In the event your roommate’s girlfriend or boyfriend has a key to your home and you don’t like that, you can:
- Ask your roommate to take back the key.
- Limit your roommate’s partner’s visits.
- Get them to pay extra utility charges.
- Put the partner on the lease if they become a tenant.
Check out 3 more answers, plus full explanations on how to carry these out and get the results you need.
You are home alone one evening, and you hear a key in the lock.
Surprise! Not your roommate but your roommate’s girlfriend or boyfriend. Your roommate has given their partner a key to your shared home.
1. Be honest with yourself about why it’s upsetting you.
First of all, you need to figure out what’s bothering you about the situation.
- Is it not having been asked in advance?
- Perhaps it’s a privacy issue?
- Is your roommate’s partner using water, gas, electricity, and so on, which is going to increase the utility bills?
- Maybe it’s your food getting eaten without replacement?
- Could it be feeling unsafe in your home?
Once you know what you are not comfortable with, you will be able to choose the right course(s) of action, and be able to explain things clearly to your roommate
2. You have the right to feel safe in your home.
This is more of an issue when your roommate has given a key to a male…and you are a female. Many women do not feel comfortable with a strange man in their home…especially if he is there when your roommate is not.
In this case, you need to speak with your roommate ASAP. You should be honest and direct about the fact that you do not feel safe in this situation. It would be logical for you to demand that your roommate take back the key immediately.
If this does not work, you can speak with the landlord about getting a court order preventing your roommate’s boyfriend from entering your home. Having a court order would mean that if the boyfriend shows up, you would legally be able to call the police and demand that they remove him.
While this is theoretically possible, it is extremely difficult to do in practice. Not only will it take time and money, there will be very bad feelings between you and your roommate (and the boyfriend) during the time this is going on. Potentially, it is an even worse situation than leaving things as they were (as uncomfortable as that was).
Another option is to change the locks, give your roommate a key, and specify that they are not to give it out to anyone.
If you truly feel unsafe and your roommate is unwilling to do anything about it, you should find a temporary place to stay (friends, family, etc.) and begin the process of finding somewhere else to live.
Top tip: Now that you know these things happen, write a point about this in your next roommate tenancy contract.
3. You are entitled to privacy and freedom in your home.
You did not enter into a roommate agreement with your roommate’s significant other. The fact that your roommate has given their girlfriend a key does not change that.
Having an unexpected and unwanted keyholder can be seen as an invasion of your privacy.
Also, if you do not know when your roommate’s partner is going to show up, your freedom may be restricted. Walking around the home naked (or with nothing much on) or taking a shower with the bathroom door open may no longer be options .
But that’s not what you signed up for.
To reclaim your privacy and freedom, work out a system of ‘forewarning’ with your roommate and their girlfriend.
I once had a roommate who liked to bring friends over unannounced. She would arrive home, open the door, and walk in…followed by her friends. No matter if I was taking a bath with the door open or in the kitchen in just my underwear. There they were.
My roommate was a spontaneous person. She hated plans and said that having to make them (so I could know in advance) would cramp her style.
Thank goodness for mobile phones! We agreed that she would call or text me at least 5 minutes before everyone arrived. In that way, I would have time to ‘prepare’.
4. You may be able to limit the significant other’s visits.
Are you in a rented home? If so, check your lease.
Some leases specify how often a roommate is allowed to have guests .
5. You should not have to pay for utilities you don’t use.
Now that your roommate has given their boyfriend a key, how often are they over? How long do they stay?
Do they use utilities such as water, electricity, gas?
What about you…Do you also have visitors over? How often and how long?
Roommates have the right to have people over. Often, the number of visitors on both sides balances out. In other words, the amount of utilities which your guests use more-or-less equals the amount of utilities which your roommate’s guests use.
So, the extra cost is the same on both sides.
However, if your roommate’s partner uses their key very often and stays for a long time (including many overnights), they may be using water, electricity, and/or gas in a disproportionate (unequal) amount to your less frequent visitors.
At what point should your roommate (or their significant other) be charged for what they use?
An article in Forbes magazine reported a survey on this very issue. It seems that if your roommate’s boyfriend sleeps over 2-3 nights a week, those surveyed felt that is ok and none of their business—no need to contribute to bills and/or rent, but some gifts now and then would be nice. For example: snacks or drinks that the roommate’s boyfriend sees (and has eaten!) in your home; flowers or a nice plant; high quality kitchen towels; a big pack of toilet paper; etc.
For boyfriends staying more than 5 nights per week , the majority surveyed felt that your roommate or their boyfriend should be chipping in to cover the extra expenses such as the additional cost of utilities.
Here’s an idea of how you could organize that peaceably:
Step 1: Keep a ‘visitation diary’.
Write down dates and times that the boyfriend is over. Make a note of big utility usages. For example: took a shower, cooked dinner, etc.
You will need to do this for 1 full cycle of your utility bills. So, if you pay for electricity once a month, you will need to do this for 3-4 weeks.
Make sure you don’t this in a creepy way, so they don’t feel you are following them around the apartment and spying on their intimate behavior.
Step 2: Compare utility costs.
Take the first utility bill AFTER the boyfriend got the key + the last utility bill BEFORE he got the key.
Compare them. How much more is the charge?
This is the additional amount that your roommate (or their boyfriend ) should pay.
Step 3: Speak with your roommate.
At this point, you have the extra utility cost(s) AND your diary which shows that it is the boyfriend who has caused the increased charge(s).
Try to keep the discussion calm and respectful.
Your roommate should not feel that you have come to threaten her relationship with their boyfriend. You just don’t want to pay for utilities you haven’t used.
Keeping it logical and not emotional will help resolve things successfully.
6. You are entitled to a legal living situation.
In rented homes, there is a difference between a visitor and a tenant . The difference depends on factors such as:
- How often is the person in the home and how long do they stay?
- Do they get their mail delivered to this address?
- Are they allowed to cook in the home?
- How much control does this person have over the space. For example, does this person have their own key?
- Does this person have another place where they live? Or is this their only place of residence?
In the United States, each state can have its own laws about this. This link has more information .
Obviously, you and your roommate are tenants in your rented house or apartment.
What about your roommate’s girlfriend?
Well, we know that Factor 4 applies because your roommate has already given their girlfriend a key. So, she does have significant control over the space.
And the other factors?
It may be helpful to gather data by keeping a ‘visitation diary’ (see Course of Action #5 above).
Let’s say you find that your roommate’s girlfriend has moved from guest status to tenant status. In this case, you need to get her on your lease.
First: Difficult as it may be, you will need to have a discussion with your roommate. Use the data in your visitation diary to show that the status of your roommate’s girlfriend has changed from guest to tenant.
Make it clear to your roommate that all tenants need to be on the lease. Inform your roommate that the landlord would be legally allowed to end your rental agreement if the girlfriend continues to be a tenant who is not on the lease.
Perhaps your roommate would like to take back the key they gave their girlfriend and have her stay over less? Perhaps not…in which case…
Second: Get in touch with your landlord. Explain the situation. Request your landlord to begin the process of adding the girlfriend to the lease .
7. Look at the long term
Just like when a friend gets a new boyfriend or girlfriend, if you don’t get along with their partner, then the friendship is damaged or finished for as long as they are going out.
You may not have a close relationship with your roommate, and you may not need one. However if your roommate’s partner looks like they will be a permanent fixture, you may need to re-assess if you want to continue to be roommates.
Until you decide on that, the above ideas should be very useful.