Living in a high-rent, densely packed city brings people together into close quarters. Which makes for fun conditions if you’re living with established pals, but if one of those pals, say, vanishes mid-lease, without warning, to move to a distant state, what’s a guy to do?
It’s wrong to force a friend to continue paying rent in a city he no longer lives in: “Yeah, man, I really need you to just keep bleeding cash for your unglamorous, dimly lit NYC vacation home that you’ll visit maybe twice a year.” But it’s also his responsibility to devise a way to pay his share of the rent. His most obvious solution is to find a tenant to replace him. And here is where our incentives peel apart:
* Vanished Roommate just wants to fill the vacant room with a rent-paying subletter as painlessly as possible, easing his financial burden—maybe he’s even paying rent in his new city and it’s too much to bear—as quickly as he can.
* Whereas the Remaining Roommates just want to ensure the rent gets paid without radically disrupting their living situation, the one they agreed upon at the outset—three friends living together—and avoiding the introduction of an incompatible stranger into their fun-sized apartment.
There are no guarantees that a new subletter found quickly, mid-month even, would suit the preferences of the Remaining Roommates, especially if he’s being plucked from afar by the nomadic Vanished Roommate. From the get-go, I’d be pretty skeptical: Who is this Craigslist jamoke stumbling into our cozy digs, lugging his six guitar amps and butterfly knives and bounty of liquor? Who’s he gonna bring around? Do I need to lock my bedroom door when I leave the apartment? Am I going to wake up to bile in the kitchen sink? What hellish sounds will seep through these cardboard walls?
The Remaining Roommates thus find themselves in a bind, balancing the responsibilities of friendship (they don’t want their friend to just eat the bill indefinitely) against their living preferences (they don’t want their lives upended by some hastily appointed clown). Maybe they also don’t want to go on several stilted friend-dates just to vet the options. Unless of course, they can flip this into a glossy reality TV series and make so much bank the rent’s irrelevant. So here’s a pitch: The Subletter, wherein we dump 25 people on our couch, kick one of ’em out daily, and the winner gets to live in our basement. Hit me up, ABC.