• Keeping Friends

A Friend Who Asks To Couchsurf With You

Published: October 18, 2014 | Last Updated: June 20, 2021 By | 16 Replies Continue Reading
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Agreeing to let someone couchsurf in your apartment, even a good friend, can be tricky

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

An old friend of more than ten years is asking to live with me while she looks for work. She lives far away and desperately wants to move to my area, where her sister and other friends also reside.

She does not have a job offer but would like to move out and sleep on my couch (I live in a one bedroom apartment) until she finds a job and saves up for her own place. I did the same thing a few years ago.  I moved to the city and stayed with my sister for over six months until I found a job and apartment.

While I really want to pay it forward, I worry we would not still be friends after six months in tight quarters. Her sister has made it clear she is not in a place to help (she is having her second child) so I feel like I am her only option and don’t want to disappoint her.

Please help me keep one of my oldest friends while keeping my sanity.

Signed, Meg

ANSWER

Hi Meg,

Yes, it’s nice to be able to pay kindness forward and be hospitable to a good friend but this dilemma raises several red flags.

Since your friend doesn’t have any concrete job prospects, there is no ending date to her stay. What would you do if it took her six months, as it took you? What if she didn’t get a job for longer than that? It can be tough to “evict” a friend with no job or place to stay. Having a deadline is a good idea but may be tough to enforce.

Since she would have no income over a period of time, have you discussed sharing household expenses or would you feel comfortable supporting her for as long as necessary?

How much room do you have in your apartment to entertain a guest? Would it compromise your privacy or do you feel like you are so close that it wouldn’t be an inconvenience to have someone sleeping on your couch (who probably wouldn’t share the same hours as you)?

Given that she is one of your oldest friends, how well do you know her now? Have you spent much time together? What makes you feel like her stay in close quarters would tax the friendship?

There are no easy answers. I know you want to support a friend but she is asking a big favor that her own sister has already declined. For your own move, you imposed on a relative. Would you have made a similar request to this friend if the situation were reversed?

Two other possibilities:

  • You could offer to help your friend find temporary housing in your city through a rental marketplace like Airbnb.
  • Since your friend has other friends in the city (and a sister), you could give her the option of staying three or four weeks with you, for example, and figuring out the remainder of the stay with other friends or family.

Unfortunately, whether you go ahead or not, the fact that this request has been made already places some strain on the friendship. I guess you need to balance the potential consequences of saying yes with those of saying no and discuss your feelings with your friend in an honest, direct way.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene


Also see: My Friends Won’t Let Me Stay In Their Apartment Any More 

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (16)

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  1. Ashton says:

    I am in a similar situation except I am the friend who is asking. I am adking my best friend of 18 years. She and her husband (who I am great friends with) just purchased a 5 bedroom house. I have been wanting to move to their city for years now and have been unable to. I am currently studying to make a major career change. I am asking her to allow me to rent a room for $500 a month, plus I would cook meals, in exchange for a hardline of 6 months. No matter what, in 6 months I would be out. We have only had 4 arguments in 18 years, we get along great. She said no. I am also going through a break up of 5 years and I really need the change of cities/social support. (I am great friends with her large group of friends and it would be so nice to be near them). I can’t afford bnb. $500 a month is already way below market value. I am deeply hurt that she aaid no. If it was the other way around, it wouldn’t even be a question. I don’t want to overreact but this is seriously making me reconsider the depth of our friendship. Please advise.

    [LAST NAME REMOVED BY MODERATOR. PLEASE DO NOT POST ANY LAST NAMES. THANKS!]

  2. lua says:

    A friend was in that situation of letting a couple of friends stay and both friendships ended. Best bet is to say you don’t have room. But provide housing resources. Once someone moves in, its hard to get them out.

