29

I have a friend; let's call him X.

My girlfriend, X, and I have all lived together (on paper) for about a year and a half. About 6 months ago he got a girlfriend who lives a few hours away. For the past 4-5 months he has been staying over at her house with her mother and is very evasive of my messages. Today he sent me a long message saying that he won't pay the internet bill anymore because he is no longer here and not using it.

We all agreed when we moved in that we would all get one bill each (i.e. I get the electric, X gets the internet and so on).

As X has been one of my closest friends for about 11 years, I'm not really sure what is the best way to approach this situation.

So my question is, how can I talk to X about not paying his bills just because he's not here, especially due to him being evasive?

EDIT:

WE each have our names on the renting contract and on each of the bills (i.e. the internet bill is addressed to me, X, and my girlfriend.

  • 7
    By saying 'living together (on paper)' do you mean that there is a contract? Is paying the internetbill a part of that contract for X? – Tinkeringbell Sep 18 '17 at 10:12
  • 3
    Is this just about the internet bill or is he going to stop paying rent as well? – Erik Sep 18 '17 at 10:21
  • 1
    Hi I meant it because his name's on the renting contract. All our names are on all the bills. – Tfish Sep 18 '17 at 10:22
  • 3
    The bills don't go to the landlord, they go to external companies so I don't think it's much of an issue. – Tfish Sep 18 '17 at 10:56
  • 1
    Realistically, I would consider finding a new place to live with just your girlfriend and yourself. Anything else is just going to be a short-term solution. – J... Sep 18 '17 at 15:37

11 Answers 11

51

EDIT: I see now that he actually is one of the renters which makes this a lot more troublesome. I'd take the discussion in a sort of similar direction either way.

If your friends wants to keep his living arrangement together with you he has to pay his entire part and nothing less. It's quite obvious for an example that he cannot expect to have a room with all of his stuff while not paying for himself. You should definitely throw him out if he doesn't.

Now, in communications with him you don't have to be this aggressive. Send a calm and explanatory message detailing that everyone who lives in the apartment has to pitch in their share. Since he no longer does so you are presuming that he has forfeited his position. If he cannot or will not pay and you really need someone to fill that role you should tell him so and that you need to find someone to fill his now vacant position.

Your friendship will only get worse by allowing this to delve into a blamegame or long discussions about who does or doesn't do something. Be direct and resolute yet kind. Lay down the fundamentals (pay or leave) and don't stray from them and never let the discussion go beyond them. Make this into a discussion about what is necessary to stay at the apartment, not about your friendship or something similar. For the record; if you accept a plea to not pay or for him to only partly pay I expect that you'll start losing respect for him with time or feel that constant nag in your head that he's not pulling his entire weight - This will hurt your friendship in the long run but I also expect far more than anything else.

It's a tough situation and I expect that what you're afraid of here is that you'll damage your relationship. You no doubt know this person better than any of us so the last call on how to act is up to you.

  • Something else to point out is that internet usage costs are (likely) not prorated; you don't pay less for internet just because he's not using it. Electricity and stuff, sure... but not internet. If he expects to have internet if/when he returns to the apartment, someone has to continue paying for it. Same goes for rent (storing his stuff, and having a place to return to if he wishes) and other non-variable bills. If you want to be nice, calculate his share and deduct the usage-based bills (electricity, water, etc). – Doktor J Feb 7 '18 at 19:06
35

Your situation is an all or nothing situation.

First, what does your contract state? Otherwise:

If he wants to stay with his girlfriend, that's his choice and he is absolutaly free to do so. However, in a black and white situation there are two options:

  • Cancel his rent 100%, thus also giving up his physical space in the apartment. Now you can rent the room to someone else so that your bills keep getting paid as they're now.
  • Keep and pay the agreement 100% and have his room as a kind of fallback in case things go bad with his GF, or because it somehow is more practical to be there.

Neither choice is the better or wrong choice, but he wants the best of both (and who can blame him for trying). The internet connection, and/or other subscriptions & monthly fees, are a fixed price. It doesn't matter whether he is there or not, so his absence doesn't change the bill.

But not everything is black and white, to give some counter arguments: He isn't there. He doesn't take up space and doesn't use power or water or gas (or internet). That should be noticeable on the bill. You could offer to calculate a predefined discount at the end of the month.

