lived with him for a while and have noticed that he never pitches in for any of the housework or pays for any extra household items, then it's easy enough to sit him down and have a talk with him and let him know that he also owes you one third of household item expenses in addition to utilities. Also, he should absolutely be responsible for picking up after himself. That problem can be solved by creating a household chores chart.

The correct answer is that he should really be paying somewhere between one third and one half of everything (so about two fifths?) - but is it really worth trying to change the rules in the middle of the game for a marginal increase?

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