I’m moving this weekend, out of the house I’ve shared with my roommate for the past four and a half years, to live with my boyfriend. My roommate (let’s call her M) is currently searching for a new tenant to take over my room. She’s had a lot of interest in the room so far, which I’m not surprised about because it’s in a great location and the rent is absurdly cheap. Part of the reason the rent is so cheap is because the landlord gives no shits whatsoever and that also means the place is poorly-maintained and there are tons of problems with it. But nevertheless, in a city where the cost of living keeps skyrocketing, it’s an attractive situation.

Anyway, M told me last night that she decided to increase the rent on the room. To be clear, she does not own the house. The house is owned by a man who actually lives overseas and is managed by the first-floor tenant. Everything is under the table. There’s no actual lease. The rent hasn’t increased in years as a result of this, which is part of the reason it’s so low. There are three of us renting the second and third floors. The tenant on the third floor (let’s call him J), who has lived there the longest, pays the total to the manager and collects rent cheques from M and me each month for our portion. J is struggling financially right now, in part because he has to send money home to his aging parents. M decided to raise the rent for the new tenant by $250 a month, so that J can pay proportionally less and have more money to send to his family.

I...do not know how I feel about this. M isn’t paying more money and when I asked her what her rent is, she dodged the question. (It should be noted, she has a room that is about three times the size of my bedroom.) She’s had tons of interest in the room, which doesn’t surprise me because the rent is still relatively low and no one knows that it used to be even lower, or that the difference is now going to support one of the tenant’s family. I just feel like it’s unfair to make the new roommate essentially subsidize J’s living expenses without her knowledge. Also, J has the entire third floor to himself, including a private bathroom, kitchenette and balcony. It doesn’t seem right for him to pay proportionally so much less than everyone else. If he can’t afford that suite...well, I don’t want to sound harsh but maybe he should consider downsizing?

Is it totally unreasonable to be uncomfortable about this? The price of the room is comparable to other rooms in the city. It’s just that it seems wrong to not inform the tenant that they’re paying proportionally more in order to subsidize one of their roommate’s living expenses. This isn’t the same as a standard rent increase. This is one roommate deciding she wants to help out someone, but placing the burden on a person who doesn’t even know they’re providing that support. Essentially, J gets to send $250 extra bucks every month to his family (or, I don’t know, spend it on something else) and that money is coming from the roommate who has the smallest room and the least amount of private space in the house. The rent does not accurately reflect the actual cost of living there.

What do you guys think? I’m moving out, so it doesn’t really affect me, but something about it doesn’t sit right with me.