I DID A THING: Living With My BFF Was High-Key A Disaster & Now We're Fighting About Money. Help?

I Did A Thing is our weekly advice column where the Her Campus editorial team helps you out when you ruin your own life (hey, we've been there). Email [email protected] for any and everything you need help with. We’ll answer you (anonymously!) on hercampus.com so we can all learn, together. We’ve got your back.

EverythingisRent: I first met my roommate in the dorms freshman year, and we really hit it off so we decided to live together again for our sophomore year. Flashforward a year, and my roommate's grandma actually bought a condo a short walk from our campus, but she only uses it for the summer. My roommate's mom asked me if I wanted to rent one of the bedrooms, and my parents told her that we wouldn't be able to afford it and that we could only afford to pay the same as the dorms. She said it wasn't about the money and just wanted to keep us together, so she lowered the rent significantly.

However, she emailed my mom a day before I was supposed to move in this year and said that the rent would be raised back up to 800 a month. This wouldn't be a big deal, except for the fact that I rely completely on school loans and my parents 401k to pay for college, and it's too late to take out any more money. I told her that I would only be able to pay for the next month and then I would have to move out, but now her mom is sending hateful emails to my mom and my roommate isn't talking to me. They're calling me a freeloader, and saying that I am abusing the generosity the showed me for the past couple of years. I don't know what to do, because although I don't have a choice due to money issues, it's not like I want to move out. I also don't want to lose my friend. Can you give me any advice?

helpmehc: What you've got here is a two-pronged intersecting problem of your financial and personal life. The former is, believe it or not, probably a bit easier to deal with than the latter. So let's start with that.

Depending on your state and the details of your rental agreement, the last minute rent raise is potentially not a legal thing. If you had a formal lease agreement set at the lower price, your roommate's mom has certain responsibilities (depending on your state) to give you notice for the rent increase (often it's 30 days). So the sudden change with next to no notice, is typically not a kosher thing to do and you are by no means a freeloader for not following through on a financial obligation that's different/beyond what y'all previously agreed to. If your agreement was more informal and a tenancy-at-will sort of situation (super common, especially for young people!) y'all likely defaulted to a month-to-month tenant situation — which, again, typically requires landlords to be given a certain amount of notice before you move out and for you to be given notice before your rent goes up. Check out your state's tenant laws and make sure you're super familiar with their ins and outs whenever you enter into a new living arrangement. It is so scary and complicated trying to rent and live and afford it all —  which is why doing your research and watching your back is so, so important (especially when you're living with friends!)

For future living arrangements, even if it's with your close friends, it's essential that you always, always get something solidified and in writing defining your rental/sublet agreement. I am always screaming this at all of my friends, all the time — but things need to be in writing and you need to be aware of the tenant/renter laws in your state in order to protect yourself (and your landlords, friends, leaseholders want to do the same to protect themselves too.) There are rules in each state that require renters and landlords/leaseholders to do right by one another and a huge part of that is taken care of through transparency and documentation of your expectations and responsibilities. I know it seems corny and dumb when you're with your best friend (and like weird and overly formal considering you likely sit around in your underwear and watch Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat together & little else), but pulling together an email that just says "We agree to XYZ terms for X period of time" with some acknowledgment of when and how payments will be made can save your whole life if something goes south. Plus, it makes it less likely that any party in the written agreement will get f-cked over. 

(Example: I had a sublet room in Brooklyn a few years back with a co-worker and friend. She was awesome and super responsible and sent me a short email when we agreed to live with one another that just said that by moving in we each agreed to pay (and our method of payment), our terms for if someone wanted to move out and any other important details that we were agreeing to as roommates with a note to keep that email for both of our files. I sent a reply that I agreed to the terms and it was done. Back to eating pasta on the couch and being chill. When the time came that I needed to move out, I gave her a month and a half's notice, because it's what I could do, and we were all good. But if either of us had tried shady shit, it would've been way harder to leave one another hanging or adjust the rent or do anything messed up because the documented agreement could be used in small claims court or following emails to show what our legal obligations were. [We stan documentation of everything in this🏡.])

In your case, it sounds like you were either mislead or misinformed about the terms of the living situation from the get-go and that is very much on your friend and her parents/grandparents for not setting clear terms. But it's also super important to advocate for yourself, get everything in writing and make sure your best interests are protected (because sometimes even your best friends can be dicks when it comes to money and life stuff.) 

As for your friendship, that bit is a lot harder. While they may not be taking legal action against you, the emotional burden (and the toxicity) of living with that kind of energy is unreal. This friend sounds incredibly inconsiderate of your financial situation and needs and grossly sanctimonious for talking at all about their alleged "generosity." They seem not only not generous, but manipulative in this regard for not stating explicit terms and sticking to them and doing everything on the up and up. But I understand missing your friend and roommate and just wanting to just have your person back. Like we've said in other convos about salvaging a friendship from a bad fight, it's important to get over and out of the initial conflict (a complicated financial situation and toxic living situation) in one piece and get to a place where you can hopefully have some frank, kind and productive conversations about how you value your friendship more than this argument, how you obviously never intended to dip out on your friend but have your own financial limitations, and how y'all can communicate and grow back together in the future.

Just please, please look out for yourself and your personal, emotional and financial well-being first. I know you love your BFF, clearly. But you do deserve better than a friend willing to pull shady rental/slumlord crap with you.

I'm rooting for you.

Check out more advice from @helpmehc. We've got your back.