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How to split rent with roommates

What's fair for you might depend on your roommates or apartment.

In theory, the decision to split rent with a roommate is an easy way to save money when renting an apartment. But of course, anything that involves money can raise questions, so it helps to have a little guidance on exactly how to split the rent in a way that is fair for everyone.

Here’s how to split rent with roommates:

  • Split rent evenly.

    If every roommate will have roughly the same amount of space and the same amenities—or doesn’t care if they don’t—this is the easiest method. Everyone pays the same amount. Just divide your rental rate evenly by the number of roommates, and you’re done.

    Split the rent tip: It’s smart (and nice) to check in with your roommates every so often to make sure they still think this is fair. After months of sharing a bathroom, some roommates might feel differently about paying the same as the roommate who has their own sink.

  • Split rent by your space.

    If different roommates have access to different amounts of space, dividing the room evenly by square footage is a fair way split rent.

    Measure everyone’s private space—bedrooms, bathrooms, balconies, closets, and any living spaces that one roommate uses alone—along two perpendicular walls, then multiply the numbers to get your square footage. If the room is 10 feet by 12 feet, the room is 120 square feet. You can leave common spaces out of the equation entirely.

    Total up the square footage of all the private space in the apartment. Each roommate should pay the same percentage of the rent as they have personal space. If one roommate has 50% of the private space and two other roommates have 25% each, divide rent by the same amount (or rearrange how much space each roommate has access to).

    Split the rent tip: The fairness of this formula depends on the layout of each apartment and how you use it, so use your head. If one bedroom happens to be huge, but it’s just a bunch of empty, unused space, another method to split rent might be more fair.

  • Split rent by income.

    This is an option that’s typically best between friends or partners who want to live together, but have significantly different incomes. Of course, how you set the different rental rates for each roommate will be less scientific than the methods above and based more on how much rent you can afford.

    A good budgeting rule is that no more than 30% of your monthly income should go to rent. If, when evenly divided, one roommate’s portion of rent is above this percentage, but another is far below it, the roommate with a higher income might be comfortable paying more to allow their roommate’s rent to be below the 30% mark. The benefit for the roommate paying more is that they get to live with someone they enjoy being around.

    Split the rent tip: The roommate who pays less can volunteer to take on extra household duties, like taking out the trash or handling maintenance requests to contribute to the apartment in a non-monetary way.

Best practices when splitting rent

  • Put your plan to split the rent in writing.

    You got your lease in writing; do the same with how you’ll split rent. Once a decision is on paper, it’s more formal, and you won’t have to reopen negotiations every month.

  • Pay online and on-schedule.

    You want to make sure your rent is paid on time, and this can be tough when you’re relying on roommates to stay on schedule. If your landlord prefers one payment each month, you can volunteer to make the payment and have your roommates pay their portion to you through a payment app.

    Even better, ask your landlord if they accept online rent payments. If they’re open to the idea, but don’t have a system set up yet, you can invite them to do so through Trulia’s online rent payment tool. That way, you and your roommates can set up auto-payments so you never have to worry about your rent being paid on time—no matter how you’ve split the rent.

    What happens when you or one of your roommates takes off for the summer? Find out all about how to sublet your apartment in our next guide.