  3. I had a friend stay with me for three months and got a lot more than I bargained for. He crashed financially at my place and told me he was waiting to finish a temporary job that would give him plenty of money before leaving the country. Leading up to the time when he was suppose to collect he started asking to borrow money and since he was my best friend I ended up loaning him a total of $US1400. Instead of paying me back within weeks like he said he would it ended up taking 2.5 years and only because a mutual friend talked to him. I got to see his other side while he stayed with me and it wasn’t that pleasant. The lame way he handled the loan ended up destroying the friendship.

    The fact that your friend won’t have a job lined up could make things problematic. If another friend asked me to do the same thing alarm bells would go off in my head!!! It’s a lot to ask of a friend to bunker down at your place indefinitely till a job and accommodation are found in that order. I could never make such a bold request of a friend.

    If you do decide to help your friend sound her out on her finances. “It could take you months to find a job. It took me six! Do you have enough money to go the distance?…” I’d also place a limit on the duration of stay. I think three weeks is very generous if she’s staying as a guest and not paying anything. If she offered money that’s another matter.

    Be mentally prepared if she suddenly asks to borrow some money during her stay with you. What will your answer be? If you decide to do so how much will it be? Keep in mind there are so many stories on-line about friends who have loaned money to another friend and got their fingers burnt. If you end up loaning money make a condition. My friend was spending too much time at my place when I felt he should have been out there picking up more work. I had lined up some substitute work for him at my school and put him in touch with an agent who could give him more casual work. He didn’t make full use of it. I wish I had made it a condition that I see him really making an effort to find work. Live and learn! In this case, learn something from my experience.

    If you don’t want to let her stay say something like, “Jenny, I think it would be too claustrophobic to have another person staying with me. We might start to pull each other’s hair out! Lol It’s best you find other accommodation. I know of a few inexpensive places you could stay. I’d be glad to help you find somewhere.”

    • Birdy says:

      Apparently it was alright for you to do exactly the same thing and be trusted to get a job etc (which you did) but not her? You are selfish plan and simple.

      • Amaya says:

        Wow, talk about rude. I’m actually in this situation. Let me tell you, IT SUCKS. When he first asked me, I thought that I wouldn’t really like it much (I got an apartment without a roommate for a REASON, darn it), but I could stand a couple weeks. We’re on a month now with no end in sight. Once he’s gone, I doubt our previous friendship will be the same, or even survive at all.
        So yes, she should think before accepting. And who are YOU to judge HER? Do you know her friend? Do you know her? Perhaps she knows some aspect of her friend’s personality that would make it hard to live with her. MAYBE she knows she herself is a hard person to live with and doesn’t want to lose her friendship over it. You have no idea and no right to judge her with less than the full facts.
        Judge not, that ye be not judged.

        • Sherrybabr says:

          For someone to say a person is rude or mean for not letting them live with you,
          Obviously you have not walked a mile in those shoes! Often living together with friends or relatives ruins the relationship. You try to be kind or nice and help, people they then walk on you! Sometimes on purpose, sometimes that’s just how the person is . .

          • Birdy says:

            What I’m saying is if they have been a really good friend for years trust them. If they abuse it, then you know where you stand and it wasn’t the freindship you thought it was. I’ve done this for many friends and only once had problems. If they have stayed too long or if things change then I’m honest as they have been with me and they moved on with friendships intact. If you have a partner it’s more tricky , but who came first ? The freind or the partner? I would definitely consider their feelings and work out something we both could live with. As they say, help a brother out 🙂

  4. Offer to help her find a place to stay. Tell her you’re used to being up at all hours using your full apartment—desk in living room, on table whatever. I’ve invited people for a week at a time, but open – ended—no way. Offer to let her stay for a week if she wants to set up some local interviews, but don’t have her move in with no job and no other place to stay. I know everyone is different, but I can’t stand when someone watches TV in a space I share. My husband wears earphones. (P.S. He doesn’t have to sleep on the couch.)

  5. Amy F says:

    I wouldn’t do it, and my good friends would never ask me because they know I cherish my alone time. The most I can tolerate a guest is 2-3 nights. I care about my friends and being kind and paying it forward, as long as my mental health isn’t impinged upon. If I’m not there for myself, I’m useless to anyone else. I give others who are more hospitable a lot of credit. My neighbor let me sleep on his couch after I had a fire and before my insurance kicked it, but that was time limited.

