16

Before I get started, let me explain my situation:

  • I live with two other students in a house
  • Rent goes to the landlord individually
  • Money for water, electricity, internet etc. goes to a bank account from which the different companies take their money from. The account is on my name which makes me responsible for payments. The account goes from person to person as people move in and out of the house
  • We have a new roommate since two months. We didn't know him before and we came in contact by him responding to the ad we put put in search of a new roommate

The problem

As I stated above, I'm responsible for making sure every bill is paid and everybody pays their share at the end of the month. I also maintain an Excel sheet for all the house members to show where the money goes. Our newest member (lets call him 'M') is also in possession of this after we welcomed him and gave him a tour of the house. The problem is that he forgot to pay the first month he was living here. For him, the experience of living on your own and away from your parents in completely new and this can be quite overwhelming. He is also a few years younger than us. So I'm almost certain that this is an honest mistake and he simply forgot. I also have to mention that there is absolutely no case of quarrel or hostilities from either side. To be fair, M is not the problem. I am. Discussing finances and asking for money are extremely awkward for me. I have seen the problems it can cause in my family and I also have social anxiety which isn't exactly helpful. I just want him to feel welcome and have a good time living and studying here.

How do I ask my roommate for his share of the monthly costs without being too accusing?

  • 3
    I would put your issue with asking for what's owed to you upfront, or else you will get a lot of answers that focus on your roommate and what's up with him. – user510 Oct 2 '17 at 17:56
29

I think you've put the right answer in your original question already. Assume good intentions, he probably forgot. He just needs a reminder that he forgot to do something important, and that should be enough.

Hey, I think you forgot to put the money for utilities in the shared bank account last month. Can you fix that?

Especially if he paid for the second month then it probably wasn't intentional.

  • 6
    If you're worried about bringing it up without any introduction, then maybe join your room mate in a communal area with your laptop and say "I've got to do money stuff tonight" or some such. Then a few minutes later you can get the statement for your shared account up and then ask as above, and show the statement if you get a response like "no I didn't - check again!" (and you can then say, "hmm, maybe I missed it - can you see it?") – Ralph Bolton Oct 2 '17 at 15:23
  • 1
    You could even soften it some by adding "Or if you did and it just hasn't cleared for some reason, could you check with the bank and see what's up?" – Kevin Oct 2 '17 at 15:58
  • 1
    As a landlord, this is 100% the case. My tenants have kids and a brother that lives with them. Life gets busy. Being open and honest makes these difficult and embarrassing conversations much less so. – corsiKa Oct 2 '17 at 23:29
  • 4
    I used your proposed sentence when asking about the payment and he reacted very positive. It was indeed an honest mistake and has promised to look into this ASAP. He also said he trusted me and didn't need to see proof of a missed payment – Iarwain Oct 10 '17 at 17:59
11

I am a believer of nipping issues like this in the bud as soon as possible.

The more you delay telling him the more awkward it will be for both of you when you do. You feel stressed discussing this with him but you are also risking him feeling bad about not paying his share.

I always advise people to take the direct route but since money seems to be a troublesome topic for you, you can always leave a note or send him an email. That way you avoid confrontations, he avoids feeling awkward (provided it was a mistake) and you all move on forgetting this ever happened. That might work if he knows that you're responsible for the bills and falls under your authority to notify him.

You can see if in a week for a example he has deposited the money. If not, then you will need to talk to him in person. Again, simply stating the fact, perhaps print out a bank statement for that mount showing that you had no deposits from him.

Good luck!

2

I too am not fond of discussing money owed from a friend. Either way, I tend to think that it will strain the relationship; also, I don't like money — but I do like coins.
Anyway, not pertinent …

You want to avoid giving this new person the impression that you are a miser or ‘harda$$’ when it comes to money, yes? That's the biggest concern for me.

  • Don't get involved in discussing any loanships with this person.
    E.g. “If you are strapped for cash at the moment, I can cover you this month.”
    Not only does it not resolve the problem: either you'll need to discuss repayment later, or this person — if they are of a more honorable nature — will have your benefactorship weigh over any future interactions.
  • You want a matter–of–fact attitude regarding this.
    It isn't silly thing to which you do not expect a serious reply, nor is it something which requires an ultimatum.

First, it isn't you or the others who require the payment: it is the utility companies.
Well, unless of course they overdraw the account.

