Author Topic: Accept roommate or not?  (Read 1753 times)

rocket354

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Accept roommate or not?
« on: May 19, 2018, 08:43:43 AM »
I just bought a house. I've been searching for a roommate as I am single and frugal. Intended move-in date would be June 1, 13 days from now.

I've had some attractive prospects (attractive in the "this person would be a responsible person and a good fit" sense). However I only at this point have one person very interested.

He just moved to the US five years ago after completing his medical degree internationally. He's completed an MPH and PHD here, and is beginning a residency at a nearby, but not too nearby, medical school. I have a copy of his offer letter.

He has no criminal background that I could find. The problem is that his credit score is pretty low--580s. He has no missed payments or accounts in collections, simply a short credit history and he already has $25k in student loans plus another $50k in credit card debt, seemingly all from the last two years.

I've met him and he seems like a nice guy. He's very responsive to emails and comes across as extraordinarily honest and sincere. My concerns are that his income is $4000/mo gross, and he has $1200/mo in minimum debt maintenance. The rent would be $850, all inclusive. Once accounting for taxes, car maintenance, and food, he wouldn't seem to have a whole lot of margin for error.

I've been living with roommates for 10 years and this is the first guy I've been in such a quandary about. Thoughts?
« Last Edit: May 19, 2018, 08:45:41 AM by rocket354 »

Zola.

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2018, 09:31:52 AM »
If you are to take him in, my suggestion would be to draw up a very tight, rolling contract where you can evict him after a month's notice if you need to.

red_pill

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2018, 09:44:40 AM »
 I would suggest eliminating your impression that he is “extraordinarily honest and sincere” from the equation.  Both the world’s nicest people and the world’s best scam artists come across that way - and there is no way you’ll know the difference until it’s too late. We all like to think we can assess character but we can’t - it’s impossible.  Just going off the numbers, without emotion involved, what is your objective assessment of risk of no payment? 

Also, is there a reason you need the roommate right away and it’s either this guy or bust?  Or is there an artificial sense of urgency that is pushing you to a non-ideal selection?

 

rocket354

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2018, 09:55:42 AM »
red_pill, good points. I don't pretend to know his intentions having only met him for 30 mins and traded some texts. Why he seems honest and sincere to me is that he has said a few things that don't sell very well in general. Example: when we were meeting he told me to text him when I got there because he was going to spend the interim 10 mins taking a nap in his car. Sleeping in one's car doesn't give a good impression and I think any scam artist knows this. It's also superfluous information--but he's saying it anyways. He really comes across as an honest person whose cultural upbringing is different.

As for getting a roommate right away--no there isn't any reason. I can easily forgo a month's rent and wait for July 1, trying to catch a responsible person with more foresight than people looking for a place at the last minute. It's just a new area for me and I also don't know what options are out there.

Objectively, the risk of no payment is higher than I like, given how close to the edge he seems to be. He has offered to pay sec dep, first+last month's rent up front, as he recognizes his low credit score. He was honest about it from the beginning, although he didn't reveal the magnitude of the debt or specifics of the score so I didn't know the exact numbers until I saw the credit report.

red_pill

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2018, 10:13:35 AM »

Objectively, the risk of no payment is higher than I like, given how close to the edge he seems to be.

I think you’ve answered your question. Why go against that?   What is compelling you to push yourself  to expose yourself to risk that is outside of your comfort zone?

Zikoris

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2018, 11:23:54 AM »
I would not want to depend on someone with a low credit rating unless they had an extremely good reason for it (like they were a victim of fraud and actively in the process of cleaning it up with police involvement or whatever). The reality is that having a low credit score tends to be associated with a lot of other negative behaviours as well, so it's not something I would risk.

mozar

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2018, 03:04:51 PM »
That doesn't raise a red flag for me. If someone has enough cash to give you all that upfront that's a sign you he is serious. If it doesn't work out you can tell him to leave. I once had a tenant that had his dad paying all his bills. I got rent and an extra however much I asked for utilities. He turned out to be such a jerk, and rent was always late so I told him to move out. My current tenant had a credit score of 620 but he had an OK job, but then he lost his job after he moved in. He pays rent on time every month and he is super polite and respectful for the past year.

