What happens when your home-mate announces that they taking a hiatus? What does that exactly mean? Always remember that building a good shared home starts with knowing your needs and communicating them.
A trip down memory lane…
The place and year: Nob Hill, San Francisco, 1987. The living room of my shared flat.
Before I get into my story, let me preface that my flatmate and I were in our twenties and shared the characteristics of youth: self-centeredness, insecure, and not knowing how to say “no.”
I’m having a conversation with my flatmate. The conversation occurred mid-May about two weeks before the semester was about to end. My flatmate, “S” announced that she planned a hiatus, along with a childhood friend, to travel to Europe for the entire summer break.
Very nice, I thought. I had done that two years earlier, but stayed put in France, primarily Tours and Paris where I was enrolled in an accelerated language program, shopped for the latest fashions, and ate a lot of rich desserts. We chatted about what countries she planned to visit—mostly Central Europe. She wanted to visit Hungary where her parents were from and then go to Austria, Italy, and France.
It was a lovely conversation, but then she dropped the bomb. “Since I won’t be here, you’ll need to figure out how to pay my portion of the rent.”
Panic bubbled in the pit of my stomach. “Does that mean that you’ll be taking all your things? Will I need to find another flatmate?” I asked, wondering if I could find some in two weeks time. I couldn’t afford the entire rent and my parents wouldn’t pay for it (they had paid for that three month trip to France).
“Oh, no. It’s not worth the trouble to pack up and take it all back to L.A.,” she said. “I’ll just leave it all here.”
In essence, she was using the apartment as a storage unit and not paying a cent for that service, which put me in the awkward situation of what to do next. At the end it worked because I sublet her room to another friend who planned to stay put in the city and needed a short-term rental. My flatmate agreed that her summer replacement could sleep on her futon as long as she brought her own sheets and duvet.
There’s No Rent Hiatus in Shared Housing
Have you ever told your landlord that you’re going on vacation for two weeks and because you won’t be around that you want your rent prorated for the month or simply go on hiatus with the rent? Or have you gone to the bank to renegotiate your mortgage because you travel often for business and you’re just not home?
The rules for paying rent or your mortgage applies for shared housing. If you’re sharing a home that houses you and your belongings—no matter if you go on an extended vacation or travel on business—you pay your share of the expenses on time.
When I shared this story with Annamarie, she asked me, “Why did I cave in so quickly?” My answer: youth, inexperience, and I wanted to avoid a confrontation.
But here’s the deal, it should not have been my responsibility to find a summer flatmate, or worse case scenario, pay her share of the rent. And that brings me to…
Homesharing isn’t Plug and Play
What’s key to remember is that homesharing isn’t plug and play. It’s about trust, mutual respect, relationship building and, hopefully, a friendship.
We advocate this repeatedly, but before you head in the direction of wanting to share your home or move into another person’s house or flat, be clear of what you want and review all the different scenarios; don’t be afraid as I was to speak up when you see a potential conflict.
And here’s an article we wrote on how to manage a hiatus if you do want to sublet space in your homeshare.
Read more about how to manage your housemate situation: Sharing home with other adults? Remodel to Keep Peace , How to Manage Personal Items When Sharing Housing