In almost every group housing situation I’ve lived in, there is usually one tenant that handles the majority of the responsibilities. They act as the liaison between tenants and landlords, they handle collecting the rent, and they tell the landlord if there are any issues with the apartment. How the “tenant in charge” decision is made by the landlord can be based on many things; it can be as simple as the one who was the first to contact the landlord, or whose name is on the lease if they’re renting out rooms to other tenants. But what if your main tenant is becoming overbearing or not handling their responsibilities? Below I have some common issues that can arise with this type of power struggle, and solutions for how to divvy up responsibility so that everyone feels involved with apartment decisions.
1. The “tenant in charge” is not responsible with rent or bills, and everyone is paying the price
Paying rent and bills on time is without a doubt the most important part of being in your own apartment. Even if everyone sends rent and utility checks on time to the main tenant, they can be late with delivering the check to the landlord or paying the utilities bill online. As a result, this can lead to arguments with your landlord or worse: late fees tagged on to your monthly expenses. If this occurs in your group, talk to the main tenant about designating one person for handling the utilities bill, while they continue to handle the rent or interactions with the landlord. This way, the main tenant doesn’t feel overwhelmed with responsibility, and it becomes more of a group effort to make sure apartment funds are allocated where they need to be.
2. The “tenant in charge” micromanages how chores and house decisions are handled.
Even if you’re the one handling the rent and the bills within the apartment, very few people appreciate being told what to do when they come home after a long day of school or work. If there is a disagreement on apartment cleanliness, offer to initiate a chore wheel, so that everyone is responsible for a specific chore each week. Have chores “rotate” from person to person, so that one person doesn’t get stuck taking the trash out each week.
Another problem that can arise is that the “tenant in charge” may feel entitled to decorate and furnish the apartment how they please if they found the apartment in the first place. In this case, it’s best to have a group discussion at the beginning of the lease about how the apartment should be furnished and decorated. A few months into living at the apartment? It’s never too late to call a “house meeting” to bring any issues up front and to work together for coming up with solutions.
3. The “tenant in charge” fails to notify the landlord that the sink/toilet/washer is broken.
As someone who lived with a group where the main tenant forgot to tell our landlord that the dryer was broken at the end of the lease, we learned our lesson by having to pay the repair costs. If an appliance is not working and the main tenant isn’t reporting the issue to the landlord, offer to talk to the landlord yourself and arrange the appointment to get it fixed. Landlords appreciate honesty up front, and relying on one tenant to fix everything can make things worse in the future.
In an ideal world, apartment responsibilities are shared among all tenants. Understandably, your landlord may not want to deal with calls and emails from everyone living in the apartment and they’ll designate a ‘tenant in charge” among your group to make communication easier. Even so, it’s still important to initiate a discussion on sharing tasks. Having everyone involved with a designated job will make group living easier and less stressful in the long run, leading to a happier living experience overall!