Thinking of renting a house with a friend: Advice?

My husband and I are thinking about renting a house, and sharing it with a close friend. We have a toddler, (a loud toddler), and are hoping to have another kid in the next year or so. I haven’t lived with anyone but my husband (and kid) in a long time, and it seems to me that there will be lots of different issues from what came up in college. A little more complicated, especially due to our being married, and having a small child, and maybe two.

The friend is very interested and willing. We’re not forcing him into bond servitude or anything.:smiley: He’s in the process of getting divorced, could afford a small place of his own, but would prefer a house, and thinks living with us would probably be fine. He’s here about five days a week, for part of the day, anyway.

We’re in a one-bedroom apartment, which is kind of crowded. We’d like more space.

So far, besides a general, “Will we drive each other mad?”, the things I think we need to discuss are:

Whose name on the lease?: I’m thinking ours, probably, since there’s more of us, and it’s more likely he’ll move on first.

Rent split. There are three Lissars, and there might be four later on.

Utilities split-up: Separate phone lines? Probably a wireless network for internet. Half and half? Two thirds us? Three quarters us?

Food: if we do this, I anticipate cooking with him a lot, and probably eating together most of the time. So how do we balance who’s eating what and when? Seems potentially complicated.

Chores: Whiteboarded list, separate responsibilities, switching month by month?

Personal space: how do we stay out of each other’s way enough to permit ourselves slightly separate lives?
Has anyone done this, or something similar? Stories, anecdotes, things that went right or horribly wrong? What am I overlooking?

We are reasonable people (I hope), and none of us are naturally inclined to let things build up or to loud fighting. I’m looking for potential flaws, problems, areas of friction.

Don’t do this.
You aren’t college kids. A couple with a child is absolutely not a good match with a guy who is single (or about to be).

Couple thoughts:
With a couple and a single, you need to talk about and agree upfront on how house decisions (decorating, whether and what level of cable to buy, etc) are made. Is it one-adult-one-vote? Or do the couple get one vote collectively? Ideally, it never comes to a vote because you’re all reasonable and able to compromise, but it’s always better if you’re prepared.

Think through various ways the situation could end and how that should work. If he decides he wants his own place and moves out, could you stay there paying the whole rent, or would you have to move? If so, decide how much notice is necessary so you have time to find something. Likewise, if you’re the one who decides to move, or if you decide that the situation isn’t working, what will happen? Make sure everyone knows and agrees on what will happen ahead of time.

Think about how taking care of the kids will work. Is the friend going to spend time taking care of them? Is that part of his house chores or an extra favor to you?
Will the friend discipline the child(ren)? Are you OK with that? If not, will he be able to control the child if neither of you are home?
Is he ready for spit-up/other fluids/magic marker on all of his possessions? And other things that come with living with a child?

Advice: Do it with a friend that you wouldn’t mind not having as a friend anymore.

Seriously. It may work out fine, but there’s a significant chance it’ll permanently alter the friendship for the worse.

Is the landlord going to be OK with having a permanent resident at the location who is not on the lease? I ask because I’ve been in shared housing situations before (in college, though; not since then) and every landlord I’ve ever had has had a policy of not allowing anyone to stay at the house, apart from temporary houseguests, if they’re not on the lease. Also, if your friend is not on the lease, there is nothing preventing him from blowing town and sticking you with 100% of the rent. Presumably you don’t think he would do this or you wouldn’t be considering renting a house with him, but it’s a possibility.

Additionally, I agree with a couple of the things that have already been mentioned: Specifically, how is he going to handle living with a small child? Some people really don’t handle sharing space with children well, and he might think that it’ll be fine and then realize once he’s in the situation that wow, kids sure do make a lot of noise. And make a lot of mess. And need a lot of attention. I second all of the questions that Quercus mentioned regarding whether he will have any child care responsibilities and if so, how that will work.

This sounds like a situation with huge potential to blow up in your faces. I would proceed with caution, if at all.

I should have mentioned that it’s intended to go for two years or a little more, tops. Temporary. We’re probably going to buy my parents’ house from them, but not for a year and a half to two and a half years. The yard work and stairs are getting too much for my Dad, but he wants another year or two before they buy a condo and sell to us.

Thinking about the points raised. All three of us will be reading this thread and discussing it.
We are already fine with him disciplining/comforting our kid. We’re going to look for a place that has a finished basement or similar so he can have a reasonable amount of space.
He’s already had every traumatic bodily fluid child accident happen to him, I think. Not to his bed, yet. We’ll talk about that. Wait, no- Gnat hasn’t projectile vomited on him.

