What To Do When Your Roommate Doesn’t Pay The Rent On Time


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Having a roommate who does not pay their share of the rent on time is a terrible problem to deal with. It’s an issue that comes up from time to time and will be much easier to deal with if you are prepared for it.

How uncommon is the problem?

Out of all the roommates I used to have when renting out a room in my place, only two had issues paying their fair share of the rent over an 18 year period. In total I had about 12 roommates during those years, so percentage wise it was less than 20% of the time.

For others, the problem might be more common, depending on your circumstances and how well you screen potential roommates.

If you are in the unfortunate situation of having a roommate not paying their share of the rent on time, here are some ideas you can try out to solve the issue.

First, Make Sure You Do The Following Things Right Away

Start Documenting Everything

From the moment you know the rent is going to be late from your roommate, you need to keep records of everything relating to your communication with your roommate about the problem. 

This includes notes of your verbal communications, texts, and emails!

In addition, you might want to document the payment history from your roommate as well.

Carefully Review Your Lease Terms

The next thing you need to do is grab a copy of your rent or lease terms and look for the section that describes what happens when the rent is missed or late.

When you find that section, take a picture of it with your phone, so you have a reference of it. It most likely will describe things like a late payment penalty, or how to work out arrangements with the landlord, etc.

Lastly, Communication is Key

No matter how awkward or upsetting the situation gets, always maintain a cool calm communication with your roommate.

Good communication will help keep the mind clear and focused on a solution for solving the problem at hand.

I know this sounds a bit simplistic for a problem that might involve you losing your place to live, but, communication is everything for a successful outcome.

Help Your Roommate Think of Ways To Get The Money Fast

Sometimes you can help your roommate get some extra money fast.

Once, I was renting out a room to someone who did not have money to pay me because they lost their job at the last minute. I asked them to think of any extra money they might have that could be available in the next week or two. They said they could file their tax return early and use the refund to cover the rent.

So I helped them gather up their documents and we went down to H&R Block to file the return!

They had just enough money on the return to cover one month’s rent. After that, they actually moved out because they got a new job in another city, so it all worked out for the best!

The point I’m trying to make is that there are a lot of ways to get extra cash at the last minute that most people don’t think about, so see if you can help your roommate who is in financial trouble with an idea or two.

Some other ideas for getting extra cash include the following:

Getting a Payday Advance

If your roommate still has a job, it can be beneficial if your roommate’s employer is willing to give them an advance on their salary. Or they can try to get a payday loan advance on a very short-term basis. As much as I hate payday loans, it’s better than losing a place to live.

Asking a Family Member For Assistance

If your roommate is close to their family, there’s a good chance a parent or other family member could step in and lend them the money for the rent.

Selling Personal Items For Cash

If your roommate has any personal items or collectibles that might be worth something, they could sell them off on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist for some fast cash. You’d be surprised how much money something can be worth. Especially things like video games, designer clothing, electronics, kitchen appliances, pokemon cards, etc.

Related articles for making money selling things online:

Last Option: You Can Pick Up The Entire Rent, But, BE WARNED!

You might think about picking up the entire rent and collecting it from your roommate at a later time. Especially if you’re both sharing a lease and you don’t want to ruin your credit.

BE WARNED! You’ll have to collect the money owed to you in court if your roommate doesn’t pay you back! Or just kiss it off as a loss.

There are many ways to help your roommate get some extra money fast. But, Remember! Whatever ideas you decide to do, keep things legal and safe.

Facing Reality and Moving On

I always encourage being optimistic and positive in bad situations, but sometimes you have to be realistic and face the reality that your roommate is not going to get the money to pay their share of the rent.

If you’ve reached this point, you still have some options you can play with.

Sometimes, You Can Give Your Existing Roommate More Time

If you are not excited about getting a new roommate, you’ll need to keep working with your current roommate and give them more time.

Just don’t fall into a deeper hole with money or postpone a living arrangement that is about to go from bad to worse. The longer it goes on, the more in jeopardy you put yourself and the risk of being evicted for nonpayment of rent. The risk of utilities being turned off increases too.

Speak To Your Landlord About Getting Another Roommate

If your roommate (who is behind on rent) is willing to move out peacefully, they could work out a payment deal with your landlord directly, then break the lease and move out.

This will allow you to stay in your place and find a new roommate to share the expenses with.

The details for working out this kind of arrangement will vary from landlord to landlord, so be sure to ask a lot of questions and make sure whatever agreement you work out is in writing!

Finding a New Place to Live and Moving On

The end result might be that both you and your roommate will move out of your place and move on with your lives. If this is the only option you work out with the landlord, that is OK. You did your best and you can’t always predict how the future will go living with a roommate etc.

Planning For the Future

Once you’ve moved on from your old roommate, there are some things you can do to plan for the future, to reduce the risk of having this happen to you again.

Have a Rental Late Payment Clause In Your Roommate Agreement

Make sure you add a clause in your roommate agreement that highlights exactly what will happen if rent is not paid on time. Talk about the details like payment arrangements and how things will be worked out with the landlord. Each roommate situation is unique, so it’s hard to provide you with exact details of what to include.

Encourage Your Future Roommate to Set Up an Emergency Fund

Being able to pay the rent on time each and every month is all about good financial management. So encourage your roommate to save money and have an emergency fund set aside for unforeseen circumstances, like getting laid off, etc.

But, this is extremely hard to do and easier said than done. I mean, let’s be honest, how many people actually save money and have emergency funds?

So my best advice to you is to only shack up with a roommate who can prove they’ve already been saving money, if you can find someone you are compatible with. Otherwise, settle for someone who is willing to try and save money, and you trust that they will give it their best effort.

My Thoughts on Taking Legal Action Against Your Old Roommate

If you ever think about taking your old roommate to small claims court for money that is owed to you, you might be wasting your time.

You’ll need to decide if the amount of money you are after is worth the time off from work and the travel and hassle involved in going to court to try and collect the money. Not to mention, the stress you will also experience.

The same is true for mediation services, even if they are provided for free by a property management company or local community.

It’s up to you to make the final call however, again, it might be worth it to you.

In my opinion, taking legal action of any kind is a waste of time and energy, 90% of the time.

Final Thoughts

In the end, when all else fails, show compassion and empathy for your roommate if they run into financial troubles while living with you.

Remember you can help them out, to the best of your abilities.

But also, recognize when it’s time to fold the cards and move on. Whether it be they leave and you find a new roommate, or you both move out of the place you are renting and go your separate ways.

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