Tell the person exactly that: The system which you established has failed, and places any one of those sharing the accommodations at the risk of financial penalty if any other one of them forgets to balance the account.
Although you are solely obligated so far as concerns the utilities, you did so only for their own requirements. Although you probably did not write a legal document formalizing your position as a proxy, that's what you are: every one of the roommates is obligated to contribute their part. You are merely collecting on behalf of the communal obligation.

Ask to hold a meeting with the roommates so that the group can devise a system which would help ensure that no one, or the group as a whole, suffers from the mistakes of any one of them.
The purposes of this are twofold:

  • By recognizing the problem as one which affects every member of the group from a possible accident by any member of the group, you transfer the focus off the single person whose mistake instigated it.
    Yes, they aren't fools, and they'll know why it happened. However, you aren't blaming M, but yourself. Actually, it was M who discovered the glitch in your system; good on them.
  • It becomes a question of ‘How do we tackle this problem together?’ and not ‘What's to be done with M?’

I would recommend a sheet posted somewhere visible and near the foyer or inside of the door. There the roommates can write:

  • the date when each roommate makes a payment to the account, and how much they make each time —
    — the how much is necessary, and not accusative: If the liabilities are equally divided for each member of the house, regardless of their specific usage with the services, then the sum total for each member should be the same here. Sometimes you can't pay the full amount in one transaction.
  • the estimated total for each utility, and the sum for those
    I.e. what the account needs to be balanced for your payment.
  • the date when the payment to the companies is required
    Whether you detail the late fees and overdue periods depends on whether you guys are living on the poverty line or are simply careless with your finances. Otherwise, emergencies can happen, but they should be infrequent.
2

If you suffer with social anxiety, I would suggest a good solution is dealing with this via email/text/chat group (e.g. WhatsApp). Set up a group for all your flatmates and every month, before the bills are due to come out, send a friendly reminder note

Hey all, just a reminder that bills are coming out in X days, please ensure you have paid into the account, thanks!

I assume you can tell from the payments who has contributed and who hasn't, so when the bills come out if the account is short you can either send another group message

Thanks to those who have paid, I see there are still one or two payments missing can everyone ensure they have contributed.

If that fails then you can message the person directly and apply a bit more pressure.

I actually think this is one of those situations where not dealing with it face-to-face has some advantages:

  • It's less personal and more business-like dealing with it at arms length.
  • Saves awkward conversations if you aren't good at discussing this kind of thing.
  • You have a written record of communication, should you ever need it.
  • It's harder for someone to keep dodging you to avoid dealing with it.

Assuming this was a genuine mistake I think it's easily rectified, but it's also something you definitely want to nip in the bud as it can soon become a bad habit and you don't want to spend your life chasing flatmates for money.

1

If money is not an issue, so you have no trouble from him delaying the payment, I'd approach him (when no one else can hear) and tell him, with a smile, "Hey, fraudster, give me my money!" (Note: not an english mother-tongue, so maybe fraudster is not the right word here; just put any word which can jokingly address someone who does not pay), then tell him that you noticed the first payment is missing. Always like it is a joke. If he starts feeling embarassed, tell him it is not a big issue, and that when he is ok he can make the payment.

This way you will make him feel this is not something that ruins the mood, but will make him remember to do that.

-1

When I was in a similar role of managing the apartment's finances, I often sent a reminder a week ahead of time outlining exactly what is due from each person in the house. It also included other housekeeping issues like things that are broken or when the fridge would be cleared out. I made it entertaining/funny so that my roommates would be more inclined to read it. There were no late payments at all and it was all of our first years living on our own.

  • 1
    From my experience, this is the best way to prevent the problem re-ocurring (whether it's a reminder in person or by email). However, it will not solve OPs current situation where money is already owed and they need to collect it. – Bilkokuya Mar 7 '18 at 10:14
-3

Do a monthly payment meeting. On the payment meeting, you tell everyone what they have to pay, together with a printout. If someone is not present, tell everyone to inform them next time they see the person, plus a copy of the printout on their bed.

If you have people who confuse "latest possible payment date" and "earliest possible payment date", tell everyone that the payment increases by $10 for every day late. If anyone disagrees, you ask them if they want to collect the money instead of you.

PS. If your roommate is genuinely short of money then find another roommate.

  • Making people pay $10 for every day late and finding another roommate seems harsh, the OP seems quite understanding in their question, and wants to help but is socially awkward. – ElizB Jun 25 at 1:25

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