How should you deal when your housemate is late paying bills? Should you scream, throw a temper tantrum, or walk around silently resenting the person who hasn’t paid their bill? Nope, none of those are going to help the situation. Remember to be aware of your needs and communicate them effectively.
Ask for the Money
What you do need to do is to ask for the money in a clear, non-apologetic, and non-angry tone. Do not text or email. Look your housemate in the eye and say, “You owe ________ for _______. ” And wait for a response. Breath. Wait.
How is your housemate going to respond? That depends on the situation and their attitude towards money. The best response is for the housemate to simply sit down and write a check or arrange for online payment right away. They may simply have forgotten.
The second best is a promise of payment in the future.
This is now a conversation. You need to find out when and how your housemate is going to pay their bill. Ask them to name the day and make a commitment to pay you. Maybe mention it again before that day comes. Do remind them if they haven’t handed over the money already.
The worst is when your housemate avoids the question either by not being available or by dissembling when asked. What to do in that case? This is hard, because you have to make a decision. Are you willing and able to support your housemate? If they have fallen on hard times and aren’t earning enough to pay their bills you may be able to be generous and supportive. You may want to do this. You should consider how long you can manage this. This should not be a loan, loans will weigh heavily between you and your housemate. So this is support you are giving – if you want to do this. You may not be able to afford to offer such support and you may not want to. That’s totally okay.
Going Separate Ways
If, however, your housemate is just being irresponsible towards the household expenses, then it is time to go separate ways. Don’t let the situation drag on and get worse. When housemates move in they (usually) bring the last month’s rent. That protects you for one month. A person who hasn’t paid their rent and bills within that month is not a housemate, but a freeloader.
In all my years of living with housemates, I only had problems twice. In the first case I was inexperienced. My housemate gave me a check for owed rent as he moved out, but cleaned out the account before I could cash it. In the second case, I allowed someone to move in against my better judgment because I really wanted the rent money. It was a painful mistake.
Most people are responsible about paying their bills. The best protection from a person who is late paying bills and irresponsible is not letting them move in in the first place. Check references. Use the references worksheet. Also collect a security deposit and last month’s rent (if this is legal in your area) as the price for a key to the home. Do not let the issue of money slide. A housemate who has fallen behind on their obligations to the household may never be able to catch up. It’s too bad, but it’s not your fault. Your responsibility is to speak up about what you need. Okay? Got it?
Read more about avoiding sticky situations when sharing housing: Good Intentions Turn Into Housemate Hell , What the Fair Housing Act Means to You In a Housemate Situation