Will discuss shared leasing.
If he decides to move, we’ll either move back to a smaller place or (depending on time frame) speed up buying my parents’ home. This will be talked about thoroughly.

Unless you can find somewhere with a ‘granny flat’, don’t do it. Personal space and personal quiet are going to be big issues. And what are you going to do when he brings a girlfriend - or boyfriend - back?

I lived with a married couple (without kids) for over 2 years, and it worked out just fine. A good friend of mine is currently living with a married couple with two kids (3.5 years and infant), has been living with them for a few years, and really likes the arrangement. I just lived with them for a few days because I was evacuated for the fire here, and I can see why he likes it. There are some nice aspects to living with and in a family, even if it’s not your family. I don’t think that it requires anything more than reasonable people who respect each others’ space and are willing to compromise on a shared living space.

As far as how to split rent, or food bills, or choose which cable package to get, just talk it out, and don’t sweat the small stuff. For example: I’d prefer the cheaper internet package but my roommate wants the faster one. Half the expensive one is still cheaper than the cheap one if I were on my own, so it’s still a good deal. For most things with roommates, sharing is that way. You might not always get what you would choose, but on the balance, things tend to work out pretty well.

A two year time frame is not temporary. Well, it is, but it’s a LONG time for the type of relationship you envision. That’s not to say it won’t work out, but, . . . two years is a long time.

When deciding who pays how much rent, keep your incomes, your expenses for other stuff, and your what happens if someone wants out stuff in the back of your mind. I mean, if you pay 90% of the rent, and he wants to move out in six months, you say " Oh crap!" and buy cheap frozen pizzas instead of paying for delivery every week. If you pay 50% of the rent, stuff gets more complicated.

Why don’t you work it like you’re just renting a room to him? See what the going rate in your area is (Craigslist is a good indicator of comps).

I rent two rooms in my house to two different folks. We split all utilities three ways, including cable and internet. We have our own shelves for food, but if one cooks for everyone one night, someone else will the next.

I must be getting smarter. This is verbatim what I was going to say.

I have had plenty of experiences with shared living in recent years. To start off, my primary two examples:

  • I bought a house recently and a close friend lives with me. He moved in a few months before the house was bought and stayed at my old place. This is working well for us though it is temporary (he plans to buy a home, but he’s not in a hurry to do so). We also lived with my sister before we moved.

  • My sister and her fiance rented a townhouse with a friend of my sister’s. They recently moved out and were desperate to do so. Their situation was not working for anybody and there are some pretty nasty feelings about it, particularly from the fiance, who had less emotional attachment to the roommate to begin with.

Some things that we’ve done to help make things work for our situation much better than my sister’s:

  • No shared food. It means more moldy bread and spoiled milk but it is way better than squabbling or feeling put upon because so and so ate something you wanted or isn’t buying their fair share. We have separate cabinets for our things and do buy duplicates. While it’s perfectly fine for each of us to offer some of what we have, or to give the other person something, ownership is clearly defined. In my sister’s situation, they planned to share groceries to save on spoiled food. What ended up happening was the roommate never bought groceries and just ate their food all the time, because she was so “busy”, and on the one or two occasions she did buy food, she bought things that the other two wouldn’t eat. There were constant bad feelings about food.

  • Clearly understood responsibilities and roles. He pays a set amount per month plus half of the utilities; he does not balk or try to get me to wait. Taking care of the house is my problem and my responsibility, but at the same time it’s my house, so I get final say in major decisions. This means my friend doesn’t need to help with the renovating work unless he’s feeling so inclined, but that if I say the couch goes here, that’s where it goes. I clean the common areas but if he makes a mess, he cleans it up. He cleans up his computer desk and his room, and does his own dishes. He’s cleaner than I am so this works out fine. We treat each other with courtesy but there’s a clear understanding of the power involved. In my sister’s case, the roommate was the messier person but was around less, so the other two ended up cleaning up after them. Also, they agreed to a pay schedule where she paid less because they got the garage, but they surrendered the garage to her (her request due to health issues), causing negative feelings.

Some other things I’ve noticed that have helped:

  • Alone time. If someone goes into their room it means they want to be left alone. Unless it’s an emergency, go away. We’re very clear with each other if we’re not in a good mood.

  • Responsiveness. If someone mentions something is bothering them, don’t get mad, try to do it soon. Ask for things in a polite manner and keep everything civil. No drama. Don’t get mad because someone hasn’t done dishes for awhile, just ask them to do it and they should do them in a reasonable time (e.g. that day).

