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How to Split Rent with Roommates

January 27, 2021

Roommates... you can't live with them, you can't live without them. Living with roommates can be an incredible experience that results in lifelong friendships, or they can be rough experiences leading to early broken leases.

Hopefully, you’ll avoid the latter by doing your due diligence when finding a roommate. Regardless of whether you love or hate your roommate, you'll have to figure out a way to split rent seamlessly.

Though splitting rent with roommates can be simple and straightforward, it's not always the case. For example, you may find yourself renting with a couple or within an apartment with significantly different sized bedrooms.

When these situations occur, things can get complicated. Luckily, this guide will break down everything you need to know about splitting rent with roommates in various situations.

How to Split Rent with Roommates

Roommates can split rent in various ways. It all depends on what works best for you and them.

Splitting the rent by square footage, by person, and by room are common options. If you're not sure what option is best for your roommate situation, check out the following ways to split rent with roommates. Let's dive in!

1. Splitting Rent by Rooms

This is arguably one of the simplest ways to split rent. Simply divide the total cost of rent by the total number of bedrooms. The people occupying each room will be responsible for paying their portion of the rent.

In action, splitting by bedrooms is easy. For example, in a three-bedroom apartment unit with three individual renters (yourself included), each person would be responsible for a third of the rent price.

If the rent for your unit is $2,100 a month, each renter would be responsible for paying $700.

This can be an equal but unfair approach, depending on the circumstances. What if there are more renters than bedrooms in the unit? Do the people sharing rooms pay more or less in rent? You’ll have to discuss this with your roommates and come to a conclusion before formalizing the arrangement via a physical agreement.

2. Splitting Rent by Total Space

This rent-splitting option is ideal for apartment units with bedrooms that greatly differ in size. While one bedroom may be able to fit a king-size bed comfortably and have an en-suite bathroom, another might be about the size of Harry Potter's cupboard.

In this case, it's common to divide the cost of rent by the square footage of each bedroom. This is a little trickier as it requires you to know each bedroom’s square footage and some slightly more complex math. You can ask your landlord about the square footage of each bedroom to help you get started.

We’ll use a $2,100 a month two-bedroom apartment with a master bedroom and a guest bedroom in this scenario. Let's say the square footage of the master bedroom is 280 square feet, including an en-suite bathroom. The guest bedroom is significantly smaller at just 120 square feet.

First, we'll add the square footage of each bedroom to get the total square footage. In this case, that’s 400 sq. ft. We'll plug these numbers into the equation below to divide rent by square footage:

*(square footage of your bedroom/total square footage of all bedrooms) x (the price of rent)

  • So, if you had the smaller guest bedroom:

(120 sq. ft./400 sq. ft.) x $2,100 = $630

You would be responsible for covering $630 for rent in this scenario. Your roommate occupying the larger master bedroom would be on the hook for $1,470.

3. Splitting Rent Evenly Across Roommates

Splitting rent evenly among roommates is one of the best solutions for rental circumstances in which the number of bedrooms doesn’t match the number of renters. This can go both ways.

You may have two roommates who rent a three-bedroom apartment and use the third bedroom as a shared home office space. Conversely, that same three-bedroom apartment could be occupied by five individuals.

In either of these cases, you and your roommates may decide to split rent equally by the number of roommates. This results in a lower rent cost for each renter than it would if you split rent by the number of bedrooms.

For example, if five renters occupy a three-bedroom apartment with a monthly rent price of $2,500, then each renter would be responsible for $500. That would be the case regardless of whether they share a room or not.

Splitting Rent with a Couple

When it comes to splitting rent with a pair of roommates who are a couple, things can get a bit sticky. The crux of the issue is whether the couple will pay their portion of the rent as two individual renters or as a single renter.

This will greatly affect how much you’ll be paying in rent. If you split the rent by roommate, you’ll end up paying a third of the total rent price (provided there are no additional roommates). If you split by room, and they pay as a single renter, then you’ll end up paying half of the rent price.

There’s no one right way to split rent in this case. Any of the options mentioned earlier are viable. They’ll depend on the specific circumstances you find yourself in.

