Today we visit the topic of keeping financially safe when sharing housing. One way a housemate helps is in being able to break the spell of a spammer. In April 2021, we published Scams, Scammers and Shared Housing. Keeping financially safe encompasses more than identifying digital scams. There are financial safety measures you can take when planning to share your home and during sharing your home.
The Open Conversation
In our book, Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates, our blog posts, our online courses, and our Q&A Zoom sessions, we always recommend having early conversations with your potential home-mate. During these “get to know you” talks, you’ll learn about each other’s must-haves for a new living situation and determine whether you’re compatible or not.
During these conversations, state your expectations of how and when the bills are due. If you decide that certain food, cleaning, and miscellaneous items fall under joint payment, openly discuss that. In general, if all the expenses seems reasonable, it won’t be a problem. Sometimes, however, you may run into red flags. Don’t shrug off those early warnings.
If your potential home-mate makes excuses concerning a late payment, asks for leeway on the security deposit and first month’s rent, changes the date of when the rent is due, or ask how often you’ll cut them slack if they’re late, that’s a sign you may be dealing with someone who chronically pays their share of the bills late, or doesn’t pay them at all.
As a former home-sharer, I learned that lesson the hard way. After several months of excuses from a housemate of why they couldn’t pay their share of the rent and other expenses on time, I finally told them it was time for them to find another place to live.
References and Tenant Screening
I learned from my unpleasant experience that when it comes to financial safety you need an extra layer of protection: always ask for references. If the prospective home-mate is working, asking for a work reference isn’t unusual. Other references may include character references from colleagues and speak to their former landlords. Former landlords can tell you if your potential housemate paid the rent on time. The last piece, for deeper assurance and peace of mind, is to request a tenant screening, which will show a record of any late payments on rentals, credit cards, car loans, and student loans.
Keep Financial Information and Valuables Secure
As a general rule, keep your personal financial documents and information secure and not left around to be casually read. Important documents can locked in a fireproof home safe, a file cabinet or in the safety deposit box at the bank. For valuable items, such as expensive jewelry, that you don’t wear often, consider putting those items away in a small safe or in a safety deposit box at the bank.
Trust and be Financially Safe than Sorry
A positive home-mate relationship and a successful shared housing environment is built on trust. It is wise to be aware of potential issues. Sad but true, we live in a world where we need to protect our financial interests from scammers and grifters. It’s in everyone’s best interest to take measures to be financially safe.
Here’s another post on home-share finances: How to Deal When Your Housemate is Late Paying Bills.