All in all it’s worked out pretty well. It’s a big financial boon and it’s nice to have someone around. You just need to be low-drama people who make a commitment to trying to treat each other with courtesy.

I don’t have any direct experience with this, but in terms of splitting costs: another idea is to act as though there were 3 adults in a “marriage” and combine some of your income. So everyone contributes an appropriate amount, and household expenses come out of that. That could be food, toilet paper, soap, utilities, etc. Or maybe some food comes out of that – milk, bread, flour, etc. – so that you don’t have to keep track of whose is whose, but if one person likes a special, expensive brand of whatever they can buy it on their own. My husband did that on a small scale with his roommates before we got married – they all contributed to the kitty, and household shared items were bought out of that.

Any time I’ve ever done shared food, we just kept grocery receipts and split things evenly at the end of the month. It doesn’t solve the “so-and-so ate the last of the whatever and didn’t buy more” problem, but that wasn’t as big a problem because there was 24-hour market a few blocks away. If you really had to have a whatever, one was available.

If you do end up doing separate food, remember that mini-fridges are cheap. $200 to buy new and a few dollars a month in electricity can solve a lot of problems with not having enough space in the fridge.

If you do it, draw up a Use & Occupancy agreement that spells out your arrangement in detail. Get it signed and notarized.

I have one we use that I can email you if you want.

Two words;

Exit Strategy

Come together and agree on what needs to be said, by each party, to end the arrangement. How much notice is required, who will pay for what, specifically, in closing up all shared expenses.

If you can negotiate your way through that conversation without ill feelings or misunderstandings cropping up, then you are all probably mature enough to pull it off.

Good Luck, you’ll likely need it!

I was going to say the same thing - don’t do it with someone you couldn’t stand to lose as a friend. I never recommend friends live together or relatives go into business together…it’s better if it’s someone you can lay down the rules to without hurting your friendship.

Either way, good luck.

I think the bigger issue than money will be that all of you are adults who have lived independently. You’re used to the whole entire house basically being your space. You have ways of doing things that are entrenched and you don’t even think about right now.
Every year, I spend a week in a beach house with my parents, my wife and kid, my brother, and his wife and kid. There are more bedrooms than people. There are plenty of bathrooms. Everybody spends freely and without keeping account of who bought or ate what…and by the end of the week, I’m ready to go back to my own house and my own ways.

I have a roommate living with me, but my situation is more like fluiddruid’s than the OP. I own the house, the guy in the basement is a tenant (and a good friend).

We don’t share food - but the tenant is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat dairy, so there’s very little we can share. He has a big cabinet and I have one. The fridge has specified “mine” and “his” shelves, with the top shelf shared for tall things. Only thing we agreed on is that we both love bananas and we work together to keep fresh bananas in the house. We also occasionally share bakery and pasta noodles.

If we go to the store we ask each other if the other person needs something, and pay for it in cash.

As for utilities - I know pretty much how much water and electricity I use on my own, so I told him that number and said he will pay the difference each month (plus the sewer bill which is tied in with the water somehow). He has a terrarium with lights and takes a lot of showers, so he’s fine with paying for all the extras. We won’t need much extra gas because of him, as he doesn’t mess with the thermostat, so that’s ok. Internet is wireless so I just take care of that because it doesn’t cost me any extra.

The reason my friend moved in is because he is in massive debt right now, and I have extra space. Plus I dig the security of having someone else around. He doesn’t pay rent. In exchange, he does all of the yardwork I don’t want to do (er, all of it) plus cleans the kitchen/bathroom/living room once a week. He’s much cleaner than me so the house is cleaner than before. I pay for all of the cleaning supplies and keep them stocked.

To the OP: even though you are renting, have you considered making the place your own and just renting to him as a tenant? You’re on the lease, all of the utilities are in your name, he pays for his room and a bit of utilities. Charge him what he would pay for a room somewhere else (check Craigslist to see what rooms are going for). Set it up so that he won’t be letting you down if he leaves. You could even sock away the rent money he pays in anticipation of him leaving.

One other thing to consider…just because you are all good pals now, and possibly hang out a lot, don’t assume that’s how it’ll work when you live together. The life of a single dude is way different than the life of two parents and a kid. My friend and I have known each other since we were 12, are both single (albeit a man and a woman) and get along famously, but I RARELY see him. When we do see each other, we talk a bit. We’ve gone out a few times. But he’s got his life and I’ve got mine. So don’t expect him home for dinner every night, or to be available to watch the tot at the drop of a hat, or to be free on Friday for family movie night. Don’t assume it’s going to be one giant sleepover!