But go with your gut. If you just don't like him he'll find somewhere else to live.

former player

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2018, 04:26:47 PM »
The medical school should have done a lot of checking of this guy before offering him a residency, and he will have to meet the standards for getting a medical licence in your State - that's a significant level of safety for you, as long as he is genuinely a medical resident.  His working hours as a resident will leave little time over for extravagant spending habits - he'll probably be mostly working, commuting or asleep.

Probably his residency is only 3 years, and after that he will be earning 6 figures easily, so loans will probably be available to him if he needs them.  If the credit score is down to his not having been in the USA for long, that's not his fault.

Putting all that together it sounds as though your concerns are all a consequence of his being a trainee doctor - that's just the stage of life he's at.  But it's your home, and your financial security, so if you are not happy you are better off waiting for someone else rather than having a roommate who's a worry to you.

rocket354

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2018, 04:42:24 PM »
I appreciate the variety of responses.

Short summary is that I do like him, I'm just concerned about the debt/credit score. I've decided I'm going to offer him the room with the sec dep + first and last month's rent up front. If he can come through on that then he must be serious.

Hopefully I will not be back here in a couple months making a "how do I get rid of a deadbeat roommate?" post. :-)

lhamo

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2018, 05:25:48 PM »
Anybody who can get through a dual MD/MPH program with ONLY $75k in debt as an international student is probably pretty badass.  He won't have time to spend much money as a resident, and won't be around the house much, either.  Just put very clear consequences in for late/missed payments.

IrishMustacian

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2018, 05:29:03 PM »
I think you made the right choice. It is not easy coming to the US where none of your previous experience and behavior is acknowledged - either credit history, driving history (very hard to get auto insurance that acknowledges that you learned to drive many years before coming to the US) etc.

Where is this guy supposed to live if nobody will consider anything from his pre-US life?

Given the little you already told us about him - he is as likely to be a very ambitious, frugal and reliable person.

JoJo

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2018, 08:17:19 PM »
My ex-BF had really rough credit when he first came to the US.  I don't think he culturally understood credit. I found some old unpaid bills when I was helping him shred all his old stuff, but he caught up really quickly once he was settled.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2018, 08:43:45 PM »
Wow, I'm honestly surprised that a self proclaimed hardcore badass like Zik would discount a tenant based on credit score in this situation. This forum is full of hypocrisy and unconscious bias. 

Fuck credit scores.

Zikoris

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2018, 10:16:44 PM »
Wow, I'm honestly surprised that a self proclaimed hardcore badass like Zik would discount a tenant based on credit score in this situation. This forum is full of hypocrisy and unconscious bias. 

Fuck credit scores.

You're surprised that if I had to pick a roommate, who I would be depending on to reliably pay rent, I'd go for the highest quality option I could find instead of someone with a pile of credit card debt and likely a history of questionable financial decisions? And you think that's somehow hypocritical? Obviously it's biased, but not unconsciously - I openly would not want to be relying on someone with a history of making bad decisions for anything, including rent payments.

undercover

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2018, 05:41:47 AM »
Wow, I'm honestly surprised that a self proclaimed hardcore badass like Zik would discount a tenant based on credit score in this situation. This forum is full of hypocrisy and unconscious bias. 

Fuck credit scores.

In general, no, don't "fuck credit scores" as a landlord. For a roommate situation, it may not be as important though. Roommate situations are a bit different in that you're literally living with your landlord and not paying your rent isn't as easy to do on a comfortability level. Still, OP has put in all of the work and took on risk to own property, why shouldn't he follow standard precautionary measures to protect his interests? Bad credit != no credit, but it sounds like this is a bit of both. His score is terrible because of his large balance and likely nearly 100% debt utilization. I agree that he's running on a fairly thin margin.

