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Dear Penny: Is My boyfriend being a jerk by demanding I pay his mortgage?

Things get messy when you move in together and only one person owns the home.
Getty Images
Getty Images [ Getty Images ]
Published Yesterday

Dear Penny,

My boyfriend asked to move in together after eight months of dating. I was honored. Then after I didn’t renew my lease, we talked finances. I am aware the timing was poor.

He is expecting we split everything 50/50, which would mean me paying $500 per month more than I do now. He makes twice as much, so his lifestyle is more extravagant.

I had no expectations of contributing to his mortgage when I agreed. I would not receive a lease and am not an owner of the home he purchased before me. If we dated long term, I’d be paying down his mortgage with no equity to show.

I asked if we could split according to our lifestyles and income. He strongly objected and felt taken advantage of, as a partnership is 50/50 in his words. I am not comfortable contributing to his mortgage and would gladly pay a split toward keeping up on groceries, bills, dates, etc. I should add that my car would be our only vehicle, which I pay for in full monthly in addition to maintenance and repairs.

I’ve also cut his grocery bill in half by doing the shopping and couponing while we’ve been dating. I assume that will continue. I feel we should each pay for what we own and split expenses according to income.

-A.

Robin Hartill
Robin Hartill [ The Penny Hoarder ]

Dear A.,

A 50/50 partnership isn’t about going Dutch for every expense. Rarely do you find a partner whose finances are identical to yours, unless you’re both equally broke. That’s why compromise is so important. It’s about investing equally in building a life together, not going tit-for-tat on every expense.

The problem with the 50/50 partnership your boyfriend proposes is that it requires zero compromises on his part. Your costs go up. His costs go down. He gets to live the lifestyle he wants with no regard to whether you can afford it.

That said, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for your boyfriend to want you to pay something toward the mortgage. The fact that your payment helps him build equity doesn’t absolve you of any responsibility for a housing payment. Paying down someone else’s mortgage with no equity to show is exactly what we renters do every month.

That doesn’t mean you should make 50% of the payment, given the income discrepancy. And since you don’t have a stake in this home, he should pay 100% of ownership costs, like home insurance, property taxes and repairs.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any neat formula for what the proper split should be. Things get messy when you move in together and only one person owns the home. A good starting point would be your current expenses. At the very least, be firm that you can’t afford to fork over an extra $500 a month. Ideally, though, you’d divide the bills so that each of you is left with extra money.

Should you go ahead with this move, accept that your boyfriend will also be your landlord. Unromantic, yes. But it’s important to be realistic, particularly in the event that this relationship ends.

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Before you move in, insist on a cohabitation agreement, which is like a prenuptial agreement for unmarried couples moving in together. You can spell out your financial responsibilities, as well as how you’d divide property that either one of you buys for the home while living together.

In a perfect world, you’d each have your own attorney review the agreement. But you can find free templates online that are better than nothing.

Until you’ve reached a compromise that’s acceptable to you, DO NOT move in with your boyfriend. If it’s still possible to renew your lease, do it. Otherwise, look into a short-term rental or ask family and friends whether they have a spare room you can stay in temporarily. Once you move in together, it becomes so much harder to disentangle your lives.

Refusing to move in may well trigger the end of the relationship. But if it doesn’t, set limits on the effort you put in until your boyfriend is willing to find a middle ground. Quit doing his grocery shopping and any other chores. Maybe when things don’t magically get done, he’ll see that a 50/50 partnership isn’t just about paying bills.

You say the timing of your discussion about finances was poor. That may be true. But I often field questions from people enmeshed in nasty disputes about money after many years of marriage and a couple of kids. If your boyfriend refuses to budge, your priorities may be incompatible. If you figure that out after eight months of dating, I’d say you timed things pretty well.

• • •

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

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