Like taxes and death, if you rent an apartment, house, or even a room it’s inevitable that you will encounter a rent hike whether you live alone or in shared housing environment.
In the majority of cases, a notification of an increase in rent isn’t because of greed, but due to higher utility costs, waste management, upkeep to the property, increased property taxes, repairs, and other cost of living adjustments.
For the most part, you can either accept it–as I did in the past when I was told by my landlord that my rent would be increased by the time my lease was up for renewal–or refuse to pay it and find another place to live that was less expensive. But what if you’re sharing housing and your home-mate (the owner of the home or the primary lease holder of the residence) tells you after one year to chalk up more money. Should this come as a surprise?
The answer is, “No”.
Most of us hate getting into that uncomfortable money talk zone. I know I do. However, business is business. When it comes to the matter of shared housing, you need to think of it as a provided service. If you are renting out a significant portion of your home–either as homeowner or primary lease holder–rent and accompanying expenses need to be addressed early on with potential housemates.
Twenty-five years ago, I subletted–from a friend–an apartment in New York City, located in the heart of trendy and fashionable Nolita (North of Little Italy). I paid $650 per month in rent for a small railroad flat on the fifth floor. At the time, I thought I had hit the jackpot. The neighborhood teemed with actors, models, and Wall Street types. I was in walking distance of some the best restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the person who sublet the apartment to me was making a 100 percent profit. My rent didn’t include utilities. That was extra. My mistake was to not ask whether they were included in the rent, and if they weren’t, could a lower rent be negotiated.
So what does this mean in the case of shared housing? When the topic of rent is brought up don’t be shy to ask whether utilities, cable, and plowing (for those who live in areas with heavy snowfall), is calculated into the terms of the rental. Ask for a break down of the costs to see how the monthly rental fee was determined.
If you’ve been living at the residence for longer than 12 months and you’re told there will be a rent hike due increase in costs, once again ask to see that break down. If you agree to the increase, ask for a new lease or a revised one, noting why the rent is more.
Who Pays What?
As someone who rents, major repairs such as plumbing and electrical problems, my landlady pays for those. Other repairs–like damage done to carpeting or the floors–the cost will be taken out of my security deposit.
Treat repairs in a home-sharing environment in the same manner. Make sure that it’s written in the lease of what your responsibilities are as the potential home-mate. As the renter, you are not responsible for any structural repairs–such as a new roof. However, if you break a window, any decorative items, or damage appliances be prepared to pay the bill for those repairs.
Discuss and Agree
If you’re seriously considering opening the doors to your home to a potential home-mate, or seeking to share someone’s house, openly discuss these issues right at the beginning and don’t ignore them. Agree to certain conditions where you’re willing to pay for repairs or for an increase in rent. The outcome of getting the unpleasantness of the money talk out of the way will pave for a better home-mate relationship.
Have you had the experience of needing to change the rent? To renegotiate the amount? How did it go?