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The Moneyist: My girlfriend lives with me and uses her apartment as a $750-a-month closet. She wants to officially move in, and pay me $117 a month

Dear Quentin,

My girlfriend and I have been dating for over a year. After her roommate left, she got her own place, even though she was essentially living with me in a home I bought in mid-2018.

This was about eight months into our relationship, and she wasn’t ready to fully move in, but she did bring furniture and other items, using her new apartment essentially as a $750-a-month closet that was a 25-minute drive away. She slept there one night in five months.

“‘When my girlfriend decided to finally move in, she told me that as I own a duplex with a tenant, she wanted to pay me only half of the remaining portion of the mortgage payment — $117.50.’”

I was fine with this. She needed to be on her own timeline, having had a previously negative experience living with a partner. Even though we were living together, she was just paying rent somewhere else, and I provided for our shared housing for 10 months.

In October, we had a conversation about either her moving in, or me renting out one of my spare rooms, as there are a large number of travel nurses in our area. I said that I’d rather her move in. However, I did feel that I needed to increase my income if I was going to be able to save enough for our summer travel plans.

She still wasn’t ready to move in, so I rented the room. We agreed that she would start contributing $150 a month toward expenses, which put her total housing cost at $900. We split groceries and other incidentals 50/50.

Mortgage income vs. investment income

In the meantime, we have had several discussions about her moving in. I had stated that even $500 a month would be helpful. She said that she would contribute 50/50 — $750, as my mortgage is $1,500 a month.

My tenant only has access to their unit, not the garden, storage area, or backyard. When my girlfriend decided to finally move in, she told me that as I own a duplex with a tenant, she wanted to pay me only half of the remaining portion of the mortgage payment — $117.50.

“‘A rental company doesn’t drop the rent on one unit because the others are full, and the landlord doesn’t pay less on their mortgage because they rent out rooms.’”

Additionally, as I have now rented one of my two spare rooms for $600, she thinks that should be taken into consideration.

The difference in our thinking is that I view the rent I get from my spare rooms as income from an investment, while she views it as something that offsets my mortgage, as if I am a tenant here as well.

She agrees that if I was making that money from any other investment, she would view it differently. I also feel that I am not in a typical renter’s position. As the owner, my costs don’t go down because I have roommates or tenants. My mortgage remains the same. We spoke to our families about this and, as predicted, we each found support for our views. In the end, we settled on $650.

We both have friends stay over occasionally, and she has access to a 1.2-acre property, garden and storage. Considering that my roommate has decided that he wants to pay $700 — $100 over asking — with no garden or storage access, I feel like she is taking advantage of me.

A rental company doesn’t drop the rent on one unit because the others are full, and the landlord doesn’t pay less on their mortgage because they rent out rooms. On top of all this, she wants to become a travel nurse herself, starting in April, and she doesn’t want to continue to pay rent while she’s away for three months. Does that seem fair? I feel like she should at least contribute $200 monthly.

In my mind, a lot rests on the idea of a shared future and how much we want to work toward that goal.

We both recognize that $100 isn’t something to fight about, but I feel like I’m right, and want to hear either way from someone not connected to the situation. Thank you for any thoughts or opinions.

Confused in Oregon

Dear Confused,

This impasse concerns a lot more than $100. The notion that your girlfriend should move from a $750-a-month apartment to paying $117.50 a month because you have tenants is a move that lies somewhere between opportunistic and unrealistic.

Settling upon $650 a month seems reasonable. However, I urge you not to do what your girlfriend has done. Do not make a decision and then add another complication to pressure her into a new agreement. You agreed to $650. Stick with it.

Resist getting into the weeds on how much access your girlfriend has in your home vs. a tenant. Don’t defend your turf based on every last square inch of space. Your girlfriend should pay slightly less than the market rate. End of story.

Unfortunately, she has shifted the goalposts — or pulled up the proverbial carpet — at every available opportunity. She moves in, but does not pay rent for several months. She moves in, but wants to pay the equivalent of a monthly cellphone bill.

“The more living arrangements you agree upon, the more these agreements quickly become unraveled.”

She moves in, but will move out for three months while she becomes a traveling nurse. First, her own apartment was used as a storage unit, and now your apartment will be used as a storage unit. Your offer of $200 a month was more than generous.

You have become embroiled in a game of cat and mouse for five months over how much your girlfriend should not have to pay to share your home. When will it end? Be prepared for the last five months to be a template for the next five years.

You have only been dating a year. It’s a big step to share a household, and it’s an even bigger presumption for your girlfriend to argue that she should pay as little as $117.50 per month because you have tenants. That strikes me as sharp practice.

The last question is the most important: Do you want to build a future with her? Her obfuscation and changing terms — and, lest we forget, changing plans — do not bode well for the future. That’s a lot of nitpicking for a 12-month relationship.

“The impasse has, I suspect, as much to do with how fast you are moving with this relationship and what you both want from it.”

This should be a simple process. Instead, the more arrangements you agree upon, the more these agreements quickly become unraveled. The only constant to your living arrangements is the pace at which they keep changing.

The other side of the coin: I can see why she wants to save money, and does not wish to pay as much as she paid for a one-bedroom apartment. She is your girlfriend, not a tenant. You are her boyfriend, not her landlord.

But your home is not a storage unit. And it’s not a place for her to stay for as little money as possible for a litany of reasons. The good news: If she is unhappy with paying $650, she has not signed a lease. She is free to walk away at any time.

The impasse has, I suspect, as much to do with how fast you are moving with this relationship and what you both want from it. Are you both equally committed to a full-time relationship? The real $100 question is: Are you moving too fast?

Yocan email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

• I live with my girlfriend, 59, who owns several homes and has saved $3 million. I pay utilities and cable, and do lots of repairs. Is that enough?
• ‘He is the most computer-illiterate person I know’: I was my husband’s research analyst, caregiver, cook and housekeeper. Now he wants a divorce after 38 years.
• ‘Our friends always yearned for a relationship like ours’: My husband of 16 years left me for another man. I don’t want them to live in our properties. What can I do?

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