You’ll need to discuss things with your roommates and come to an agreement. Be sure to discuss this prior to signing a lease agreement with a couple. You’d be hard-pressed to change things mid-term if you begin to feel resentful.

Rent Split Calculators

You can use analog methods of calculating splitting rent with roommates. However, there are many tools available that’ll make the task a lot easier.

Not to mention, these calculators enable you to input details about different scenarios. So, you can use them even if your roommate situation is a bit unusual.

Here are a few of our favorite rent split calculators:

Other Things to Consider

Splitting rent doesn't always have a clear-cut solution. Many factors influence how seamlessly the process will go. If you want to ensure that it goes off without a hitch, then you’ll have to take all these factors into consideration.

Here are some essential considerations to make when rent splitting with roommates.

1. Utilities

Splitting utility bills with roommates can be challenging. For one, sometimes it’s rare that all roommates use an equal share of utilities.

Some people like long, hot showers. Others prefer to run the heat all night long. Still, others may work from home and require tons of electricity to power their devices.

You’ll have to figure out whether you’ll split utility costs equally between roommates or you’ll pay based on usage. Unfortunately, you’ll have a hard time negotiating the latter. However, it’s worth a shot if you’re definitely overpaying.

2. Roommate Agreements

Make, and we cannot stress this enough, a roommate agreement. It’s essential and can save you time, money, and headaches in the long run.

A roommate agreement is a legally binding document. It outlines the financial and behavioral obligations between roommates.

With one, you'll be able to cover yourself in the event that your roommate fails to pay their portion of the rent the agreement outlines. You will also not be obligated to abide by any changes in the agreement unless you and your roommates sign an updated agreement.

In short, roommate agreements act as a fail-safe that you’ll be grateful to have if things go south.

3. Lease Responsibilities

Your lease agreement may address the issue of rent splitting between roommates. Be sure to check this before moving in with roommates.

If possible, ask to rent the room rather than the apartment. When you do this, you’ll only be responsible for paying your portion of the rent, regardless of what your roommates do.

These rental agreements are common in rental units with 3+ bedrooms. However, some people also have them in units with fewer bedrooms.

Unfortunately, you may be responsible for covering the entire cost of rent if your roommates don’t pay their portions. This depends on the terms of your lease agreement. If you rented together and signed a single lease agreement, then this is usually the case.

How to Handle Roommate Rent Split Conflicts

While no one wants to run into a roommate rent split conflict, it happens. Knowing how to handle it when your roommates don’t or can’t pay their portion of the rent or want to renegotiate the split can help you come to a resolution more easily.

Here are some tips to help you handle roommate rent split conflicts:

  • Listen: Things can get heated in these situations. So, it’s important that you start off on the right foot. Don’t immediately dismiss your roommates’ concerns or issues. Give them the chance to say their entire piece before you respond.
  • Talk to Your Landlord: If you can pay your portion of the rent, do so. Explain to your landlord that you can only pay your portion of the rent, and your roommates can’t or won’t pay their portion. In many cases, you’ll be on the hook for their portion if you don’t want to face any consequences. However, your landlord may be willing to work something out with you and your roommates.
  • Refer to Your Roommate Agreement: While the terms of your roommate agreement are negotiable, they’re only negotiable if all parties are willing to make changes and sign a new agreement. If you don’t want to change or the conflict is addressed in the agreement, refer to it and remind your roommates that you all agreed to the terms.
  • Monitor the Environment: No one wants to live in an apartment with tension in the air. Unfortunately, issues regarding splitting rent are often the sort that don’t go away easily. This can cause tension and make the living situation untenable. Only you are able to decide whether you want to stick out your lease agreement’s duration in a negative environment.

Managing roommate conflicts, regarding rent splitting or otherwise, can mean fighting an uphill battle. The best strategy against major roommate conflicts is being proactive.

Take time and care when choosing roommates. A year is a long time. You’ll want to ensure that you’ll be spending it with someone that you actually like.

Final Thoughts

If your primary motivation for renting with roommates is to reduce the cost of rent, then you'll have to become an expert at rent splitting. Use the tips and tricks from this guide and you'll be well on your way to becoming a rent-splitting genius.

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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