Every week, Daniel Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Friend wants to borrow money: When I moved to a new city, a friend offered to rent me a room in her apartment and also arranged for me to interview with her company for a job. Since then, I have paid the rent on time, often giving her extra money on top of the normal amount. I also loaned her additional money she has not paid back. Now she wants to borrow more, and I’m not comfortable with that. She has a gambling problem and has borrowed money from work and other friends.
Since I said no to her most recent request, she has given me the cold shoulder. Now a mutual friend tells me she is planning to rent my room to someone else, who I assume would either pay her more or agree to loan her more money. She hasn’t told me she’s kicking me out yet, but it sounds like she might. She thinks that I owe her because she helped me get the job and gave me a place to live. Do I? How should I respond?
A: You do not owe her more! (It’s great when questions have simple answers.) When she rented you a room, you owed her rent, and you paid it; that’s the end of what you owed her. It was kind of her to arrange a job interview for you, but you got the job on your own merits. You do not owe a friend a “finder’s fee” for helping you get an interview. And the fact that you have previously loaned or outright given her money does not mean you have entered into a permanent state of obligation.
You should look for another place to live, stop giving her “extra” rent, refuse to loan her more money, and refuse to get drawn into arguments or guilt trips about why she thinks you should. My guess is that when you cut off her line of credit, you’re going to find yourself down one friend. It’s not much of a loss.