Fact: It’s always pretty awkward when you break someone else’s stuff. Whether it’s your nan’s favourite vase or even your mate’s crappy dollar shop table – what’s done is done, all you can do is minimise the weirdness and offer to fix/replace the broken item.
But one scenario that feels even more awkward than both of these situations is when one of your housemates breaks something belonging to your landlord. Rather than the expense falling just on the person who screwed up, in sharehouses, you might all end up footing the bill thanks to a little thing called ‘bond’.
While many folks will admit off-the-bat, “It’s my fault guys, I’ll fix it”, this isn’t always the case – especially if the repairs are particularly pricey or they’re generally stingy with money.
In fact, it’s entirely possible they will say something along the lines of “well thank god we’ve got the bond, huh?”, which would probably have the rest of you like:
Granted, the bond is there for a reason, but nobody expects that reasons to be fixing the door that your housemate ran through when they were high as a kite.
First thing’s first, discussing money with those you live with is a little weird even at the best of times, but it’s made even less comfortable if you’re pretty good friends with your housemate.
Here’s a little guide to navigating the awks chat without having a fall-out over money.
1. Try to avoid blame
This one’s pretty important. Your housemate probably already feels bad for breaking the damn thing, so there’s no need to rub salt in the wound. The moment you start getting all ‘blame-y’ with each other is when your relationship can start experiencing serious damage.
2. Ask them to explain what happened
If you weren’t there, or if only some of you saw what went down, ask the housemates present to recall exactly what happened. Make sure you’re all on the same page from the start to prevent miscommunication further down the line.
3. Lean on the facts rather than emotion
You might be a little annoyed that your housemate was pretty careless but remember, they’re only human and everyone makes mistakes. Instead of asking them “why did you do that??” try approaching the matter more in terms of “can this be fixed?” and “how much damage do we think there is?”. When you discuss it in this way, it becomes more of a problem-solving exercise than a shame-game.
4. Be assertive
If you’ve heard what happened and it sounds like the item was faulty or broken already, it’s probably worth raising the matter with your landlord. If, however, it sounds like it was the housemate’s fault but they try to shift the blame to someone else, feel free to respond with something assertive yet objective such as, “it doesn’t sound like that’s what happened”.
5. Money talk
Now for the most awkward bit of all. In short, if the accident wasn’t caused by an existing fault with the property, someone’s gonna have to pay to fix the issue (otherwise it will come out of your bond). How you deal with the payment might seriously influence your relationship with the housemate in question going forward. You basically have three choices:
a) divide the cost evenly between all the housemates
b) offer to contribute some money towards the repairs, but suggest that the person involved should pay slightly more
c) pay nothing and ask the housemate to organise the repair themselves
If you’re not sure which option to go for, think about what’s the most amicable solution.
I’d personally probably go with option ‘b’ and contribute to some of the cost, but not the same sum as the person who broke it. For many, the option they pick also depends on the context of the incident (if they were lit compared to if they just randomly tripped and fell), and their relationship with the specific housemate. If that housemate never pays bills/rent and already owes you a load of money, this might also influence your decision.
If you’re still not sure what to do, think about it this way: if you broke the item, how would you expect your housemates to respond? Be realistic. You wouldn’t expect them to jump in and offer to go equal splits with you, but you would really appreciate if they offered to help you out if it was an honest accident that could’ve happened to any of you.