Fiscalish Dilemmas

Saturday 20 September 2008

I covet your opinions about bill splitting, dear bloggers.

The deal is this: I live in a little two bedroom place which is on the same property as the main house. My landlord used to live in that house, and when it was just him there and just me here, we would just split the bills down the middle. Easy. Even when his girlfriend moved in, we still just split them by thirds, and it didn't worry me too much.

However, he has now moved out and has tenants in the house. The bills have been transferred to my name, and we've just received a few so I need to go and talk to them and work out how we are going to split them. Problem is, I can't work out what is fair. They are all so utterly polite that I am worried tat they won't really tell me what they think is fair or unfair.

Do you think it's fair if we split them all amongst ourselves? That means that I get to have all the the lights to myself, whereas they share their lighting amongst each other. So therefore is it fair that I only pay for one fifth of the lighting when in some ways you could say that I am using half of it? But then again, on the other hand, there is more than one person there, so they would be using more lighting.

But then when it comes to the gas, the heating, it feels easier to just split it down the middle because there is one heater there and one heater here. Easy. Same with the water. Split right down the middle.

It's just the electricity that I'm not so sure about how to split it. I need to go and talk to them about it but they are so incredibly polite, being Indian, that I am not sure that they will tell me what they really think about it all. What do you guys think?

There are officially two of them in there but I actually think there are three of them living there. That is one reason why I am procrastinating about talking to them about the bills. If we split them between us, then I will have to find out from them how many of them are living there.


  1. Easy peasey, compare your usage to a comparable month and see how it has increased over (1) you just by yourself or (2) you and the landlord. In theory, they would be resposnbile for whatever percentage above what you normally pay this time of year and stick with the percentage. Kids use A LOT of energy....

  2. I can't do that because I don't have any comparable bills. My landlord would be the ones to have those and I very much doubt that he would have kept all his old bills. And anyway, that is going on the assumption that they would be using the same amount per person as he used himself, which doesn't necessarily equate.

    Aggh! Oh for separately metered houses!

  3. No it doesn't assume anything about him, it assumes your usage has remained the same and that theirs as a percentage could be derived from a comparison. You don't have records, like checks you wrote to cover your part of the monthly bill?

    And he should have kept them, most people keep such records.

  4. I'm not a terribly mathematically minded person but here's what makes sense to me. You should keep paying about the same amount as you have always paid, and they should pay the difference. I'm going to assume these bills fluctuate from month to month like ours do, so this answer is based on that.

    If you have checks or other records of what you have paid for these bills in the past, then it should be easy, because you say you normally paid half. So just double it to know what those bills were in the past.

    You are the same person living in the same space. It would stand to reason that you are using about the same amount of electric and gas as you normally use. So I would think that you should still pay about the same amount, in dollars, not percentage, for each as you have been paying.

    Any increase in the bills from what you normally pay when you split 50/50 with the landlord would be due to the amount of such services your new neighbors are using.

    Does that make any sense?

    If they have been there a full month, then look at the bill, take whatever amount you paid for that same service the last month you split it with your landlord, and determine the difference between what you would pay and the total of the bill. Then just glean percentages from that.

    Say last time you split the bill with your landlord, the total was $100 and you paid $50 or 50%. (just using round numbers to make it easy).

    So say this month, with the new tenants, the bill is $150. You would normally be responsible for $50 of the bill, which is 33% of the new bill. From this example you would then generally pay 33% of whatever the bill is from now on.

    Or if the new bill is $125, well, your $50 is 40% of the bill, so you would pay 40% of the bills from now on.

    It just depends on how their usage compares to the landlord, but YOU should pay about the same, because you haven't changed, they have.

    I checked with my husband who is an accountant to be sure my assumptions were correct, and he says it seems they are.

    Tyler - does this make sense to you? I think it matches what you said.

  5. That assumes rates don't change and your usage is the same relative to theirs as it was relative to the landlord's -- they may not want to accept that premise.
    You could agree to follow that method for a year and then re-negotiate if one or another is unsatisfied. Meanwhile, keep the bills and note usage.

  6. Thanks to the three of you. I get what TD & EW are saying but ... sheesh, I dunno, it gives me a bit of a brainclamp, you know? I just want to make sure it's reasonably fair. I don't need to work it out down to the last dollar.

    Maybe I should talk to them about it, huh? I keep procrastinating about it because I've been feeling a bit dodgy and why not put off things that feel uncomfortable until a day when suddenly they feel much less comfortable? Tomorrow :)


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