  • 6
    Yes, I think your last paragraph is the only reasonable mid-term. Calculate how much is saved on the utility bills by him not being there, and offer him to pay that discounted rate. The key point is that OP and GF should keep shelling out the same amount of $$ as before. +1 – Mindwin Sep 18 '17 at 17:00
  • 3
    Alternatively, offer to switch and let him pay gas/electric/whatever and you OP pays the internet – Kevin Sep 18 '17 at 19:29
18

I would look at it a different way. If X is paying 1/3 of the rent and will continue doing so, then let him out of the internet bill. I assume 1/3 of the rent is much more than the internet. You and your GF get the place to yourself (minus a room where his stuff is stored) for 2/3 of the total rent.

  • 2
    OP did not say if X is paying 1/3 of the rent, but I would expect that X is. If so, this seems like the best option. If X still lays claim to at least 1 room, then rent is still mandatory. If X is not paying rent, and by ceasing internet payment is not paying anything, then that is not fair and OP might want to request rent at least. – Aaron Sep 18 '17 at 14:54
  • 5
    @Tinkeringbell This answer does address "How can I talk to X..." and "Nevermind, I realized that you are right. Carry on." is a great answer. On StackExchange "OP's original premise is flawed" is a valid answer, and it is similar to the "XY Question" problem. – Aaron Sep 18 '17 at 14:59
  • 3
    @englercl You might also want to point out that, if X does use other utilities, it might be more persuasive to say "You're right, X. You don't use internet. Your stuff does benefit from the power and heat though, especially your electronics since they get damaged from too much cold exposure. Perhaps you would rather switch bills then and pay one you do benefit from. Does that sound better?" – Aaron Sep 18 '17 at 15:12
  • 2
    @Aaron This answer answers the question "Should the roommate pay his bills", while the question asks "How to get my roommate to pay his bills". See also this meta post with regard to your remark about premises: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1495/…. – Tinkeringbell Sep 18 '17 at 15:59
  • 5
    @Aaron, I also do not see the "Nevermind, I realized you are right, carry on" explicitly stated as an answer to "How can I talk to X...". So even in that case, this answer could use some serious editing. – Tinkeringbell Sep 18 '17 at 16:02
5

I think the issue here is that your friend sees rent and bills as "paying to live in the apartment(house/whatever)", when in reality it's "paying to own the apartment".

When you guys set up your arrangement, it was with the intention of having all 3 of you contributing. Had there been two of you, you almost certainly would've ruled out a few more expensive options. Since there were 3, you were able to spend a bit more monthly, so you planned accordingly, but your landlord doesn't care if only 2 of you are there. Neither does your internet provider.

If X "phases out" of payments, soon you'll be living for 3 on a salary for 2, which isn't fair to you. It's always awkward discussing money with friends, but I think you have to bite the bullet here. Something like:

Hey man, I'm really glad things working out between you and your girlfriend, but I don't think (your girlfriend) and I can stay where we are if we have to start taking on more bills. If you want to stay with your girlfriend, that's great! We just need to know what to do moving forward.

Don't accuse him of anything, especially if he's being evasive. Just let him know you guys need to know what to do.

  • 1
    Good start, but it lacks direction. "What do we do?" is too broad. Something more like, "If you're going to live with your girlfriend, great! But then we'll need to find another roommate so the bills won't be too much for us." interpersonal.stackexchange.com/a/4162/1919 is a more practical approach. – Wildcard Sep 18 '17 at 21:27
3

Start looking for a new roommate and get rid of him. Coming from someone who has previously dealt with roommates for 10+ years, your "friend" is not truly your friend if they're trying to pull a stunt like this. It's really that simple. If your friend had his own place but spent a large portion of his time at his girlfriend's place or whatever, he would still be legally responsible for any utilities that he contractually signed up for during the duration of his stay. Verbal contracts, however informal can still be upheld in a court of law. If he agreed to the internet service, than he has to pay his portion, plain and simple.

3

The adult answer would be to open negotiations about changing the agreement. Obviously, the circumstances under which the original agreement was made are not the circumstances that are valid today, so his desire to change the agreement, though communicated poorly, is reasonable.

Agreements once made are not set in stone. They can be changed.

