How to handle couch crashers and how much to charge them

Do you have a friend that is facing some hard financial times and has turned your couch into his/her bed? The question is – how long do you allow him/her to take over your living room or spare bedroom and then, do you charge them rent? To be perfectly honest, there is no perfect way to handle a couch crasher. Figuring these things out without hurting the friendship has to be done strategically and delicately. I have devised a list of guidelines for how to maneuver your way through such a fragile situation, leaving your budget intact and your friendship undamaged.

My list of do’s and don’ts for handling couch crashers and how much and when to charge them for their stay.

1. Communicate – Communication is KEY to any relationship whether it is a friendship, significant other or family member. Be open and honest before you even allow a friend to temporarily move in and sleep on your couch or in a spare bedroom – talk to them and tell them the rules of your home. You have to establish boundaries; whether its not allowing individuals to eat on the couch or no TV after a certain hour in the living room — lay the rules of your home out clearly and precisely so that no one finds themselves upset or annoyed at one another.

2. Establish a timeline – You need to sit down with your friend and establish a realistic timeline of how long he or she expects to be living with you. Communication is again, the key to making this situation work. If she/he says a few months it is a different situation than if they are just staying for a few days or two weeks.

3. Talk about rent and compromise – If a new roommate moves in unexpectedly and plans to be there for more than a month, it’s only fair to talk with him or her about how much money he/she should be contributing towards additional costs that will be accrued (i.e. utility expenses and grocery costs). You obviously don’t want to try to charge your friend TOO much because you want them to be able to save money to move out as soon as possible and get a new place of their own. Find a happy medium of what you both think is fair and just explain that you are on a budget and you do not have unlimited funds. Also, if you have a roommate who is bugging you about charging your couch crasher friend for rent for the inconvenience, ask for at least 15% of the total monthly rent cost. This amount will leave room for the couch crasher to save for his/her own place while still not taking advantage of you and your roommate(s). So for example, if your rent is $1,000 per month and is split between you and your roommate ($500 a person), negotiate with your friend to pay at least $100 – $150 towards rent each month. This will save you and your roommate at least $50 a month on rent and eliminate your monthly bills from increasing. Also, split utility costs by three and this will prevent you from suffering from unfair hiked-up water or electricity costs.

Just remember if a situation ever arises where a friend or family member of yours needs a place to stay in a tough financial time, be sympathetic and fair. You need to remember that you want them to save their money and not spend it all on your rent because then they will never move out.