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I live in a shared house where the utilities are under the lease holders name (Bob). I have a written agreement with Bob where he said I can see the original bills for utilities. I don't know why, but Bob gets together with another roommate named Dylan, and together they (allegedly) add up the bills and Dylan posts the amount each person owes on the group chat.

Bob had complained that I hadn't paid my portion yet and I keep reminding him I need to see the original bill and he keeps coming up with excuses such as being tired or having forgotten a password.

Bob said to me "it's a bit inconvenient for me to find all the bills, do you really think me and Dylan are conspiring against you?". I can see why he would say this. But I have a right to see the bill. How can I respond firmly with as little offense? I don't want to get sucked into an argument with Bob by giving him one of the following reasons (which are true):

  • people make honest mistakes
  • there are several utilities and it's unclear to me what the term/period of each is. Seeing the bills will clarify this which I will use for budgeting purposes.
  • there was an extra person living in the house for the past few months and I will not be paying for his expenses (especially since Bob charged him money)
  • a small part of me thinks Bob might be trying to pull a fast one since he has been reluctant to show me the bill this far
  • given my contract work I can write some expenses off
  • 1
    Have you told Bob about point 2&3 specifically? – XtremeBaumer Apr 1 at 7:18
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"Don't you trust me" is something of a loaded question - that is, either answer serves the asker (Bob). If you say yes you trust him, then he gets to walk away from his responsibility to show you the bill; if you say no you don't trust him, then he gets to act offended and say you're accusing him of lying etc which he can use to deflect the conversation away from what really matters.

"Trust" here works on two levels - firstly, do you trust his honesty? Secondly, do you trust his mathematical ability? Bob could take offence if you questioned either, but really only gets to take moral high ground if you question his honesty and integrity.

The best way to be firm and avoid arguments is to articulate your expectations rather than ask. That's basically a fancy way of saying you should state what you want in a way that cannot be argued with because it is reasonable. Say:

Bob, I have previously asked you to see the utility bills. My lease agreement says I can see them, and going forward I would like to see them as standard.

If he raises the issue of trust again, say:

It isn't a matter of trust. The lease agreement says I have sight of the bills and I want what we have agreed to.

Don't allow him to make it about "trust", either kind. Don't say you want to check his mathematics, just stick to the line that you want what you are entitled to.

If you find yourself in an argument that goes round in circles, you could use a "loaded question" of your own:

Are you saying you won't show me the bills?

If he says "yes", he's in breach of your agreement. If he says "no", then follow up with:

Great, I look forward to receiving them.

  • The closing point about receiving the bills must set a deadline: if it is an open ended statement then the whole thing restart... – Paolo Apr 5 at 19:00
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Usually with such question the right answer should be "No".
But you can say

It's a matter of proper math not trust

Or

I just want to know how much I use and in what period

or

given my contract work I can write some expenses off BUT I need to see bills to know which one to use.

I don't see how inconvenient it would be to find all the bills (IMHO they should be in the binder named BILLS) in this time and age of electronic access.

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Present it as a quirk of yours: it's not that you don't trust them, it's about your needs :

I do trust you, and sorry to be weird about this, but I'm really uncomfortable paying for a bill I didn't see. It's weird, I know, but I can't pay the bill before seeing it.

If they push, say again "Sorry, can't pay until I see the bill". I won't even remind them you have a written agreement, they already know that. Every time you answer them, be quick and to the point, don't be dragged into an argument, just say the same thing as needed. Your tone should be kind, and a bit apologetic (to limit the offense).

Depending on how well you think they'll take it, you could even joke :

The more you protest about showing the bill, the more anxious I get !

  • 1
    Lying generally is not a good route. This sets up OP for comebacks of "What about bill x y z that you never saw?" and it erodes the trust relationship, ever so slightly. – Ethan The Brave Apr 1 at 19:40
  • From the roommate's perspective (and from reading all the posts OP published about his situation), asking to see the bill is a quirk, is something odd. So instead of letting them focus on the "trust" issue, focus on OP's "quirkiness" (from past post, OP did say they're the odd duck in the house). Saying "I trust you, I'm just a bit weird about this" is not a lie here. Also, I'd argue that the trust relationship is already really frayed. Roommates demands trust but offers nothing to sustain it. OP is already doubting the reasons why they won't show him the bill. – MlleMei Apr 2 at 8:43

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