Handle this in a calm and reasonable manner and you can strengthen the friendship. As others have said: If he only wants to get out of paying for utilities he is actually not using anymore, but will continue to pay rent for a room to keep as his, you are still better off than throwing him and splitting the bills only among the two of you.

If the additional bill means a serious financial hardship for you, this is also something to address from your side when you talk to him. Be prepared that he may have similar issues behind his request, maybe he is paying a part of the bills in his GFs home where he now lives?

One essential part of cooperative negotiation techniques is to talk about motivations, not offers. Not about that he doesn't want to pay the bill but understanding why, and likewise offering your reasons of what you need him to do and why. If you can't afford the appartment otherwise, for example, you have a different talk than if you simply want to keep the original agreement out of principle.

2

Sounds to me like you need to have a conversation with your friend about what his future plans are. If he plans on making his arrangement with his girlfriend permanent and you value the friendship, see if he'll work with you on getting a subletter for the duration of the term. If he plans on returning at some date and he continues to pay rent and you value his friendship, I think paying the utilities yourself is not entirely unreasonable. After all what's a few pounds between good friends?

As to how to speak with him, I would employ gradually increasing forms of invasiveness, first a text saying hey can you give me a call, if no reply then call him yourself. If that fails try an email. If still no response, I guess you don't have a friend after all.

1

Your friend stated that he won't pay the bill anymore. That's the start of the discussion, not the end. It's an attempt at a pushy negotiation tactic. What he actually did was starting a negotiation, by making an offer.

If you think the offer is fair, you can take it, if you think it isn't fair, make a counteroffer. The counteroffer could be keeping the current arrangement, but from an outside perspective that doesn't seem fair.

For the counteroffer, you should at least consider the bills you share and how much you save by his absence. He doesn't use electricity, shared supplies, gas, and you may even get away with slower and cheaper internet. You could also consider the value added by his absence (less waiting for the bathroom, etc) if you wanted to. Or you could add costs for the stuff he doesn't do, like shoveling the driveway in winter, mow the lawn, etc.

As part of the counteroffer you can also add things that are not money. One thing I suggest is that you change the rental agreement so X's name is removed and he has a separate rental agreement where he rents from you and your girlfriend. That will make it much easier for you when either he or you decide to move out.

  • Changing the rental agreement is almost certainly not an option. If I'm the landlord and I have 3 names on the lease, I am certainly not going to change it so only 2 remain simply because one of the 3 wants to move out. It would take some form of compensation to make it worth my while. 3 names means 3 people are responsible for ensuring I get my money instead of 2. That's 50% better odds for me as a landlord. – Dunk Sep 19 '17 at 21:20
  • @Dunk People move out, that's normal, and landlords are aware of that. The only time that would make sense is if there have been problems with rent payments before. – Peter Sep 20 '17 at 8:11
  • People move out AFTER their lease expires, sure. Landlords are very aware of that. I've heard of many cases where a person has moved out and gotten stuck because the other person on the lease ended up not making payments. I've never heard of landlords letting someone write their name out of a lease without some form of compensation, unless the landlord is a family member/friend. EVERYBODY on the contract is responsible for ensuring the terms of the contract are met. Thus, it makes no business sense to let someone out of a contract simply because they don't want to pay any more. – Dunk Sep 20 '17 at 18:23
1

If this is strictly about the WiFi then change the password and request full payment if X wishes to use the WiFi. This grants X 30 days of access. After 30 days, change it again, rinse and repeat.

However, I am willing to be that this is going to develop into a much larger issue regarding rent.

Three names are on your contracts so this does not mean the collector is going to hunt for equal payments from each person but rather the collector has 3 people that they can hit up for the full amount owed, period.

Next time X is at the apartment you should call a meeting with them to discuss whether they wish to continue living there because this is not fair to you guys.

If you are looking to sour things then rent his room to strangers and let them treat it however they wish.

  • This answer is almost certain to result in a conflict and an end to the friendship. – aleppke Sep 19 '17 at 17:43
  • @aleppke It sounds like the "friend" initiated and wants an end to the friendship... – MonkeyZeus Sep 19 '17 at 18:46
  • 1
    Not necessarily. They may want to end or alter the rental agreement but that doesn't necessarily mean the friendship has to go with it. Renting with other people is a phase of life that is supposed to end at some point. The friend is simply moving out of that phase before the OP. While it might be true that the friend does indeed want to end the friendship, there's never a good reason to be hostile when friendly will do. Be mature and respectful and if you mutually decide to have nothing more to do with each other afterwards, at least you parted on amicable terms. – aleppke Sep 19 '17 at 18:57
1

First Step:

Call him on his evasiveness. Ask him for specific dates and details of what he wants.

