The Moneyist: My roommates and I have not paid our $1,600 electricity bill thanks to a pandemic-era moratorium. It’s in my name only — and we move out in February. What can I do?

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Dear Quentin, 

I find myself facing an issue that is rather complex, and I am not sure what to do. I live with two roommates, and during the pandemic we didn’t pay any utility bills thanks to a moratorium that allowed us to amass debt with no interest. We split the electric bill equally, but it’s in my name only. 

The rub is that we are all moving out in February, and per our moratorium agreement, we’re not obligated to pay the bill until 2024. I’m concerned that one of my roommates will just drop communication when it comes time to pay, given that the bill is in my name.   

One roommate ignored my requests for payment for other expenses for four months in a row this year. Their job situation is much better than it was then, but they never communicated or apologized for stiffing me. I made sacrifices and fronted the money, thinking they would eventually pay me back.

My roommates are younger than me, and I don’t want to hurt their credit by suing in small-claims court. I truly want to see them succeed despite how much they bother me personally. On the flip side, it would be nice not to have to pay their share of the $1,600 bill.   

I’m not sure what I can do, since payments aren’t due until 2024. Wish you a happy and blessed holiday. 

Young, Yet Slowly Succeeding

Dear YYSS,

This is business, and it’s a lot of money. People will get away with as much as they believe you will allow them to get away with. If you dillydally and let time pass, they will move on, and they’ll only be more likely to let their responsibilities slide with time and distance.

Tell your roommates you all need to settle up for joint utilities before you move out. Tell them in writing and follow up with them in person by suggesting a roommate meeting. You are all adults, and they should be willing to pay their share of expenses.

They are much more likely to pay up when you ask them face to face and they are forced to look you in the eye. If you are not friends and don’t share the same social circles, it will be much easier for them to ignore your requests and block your texts and emails after February.

You have already seen a big red flag. One roommate has ignored previous messages. By dropping all communication, they have shown you that they have a minimal level of respect for your wishes, and you should assume that will escalate when $1,600 is at stake.

The bill is in your name, so you are obliged to pay it. I spoke to a lawyer who told me that a contract claim is “absolutely viable” in small-claims court. So show them you mean business. Although you are on the hook, to pay the bill, he says any contract claim is solely against your other two roommates if they don’t pay up.

They have two months to pay you, preferably in one payment. You can wish them the best of luck in the future when your bills have been settled.

Don’t miss: ‘I’m left with a $100 Bûche de Noël for 10 people — and no place to go’: My friends canceled Christmas dinner. Should I end the 30-year friendship?

Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

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More from Quentin Fottrell:

‘We can practically finish each other’s sentences’: I’m getting married in 2023. I want a prenup. She wants to merge our finances. What’s my next move?

‘I want to meet someone rich. Is that so wrong?’ I’m 46, earn $210,000, and own a $700,000 home. I’m tired of dating ‘losers.’

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This article was originally published by Marketwatch.com. Read the original article here.

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