Dear Penny: My Live-in Partner Owns a Home. Does He Owe Me Half for Bills?
My partner and I have been together for 15 years, but not really living together. We both own our own homes, mortgage-free. Our financial situation is similar in terms of net worth.
Because of my partner’s health issues, at the outset of COVID we decided to have him move in with me, as he could avoid grocery shopping, etc. We thought COVID would be a short-term issue.
My partner and I split all grocery costs and meals out, along with the costs for a biweekly cleaning woman (floors only) and our cat's expenses. I pay for everything else: cable, utilities, repairs that come up, association fees.
I do all the grocery shopping and 99% of dinner prep, cleaning and organizing. My partner feels he should not need to pay to live with me, as he has his own home and expenses. He said, “OK, you can split the cost for my home then.” His son will inherit his home someday, so selling it is out of the question.
Is this really about the money? Or is it about the unequal amount of effort you’re investing?
Perhaps it made sense for you to do tasks like grocery shopping back when COVID cases were exploding. But are your partner’s health issues so severe that he can’t cook a meal or organize a closet?
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But let’s focus on the bills for a moment. If you were roommates renting an apartment, it would make sense to split everything down the middle. No one has an investment in that space. The money you pay buys you a place to live, and that’s that.
It becomes trickier when you share space and you each own homes. The homes you bought aren’t just living spaces. If you sold your home tomorrow for three times what you paid, presumably, your partner wouldn’t be entitled to a dime.
This is a topic that reasonable people can certainly disagree about. But I think it makes sense for you to be solely responsible for the fixed costs of homeownership.
You’ve paid off your mortgage, which is the biggest expense related to your investment. I’d also put property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and association fees in this category. None of these would change if you told your partner to move out tomorrow. Your partner is still paying these expenses for his home, even though he’s living with you.
Repairs should mostly fall into this category. If you’d need to replace the roof, that’s an expense you’d have even if your partner wasn’t cohabitating with you. But if he accidentally breaks your garbage disposal, he should foot the bill.
I say all this assuming your partner isn’t renting out his home. In that scenario, I’d expect him to contribute toward these costs since living with you would allow him to earn a profit. But I’m guessing one of the good things about this arrangement is that you could ask your partner to leave tomorrow and he’d have a place to go.
It gets tricky with the variable expenses. I think it makes sense for your partner to contribute toward utilities and cable, since these are things you’re both consuming when you’re living together full time.
Splitting costs for groceries, cleaning and the cat 50/50 would also seem logical if you were each contributing roughly equal effort. And that, of course, is where I think your partner could do better.
I don’t know why responsibility for cooking and housekeeping has fallen almost 100% on you. But is it possible that you’re splitting hairs about the bills because you feel unappreciated?
If I lived with someone who did the bulk of the chores, I’d go out of my way to treat them. Perhaps I’d pay the tab for any restaurant bill and also chip in extra for groceries. Even if we’d technically agreed to split these costs evenly, it would be a small show of gratitude.
It sounds like you allowed your partner to move in solely for his benefit. Hopefully, you’ve benefited as well from the 24/7 companionship you’ve gotten over the past two years. But his comment about you paying half of the expenses for his home seems dismissive.
The pandemic forced millions of people to rapidly change their living and working situations overnight. But fortunately after two years, a sense of normalcy is returning. Many people, even those with health issues, have been able to resume routine activities like grocery shopping. So perhaps it’s time to revisit whether you want to continue this living arrangement with your partner.
There’s no way to do a perfect 50/50 split of expenses here. But make sure your partner is matching your effort if you continue to share space with him. Otherwise, it’s time to send him home already.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].
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