A few months ago I moved into a shared house. The house used to be a kind of community house for (where people would eat dinner together and roommates are found through the church). I'm not religious but most people in the house are and there still is an expectation to be respectful and trust each other.
I don't think I've been treated fairly when it comes to money. The first month I move in the lease holder had to kick someone out and asked me for money to change all the locks. The next month he wasn't able to find someone to occupy the now vacant room and again asked for money. Then the utilities bill was very high compared to the previous year. There was talk the garage needs to get cleared out and we need to chip in money to rent a truck.
Here is where I draw the line. When I moved in I was told we use a system where if someone buys a household supply (like garbage bags or dish soap) we write our name on the receipt and put it in a pile. This sounded like a good idea to me and I agreed to it. After several months someone went through the receipts, and posted in the group chat how much everyone owes each other. I was a bit surprised how much I owe some people as I had no idea they purchased anything. After doing some investigation, I find there's a few things that aren't fair in the way the costs were divided:
- Someone had bought some supplies for a Christmas party we had, and I had been under the impression each person was contributing out of their own pocket (for example I brought two bottles of wine and didn't expect to get reimbursed).
- Someone broke the vacuum while using it, bought a new one, and now is sharing the cost with everyone. I said I didn't think this was fair but the response was "the vacuum cleaner was old and ready to go anyway"
- Someone purchased close to $200 in cleaning supplies at once. The receipt doesn't have enough information to really tell what the items were (for example often times it just has a brand name).
- It's just silly that people owe each other small amounts that are awkward to pay, like $1.38
- I had been told the receipts would be processed each month, but in reality it happens once every several months. This makes it hard to track down what the costs were for.
As you may tell from my writing, I'm not good at stating a case that comes across as polished. The person in charge of this system is Bob. When I got home Bob was talking to another roommate who was trying to convince Bob of a better system. Bob was using arguments, which IMHO, hold no weight (like "this is how we've always done things" or "person-so-and-so wouldn't agree to this"). I tried to support the new system, but Bob got offended. I think this is what led to him making nonsense accusations and yelling at me.
I had asked to see the receipts and Bob got offended at this too saying he triple checked the numbers and wasn't trying to rip anyone off. I tried explaining I wanted to see receipts so I know what was purchased but he was too mad to listen.
I need to make absolutely clear to everyone in the house if someone wants me to help pay for something, they need to ask me before buying it. What's the best way of doing this considering some people get offended I don't trust them? I could play it up as "ask me first because I may know a cheaper place to buy it or have a friend who would lend/give it to us" but this may not always be applicable if I don't think we need the purchase in the first place, or if its something consumable like food for the party (though would work well for things like a mop).
I would like to get a new system that is fair in the sense everyone uses it the same way. I think it's much better to purpose an alternative instead of just saying "your way doesn't work". I tried purposing a new system but Bob got very defensive and used lots of arguments that made no sense to me, like "we tried this before and it didn't work" to which I replied "there's only 2 of the same people still living here" I think I was rude in the way I phrased it but I also think it's true. What is a good response to "we tried and it didn't work" when the conditions have changed? He also argues "this wouldn't work for person X" but I'd prefer if people spoke for themselves.
Bob is not the lease holder and in general I have a problem with how he thinks he can tell people what to do. Often he phrases things in such a way that makes it sound like everyone else has agreed and he's just relaying the message, when in fact only one other person agrees. Also I made a purchase that other people refused to help me pay for.
To summarize, my hope is we can agree on a system like everyone pays $20 at the start of a month and any leftover is evenly returned, but until such a system is in place I must insist people ask before expecting me to pay for a purchase.
Response to comments:
Q. are you looking for a better system to implement, or just a way to communicate that you won't participate in this system anymore?
A. primarily a way to communicate I won't be part of their current system anymore, but I think the best way to achieve this is getting people on board with a new system
Q. consider the scalability of people getting permission for purchases - does someone need to ask every other person in the house before buying a roll of paper towels?
A. In this post I'm not asking about what systems might be good in it's place, I'm asking how can I respectfully communicate I won't be part of the current one
Q. How much longer are you intending to live in this house?
A. At least another year. It's a very nice place and aside from the roommate politics everything is great, I even enjoy the roommates company when we get along.
Q. Do you ever have house meetings with all of the roommates together?
A. Yes but often times at least one person can't make it
Q. Are there any formal/public documents about house expenditures and budgets, or is it all up to Bob?
A. First off Bob isn't the landlord and I feel like he's acting in a position of authority he doesn't really have. Sometimes Bob, and other people, write things down and leave them in a public area. Usually these documents are unilaterally created and just because someone makes a document doesn't mean everyone has to follow it.
Q. Do you talk to any roommates other than Bob about these issues, or just Bob?
A. I talk to the others and most agree with me but have very passive or neutral attitudes.
Q. Are you prepared to compromise on issues, or are these hard stops for you?
A. It's a hard stop for me that I won't be paying anymore unless I agree to it first. My hope is I can change this position once everyone agrees to a new system.