Roommates come in all shapes and sizes, and so do the rentals you share with them. And, while the concept of splitting rent may be simple in theory, there’s no cookie-cutter approach that fits every living arrangement. In fact, complications might arise in less straight-forward living circumstances, such as renting with a couple, different-sized rooms, one person using certain amenities more than the other and so on.
Whether it’s easier on your wallet or you prefer to live with others, deciding how to split rent with your roommates is essential. So, to make the process a little easier, we put together a quick guide to splitting rent. Keep reading to learn about your options! Then, take your pick and see which one best fits you and your roommates.
A typical scenario when living with roommates is to split rent and utilities evenly. This implies that the space each renter uses is divided equally, utility costs are split down the middle and common areas are enjoyed by all parties.
Splitting rent evenly is easy — as long as the rooms are all the same size and the amenities around the unit and apartment community are the same or compensate for another unit feature. For example, if you get the larger closet, but your roommate gets a queen-sized bed, you might decide to call it even. But, don’t forget that communication among roommates is key when deciding to split costs. Don’t assume that your roommate agrees with your logic when doing the math.
Split by room size/private square footage
One of the most important questions when moving in with roommates is: Who gets the master bedroom? Different-sized bedrooms are a common occurrence, which is why dividing rent by how much private space each individual gets often seems fair to everyone involved.
If you’re rooming with friends or family, you might just do a quick estimate and round up some numbers until everyone is happy. Alternatively, to determine precisely how much each roommate needs to pay based on the size of their bedroom, start by measuring the square footage of each roommate’s private space (bedroom, private balcony, closet space and bathroom, if applicable). Then, divide that number by the total square footage in the apartment to get the percentage of private space used by each person, and multiply it by the total rent cost. This way, you’ll find out the exact amount that everyone has to pay.
This method also works when sharing a rental with a couple, people you’re not necessarily friends with or relative strangers you meet on roommate-finding platforms.
Split by amenities/features
Sometimes, it all comes down to the rental resources and who gets to use them. While common areas like the kitchen or living room have amenities that are usually shared by everyone in the house, certain apartment features end up being used by some more than others. For example, en suite bathrooms or walk-in closets could be features that would need to be covered by whoever is lucky enough to get them.
This can also apply to certain community features, as well. For instance, if you share a pet-friendly apartment and there is a monthly fee for dog park maintenance, it should be paid by whoever owns the pet. Or, if there is only one parking space per rental, whoever gets to use it most frequently should be responsible for the cost.
Talk with your roommates about how beneficial other perks are to everyone. Perhaps someone really wants that room with the nice view and is willing to pay for it.
Split by income
This arrangement is more often found among couples or family members living together as roommates, but it may also work in situations in which not every roommate is able to pay the same amount as others. Fortunately, there are various ways to split rent based on the financial means of those involved, provided everyone agrees. For example, the person with limited income could pay a certain percentage of rent based on their monthly income, cover just the utility bills or otherwise compensate their roommates according to the roommate agreement.
Your best friend: the roommate agreement
Speaking of a roommate agreement, don’t forget to put everything that you decide with your roommates in writing.
Living with roommates has its ups and downs, but a written roommate agreement can ensure you have fewer downsides. Specifically, such a legally binding document can help set the ground rules of living together, as well as outline responsibilities and rules for having guests over. It may even make note of everyone’s needs or pet peeves and, consequently, make living together smooth sailing for everyone.
Most important, a roommate agreement should address rent and utilities, as well as include a breakdown of monthly expenses for tracking purposes. For more details, check out the RENTCafé breakdown on exactly what a roommate agreement is and what it should include.
When in doubt, use a rent calculator
Calculating the exact amount of rent that everyone must chip in monthly can actually be easier than you think. Plus, there are a multitude of rent split calculators to help.
Rent-calculating tools are particularly handy when you can’t decide among yourselves on a fair way of splitting rent. Some split rent based on square footage, others on home and amenity usage, while others help you make a decision based on everyone’s income. Some can even go the extra mile and help you split other costs, too, such as utilities, shared grocery trips or household items that you end up buying together.
Figuring out a method to split rent is essential when living with roommates. Nothing sours a roommate situation more than rent disputes, so having everyone on the same page from the get-go is ideal. So, before you take the next step, share this guide with your chosen roommates and make sure you discuss the subject of splitting rent before you move in.