I would personally never take on a roommate as anything but month to month, so their detailed financial situation to me would be somewhat irrelevant. Write up a 30 day notice catch-all for lease termination and require a security deposit and be done with it. I would be much more concerned with the person themselves than their specific financials. Granted, that's hard to tell at first as well.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 05:57:05 AM by undercover »

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2018, 06:20:27 AM »
Wow, I'm honestly surprised that a self proclaimed hardcore badass like Zik would discount a tenant based on credit score in this situation. This forum is full of hypocrisy and unconscious bias. 

Fuck credit scores.

In general, no, don't "fuck credit scores" as a landlord. For a roommate situation, it may not be as important though. Roommate situations are a bit different in that you're literally living with your landlord and not paying your rent isn't as easy to do on a comfortability level. Still, OP has put in all of the work and took on risk to own property, why shouldn't he follow standard precautionary measures to protect his interests? Bad credit != no credit, but it sounds like this is a bit of both. His score is terrible because of his large balance and likely nearly 100% debt utilization. I agree that he's running on a fairly thin margin.

I would personally never take on a roommate as anything but month to month, so their detailed financial situation to me would be somewhat irrelevant. Write up a 30 day notice catch-all for lease termination and require a security deposit and be done with it. I would be much more concerned with the person themselves than their specific financials. Granted, that's hard to tell at first as well.
I see what you're saying. I shouldn't have made such a generalized statement.  In this case his debt to income ratio would definitely be more concerning than his credit score. The rent is reasonable given his income. The question is, if he's  $50k in debt, will he continue living above his means?

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YttriumNitrate

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2018, 09:41:47 AM »
He's starting his residency? During residency docs work long hours so you'll probably only rarely see him...sounds like the perfect roommate to me.

WalkaboutStache

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2018, 02:31:13 AM »
I wrote this under the assumption that he is an international student:

Been there, done that.  International student, trying to get degrees in the US (including a professional one).  I had to juggle the substandard work I was allowed to get, scarce student loans (none available until the professional degree), and credit cards I had to use to cover emergencies brought about by the shoestring budget.  This guy seems equally stretched.

I did a fair amount of late payment triage, delaying things on alternate schedules until a summer or winter job allowed me to catch up for the next cash crunch.

One bill was never late: rent.  Without a place to live, all else would go to hell.  I am sure there were laws protecting renters and that I could cause trouble to a landlord, but high-achieving international students do not think like that. They know they are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to free resources, and do not have the time or inclination to navigate the ins and outs of legal fights.  This guy wants to finish his degree and is very unlikely to do anything to jeopardize his access to a bed, shower, and quiet place to rest and study.  He would not be where he is if he did.  This guy is a hustler who is doing whatever it takes.

However, if he is not an international student, things change considerably .  He did not have the grades to get into a domestic medical school so we went abroad.  Upon return, he lived above his means when he could have figured out a way to get a part time job while getting his other degrees so that he could keep up.  He did not do what he needed to do while at university, and continued not to do it after he got a "break" at his foreign medical school.  I wouldn't rent a paper clip to someone like that, much less a room in my house.  This guys squandered the opportunities that were offered to him and still does not have his shit together way late in the game.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2018, 02:39:08 AM by WalkaboutStache »

AMandM

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2018, 07:04:44 PM »
I would not want to depend on someone with a low credit rating unless they had an extremely good reason for it (like they were a victim of fraud and actively in the process of cleaning it up with police involvement or whatever).

It sounds like there *is* a good reason: this is a recent arrival in the US with a correspondingly short credit history.

OP, when you pulled his credit report, did he have late payments, defaults, etc.? If it's only that he acquired debt because he went to med school/grad school, and now he's done with that, I wouldn't let the number scare me off if I liked him otherwise. Especially not if there's any evidence that he is starting to pay down the debt now that he's working.

You could ask him to set up automatic payments timed for right after he gets paid.

Zikoris

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Re: Accept roommate or not?
« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2018, 07:40:06 PM »
I would not want to depend on someone with a low credit rating unless they had an extremely good reason for it (like they were a victim of fraud and actively in the process of cleaning it up with police involvement or whatever).

It sounds like there *is* a good reason: this is a recent arrival in the US with a correspondingly short credit history.

Well, that and the fact that he ran up $50,000 in credit card debt in two years. Yikes.