Dear Penny

Dear Penny: Can I ditch my potential roommate if I found a cheaper solo room elsewhere?

Is a roommate moving agreement an unbreakable bond? Via Flickr user finalgirl.
Is a roommate moving agreement an unbreakable bond? Via Flickr user finalgirl.

Dear Penny,

I’ve agreed to move into a place with my current roommate at the end of the month. We haven’t found an apartment yet, but we’ve been looking at places together. Now I’m starting to see open rooms that are way cheaper than we’ve been able to find and in much more desirable areas.

Would it be a total dick move to say, “sorry, I found a place on my own” this late in the game? I don’t want to screw over the guy but paying $200 less per month to live in a good area is mighty attractive. Should I use the reality of NYC real estate to justify seriously inconveniencing someone else?

—Con(do) Artist

Dear Condo,

I admire your consideration of the roommate’s feelings; you’re obviously a good person, or at least not a completely shitty person. NYC real estate is the devil, and in many ways nabbing a decently affordable place to live feels like selling one’s soul. Apartment hunts always come right down to the wire; as there are still two weeks left in the month, it would be fine to tell your roommate that you’ll continue to look at places together, but you’re also checking out options that wouldn’t include him.

If you are friends outside of being roommates, he should understand, and also realize that it has nothing to do with him and everything to do with the money. If you aren’t friends outside of being roommates, then it really doesn’t matter what he thinks of your decision anyway; you’ve already considered his feelings and decided you need to do what is in your own best interest. Break the news gently and explain why you need to look at other available rooms. An extra $200 in your pocket a month is legit, especially considering you’d have an extra $2,400 a year! Moving into a room in an existing apartment also saves some move-in costs like broker fees and the hassle of getting started with new furniture. Unless you’re a couple, finding your own two-bedroom apartment together can be quite the expensive undertaking.

It’s never cool to, as you say, “seriously inconvenience someone else,” but I don’t feel like branching out on your own is a serious inconvenience. It just means he has to look for something different from what he was previously looking for. And the fact that you’re not making the decision on March 31 is major, too. If you were to tell him less than a week before you’d be moving into a new place, that would be in very, very bad taste. Moving apartments in Brooklyn is essentially a one-month-of-terror panic process, so most people don’t finalize decisions until late in the month.

If you are still finding multiple rooms that are cheaper than the two person living arrangements you’re looking for together, share the intel with your roommate. If he is also able to take advantage of one of those deals and save a couple hundred a month, he will most likely be very thankful. I would consider that conveniencing him.

Because you take others’ feelings into account, you’re probably a pretty decent human. I bet you pay your share of rent on time, wash your dishes promptly, and refrain from sticking your gum under the coffee table. Whomever your roommate(s) end up being, they’ll be pretty lucky to have you around. Just don’t forget to put the toilet seat down.

Yours truly,


Readers, weigh in: how have you dealt with this situation? Share your advice in the comments. 

Dear Penny is written by Margaret Bortner; follow her for more life advice: @askmemargaret.

Want advice from Dear Penny? Send her your questions about brokester etiquette, dating, awkwardly splitting the bill and anything else at [email protected]. We’ll keep you anonymous (or give you a shout out on social media if you like!). 


  1. brokbook

    Open rooms? As in, not studios or apartments. And only $200 cheaper? Warning! Warning! Danger!

    Let’s just consider all the ways dumping your friend to live with a stranger can go wrong and cost you much more than $200/month over the course of the next 12 months. First, your friend will probably not be much of a friend as soon as you give him the bad news. Second, your friend also will probably end up having to find a shared room due to the difficulty of finding someone new to take your place (if not, lucky him). Third, instead of signing a lease on a place with your friend, you’re very likely going to be living month-to-month in your new cheap room as this is how most arrangements like this are in NYC. That means, you will forever be 1-2 months away from potentially being asked to leave with very little legal protection. Forth, if things do go south with your new, random roommate, you can probably forget sleeping on the couch at your now former friend’s place.

    I’ll stop there. You have nothing in NYC without a secure place to live and a few good friends. Those are worth more than $200/month in NYC. My advice is to stop looking at rooms for rent and help your friend find an apartment that you BOTH like and can lease for 12 full months.

  2. bkrick

    I go by the 15-day rule. If you’re looking for April first, you’ve got until March 15 (provided you’re still looking, which you likely would be) to ditch said prospective roommate. Anything past that is just being a shit person, unfortunately.

Leave a Reply