When your Significant Other (SO) is also your roommate, breakups are doubly complicated. Moving in with your SO is an extremely exciting time in any relationship. There’s lots of fun in merging styles, learning about your partner, spending extra time together and making your place feel like home. But no matter how comfortable you are that it’s a long-term situation, it’s important not to lose sight of protecting yourself in case things do go sour. While we hope they won’t, consider the cautious safety net ideas below that will keep you protected from financial harm in case of a breakup.
Co-sign on your apartment lease
Be up front with your landlord that you are in a committed relationship, but have not yet tied the knot. In that case, make sure that both your and your partner’s names are on the lease and that both individuals must agree to each item in the lease individually. Instead of letting your partner read the lease and approve it for you to sign, both of you should take time to read and confirm that the terms are appropriate.
This fact can save you a huge hassle if things don’t work later on. If only one individual is responsible for the lease, they would be able to remove you from the apartment without your permission. Instead, with both names associated with the apartment, all moves become both of your responsibility.
Understand the terms of breaking your lease early
Breakups don’t always happen in perfect sync with your apartment lease cycle. Although you can’t control when things go bad (if they do!), you can be aware of the expense you’ll incur by breaking your lease to move to a different apartment. Keep this in the back of your mind, just in case!
Ensure both names are on other payments, like utilities
Instead of letting your partner take care of all the bills, split the burden with them and ensure both of your names are included on accounts for utilities like electric, water, garbage, and internet/TV. Not only is it a good learning experience, but it protects you from changes being made to the accounts without your permission.
Avoid taking out shared loans
This one is VERY important!! It may be tempting to pay for the sofa, a big new TV or the bedroom set on an installment plan, but avoid taking out loans with your SO until you are positive your relationship is permanent and you’re willing to take on shared debt. Not only can finances cause strain in a relationship, but repaying a loan is a huge responsibility that you don’t want to risk on another person. If you do end breaking up, you would be tied to your SO – and place your credit rating at risk! – until the loan is paid off, which could take a very long time depending on their attention to it.
Split all shared expenses
Decide in advance how expenses will be tracked and paid for, so neither member of your relationship feels that they are taking on an extra burden. For example, if you decide to split grocery and food expenses 50/50, track receipts each month and use cash or a money-sharing application to pay the difference to the person who spent more. Not only is this a good practice to ensure money is spent fairly while you’re in the relationship, but if you do break up, you won’t owe your SO any money for couple expenses (and they won’t owe you either!).
Stay on separate phone plans
It can be tempting to merge phone plans to save money, but since most plans come with contracts these days, it can be risky if you’re in a relationship. After a breakup, you would likely have to continue to share a phone plan or face costly expenses for exiting your contract early.
Think before you move
Most importantly, think very hard before making the decision to move in with your SO. It’s a major decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you do decide to move in together, enjoy every minute, but be sure to protect yourself at the same time.