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Pros/Cons of letting tenants decide how to share rent

Richard Boothe

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I rent out a three-bedroom townhouse to three tenants. I've always let the tenants choose to share the monthly rent based on size of bedroom: Master bedroom pays 42%; medium bedroom, 34%; small bedroom, 29%. (Percentages are approximate). Three months ago, the master bedroom tenant's boyfriend moved into the medium bedroom. When the small bedroom tenant moved out, the master bedroom tenant (and boyfriend) told a prospective tenant she'd pay 34%. When I objected, the master bedroom tenant replied I'd always let tenants choose how to share rent, and the prospective tenant had agreed with the price.  But the prospective tenant did not when she spoke with me; 30% was the most she could afford, she said.

I see two choices: A] Insist the small bedroom tenant pay 29% of the rent. B] Let the tenants share the rent however they want, so long as I receive 100% of the rent each month. Which choice sounds best?

Note: it's possible a prospective tenant would move in to the medium bedroom, and the boyfriend would share the master bedroom with his girlfriend (which I suspect he already does)--but the master bedroom tenant never brought that up.

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FYI, I am in Los Angeles, California, USA. All utilities covered by Condo's Homeowner's Association (HOA) dues, which I pay from rent collected. Each tenant pays for his/her own cell phones and they divide Internet 1/3rd each. I see I did not say when a tenant moves out, the remaining tenants usually locate a replacement, who I then interview. I live a hour's drive away.

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