Help Desk

Help Desk

:( Help!

My roommate recently discovered Airbnb and has been going a little nuts, staying at her boyfriend's and renting her room out at least one weekend a month. This Christmas, she'll cover her entire December rent and utilities by letting a Canadian couple stay here for a week.

I get that the bedroom is her space, but I'm the one who ends up having to share a bathroom with strangers, have random dudes around when the lease I signed was to live with a girl, etc. My Christmas was going to be pretty dull anyway, but I'd rather spend it alone than with a couple of random lovebirds getting excited about Boxing Day.

We've been roommates for over a year. We're not close friends – it's more a living arrangement of convenience, but both our names are on the lease. Am I wrong to think this isn't cool?

– Some Houseguests Are Really Irritating Nevermind the Greenbacks

Welcome to the sharing economy, where the most accommodating person is not always the one bringing in the most money.

We're all used to this kind of inequity in the old-fashioned labor economy. As we know, how hard you work is not a strong predictor of how much money you make. If you're born in the wrong place, go to the wrong schools, or work in the wrong field, you'll likely end up making far less money than people who barely seem to work at all.

But the sharing economy is supposed to be different, right? Kinder, gentler, more utopian? Well, not really. Crowdfunding tends to work much better if you have a network of wealthy family and friends. An Uber driver with a dedicated limo will find more success than a single mom who has to clean the kids' mess out of the backseat every time she goes to get a fare. And, in destination cities like Austin, Airbnb is a boon for speculators and those with flexible employment and housing arrangements, driving up rents for everyone else.

As in the examples above, your roommate is trying to leverage an advantage she has – a second place to spend the night – for profit. You don't have the option of sleeping elsewhere, SHARING. But you do have recourse. As long as your name is on the lease, you have a say in what guests are allowed to stay in the apartment. You, too, should leverage that power to find an outcome that takes care of your needs. Tell your roommate she has to stop profiting by putting you in uncomfortable living situations, or she has to start giving you a cut.

If this all sounds too potentially disruptive, try this: Talk to your roommate openly about your concerns. Tell her you're worried you're being taken advantage of. Be firm that your feelings are valid. With luck, she'll feel a human obligation to keep you happy.

If not, remember: Your power in this situation is the power to say "no" to sharing. And there's nothing uncool about that. :) HD

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