Is it Okay to Charge My Friends Money When They Stay Over on My Sofa?



Q. I have a big apartment with a living room and a separate office, with a fold-out sofa and cable tv in each. Often, when we’re up late partying or just talking, friends will ask if they can sleep over, you know, on the sofas. Lately I’m beginning to think they’re taking advantage of me, so I suggest they make a little contribution to household expenses. I proposed $100 a night as a modest enough fee, but when someone balked at that I pointed out that the people upstairs rent their bedroom through AirBnB (illegally) for $150 a night, and anyway I’d throw in a “continental breakfast” in the morning, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. I’m not usually up and around before 9, myself.

So they were good with that but I’m afraid I’ll be losing friends if I keep charging them to sleep on my sofa. Actually they get more than my sofa. They get cable tv, and there’s also wifi, with a ten-year-old iMac in the office that still works good. And then there’s the bathroom, which I keep pretty clean. And the coffee and croissant in the morning, which would cost them maybe $10-$12 down at Starbucks.

And if they complain, maybe I can get some new friends or maybe just let people know they can sleep in my apartment office or living room at night for a modest fee?

Am I doing the right thing?

A. I’m sure your landlord, or co-op board, has strict rules on subletting your apartment or rooms to strangers as though you were running a hotel or B&B. Currently you run the risk of getting some friend’s nose out of joint and they’ll run and tell the building manager or landlord that they slept over on your couch and now you’re trying to gouge money out of them for what they thought was a friendly gesture.

While there is nothing immoral about charging friends or “friends” to stay the night, you can avoid a lot of difficulties by taking a few precautions. First, put up some big posters, reminding your guests that they are in someone else’s home, and that is a privilege, and to keep the noise down and remember to leave by 10 a.m. (or maybe 11).

Then, print up a signed agreement with receipt for those stay-overs, stating that the contribution is voluntary. If you can arrange to take credit cards or PayPal, I’m sure that will ease tensions in the evening and morning. Finally, you might put out some big TIP jars or cans in the kitchen or foyer, just to remind your guests that nothing’s free in this world.

Author: Legs Goldman

… “Legs” has something the others don’t.