Make it abundantly clear that you can not agree to new terms of a contract if he can't be upfront and crystal clear about what he wants in that new agreement.

One can not just decide to retroactively and without advance notice not pay for something. And one can not also unitarily and vaguely try to change an agreement by email and then be unreachable in person or by phone afterward. That is just unfair to you and your girlfriend because it leaves both of you in limbo and in financial uncertainty as well.

But also end your message on a soft note, tell him that you and your girlfriend are both reasonable and that you're both willing to sit down and talk to him about this.

Otherwise, the other answers are very good also, and for the sake of brevity, I'm not going duplicate what the others have already said. I just wanted to add that little tidbit about clarity and demanding that he comes to the negotiating table, because that is so essential before moving forward.

0

It's clear that your friend would like to continue storing his possessions at the residence, but does not want to pay for internet service that he doesn't use. If your friend really doesn't sleep at or use the residence anymore, then I would say that's a reasonable request. He may very well be contributing to his girlfriend's rent or utility bills, and it may be breaking his budget to pay bills at two residences. Splitting the bills equally is really only fair if, on average, everyone is using the utilities equally.

For example, if one roommate is constantly running up the electricity bill by running power tools all the time, it would be reasonable for the other roommates to request that the electricity bill be split proportionally based on usage. If one roommate is running up the water bill by washing their car every day, it would be reasonable for the others to request that the water bill be split proportionally. If one roommate is constantly saturating the internet connection by torrenting (and seeding) movies and TV shows, it would be reasonable to request that they pay a higher proportion of the internet bill.

Your original agreement with your friend was based in part on the assumption that all three of you would be making similar use of each of the utilities, and you arranged for the utilities to be split in a way that was equitable and easy to manage. Since your friend no longer lives there, this assumption no longer holds true. Your friend is only occupying space at the residence, but is not using internet, electricity, water, etc. The key here is that your agreement was formed under the assumption that your friend would be living at the residence, and that is no longer the case.

In his view, he is being forced to subsidize your internet, electricity, and water usage, and he's right.

In your view, your friend is backing out of an agreement, and you're right.

The fact is, circumstances have changed. Your friend is not willing to pay an equal share of utility services that he isn't using. You want him to continue paying for utilities that he isn't using. These two positions aren't reconcilable. One or both of you are going to have to budge. Your question makes no mention of whether your friend wants to stop paying rent, so I'm operating under the assumption that he is still willing to pay his share of the rent. In essence, when you formed your agreement, your friend bet that he would be living at the residence for the duration of the lease, and that your utility usage and your girlfriend's utility usage would be comparable to his over that period of time. This turned out to be a bad bet, and now you're benefiting at his expense.

You have a few different options:

  1. Cut him out of the rental agreement, and find a new roommate. This will likely be the end of your friendship, and it may cost you in the form of higher rent until you can find a new roommate.
  2. Insist that he pay an equal share of the utility bills, despite the fact that he doesn't contribute to their usage. This will likely be the end of your friendship, and you risk having him sabotage your internet by simply cancelling the service or letting the bill lapse.
  3. Offer to compromise and allow him to pay some minimal flat rate towards utilities - it would cost some amount to keep the water hooked up and the climate controlled even if nobody were living there, and it would be reasonable for him to pay 1/3 of this amount.
  4. Grant him his request to stop contributing money to the utility bills and change the internet bill over to your name, with the understanding that if he goes back to living there, he will have to pay an equal share of the utilities again. Continue splitting rent 3 ways.

Which option you choose depends on how much you value your friendship. Even if there's a written agreement requiring him to pay his share of the utilities regardless of whether he's living at the residence, it wouldn't be prudent to insist on enforcing it if you want to preserve your friendship.

My advice: reevaluate your premise, and try to see things from his perspective. Then seek out a solution that is agreeable for both of you. I think you'll find that it's much easier to discuss this with your friend if you're offering to concede something rather than refusing to budge.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.