    Why not offer to help your friend find housing, if you want to pay it forward. I’ve known people that house sat for wealthy people, sometimes for months at a time. Pet sitting is another possibility that included housing , maybe even nannying.

    If a friend did ask me, I would say, “The most I can do is 2 nights. I know you’d be a great guest, but I’m not a good host. I need a lot of alone time, and I get bitchy if I don’t have that time. I can brainstorm places for you to stay and I’ll be a good character witness if you need one.”

  6. Maddie says:

    Don’t do it. She will quickly establish legal residency and you may have to eventually use legal means to get rid of her. It may also be against your lease agreement. Say a polite no, I’m sorry that won’t be possible and wish her well

  7. hanna says:

    Not sure what state you are in, but in quite a few states, if you let someone live at your place for a limited amount of time (one night, three days, a month), even if they are not paying rent, they are considered a tenant. If you want them to leave and they don’t want to, you will need to start a formal eviction process to remove them. That can take months.

    In some cases, the judge may order you to leave your own home. I had no idea this was possible until it happened in a town near me. You may have heard about the recent case in CA, with the nanny who took over the house — and there is a running scam in NYC where people are renting via AirBnB and then refusing to leave.

    Not that your friend is a scammer, but it is another thing to take into consideration.

    I tell people that I need a lot of alone time and just can’t do house guests. It’s okay to say no.

    • Nancy says:

      Thanks for putting that out. I almost forgot about that. I only knew abt this law when I read about the Nanny is Ca. To the OP, I have been in your position SEVERAL TIMES. Friends from other country/state would stay with me, also in a 1 bedroom apartment indefinitely. I was open to all before. I didn’t really mind. Until it starting financially & physically draining me.

      For your own sake, you need to put things in writing. You can email it to your friend.

      1. I agree that you need to have an agreement with your friend as to up to how long (give a date) she can stay with you, whether she gets a job or not by that time.

      2. I also agree that for your own sanity, you NEED to tell her that ‘YOU NEED SPACE OR IT WILL STRESS YOU OUT, and YOU NEED HER TO HAVE SOMEWHERE ELSE TO SAY FOR LET’S SAY, THE WEEKENDS. I come from a culture of house is open to all – even the friends of your friends. And I tell you, even if I’m used to it, I didn’t think it’ll drain me the way it did.

      3. As early as now, you need to discuss grocery and electricity bills, if you don’t want to shoulder everything. I get rashes when it’s hot so I need the A/C on 24/hrs at home on hot days, which may not be alright with your friend. I had a friend complain to me that she’s so cold, in my apartment. I had to adjust the temp in my apartment, which was so inconvenient for me. Your friend may need a space heater the whole time she sleeps, every night.. this will add up to your bill. She needs to charge her cellphone and laptop, etc. If you’re okay to cover all that for several months, no need to discuss it with her. But the grocery bill must be discussed. She will be using your cooking oil, your butter, your milk, your bottled water etc. It’s not about being greedy, but setting limits before it even causes any conflicts. The other friend who lived with me thought it was okay that she gets her shampoo, cond and soap as she pleases, because I do have a big stash of that and it was okay at first, but it got old.

      4. Please do not offer to share your bed or your bedroom out of being nice. You can’t take it back once you need feel the need for some space.

      5. You need to also consider that your couch can get damaged, because a couch is meant to be sat on for hours, but not to be slept on every night.

      6. If she has her own car, that’s good for you. If not, you need to set her expectation that you will not be able to take her to places she needs to go to during your spare time and she needs to learn the bus system in your area.

      7. you need to let her know what your petpeeves are. like i had a friend’s soaked up baby diaper on top of my kitchen range one time. it was balled up, but it really pissed me off.

      8. set limits on people visiting her. no boys visiting her, no friends sleeping over.

      9. tell her that your bedroom is off limits.

      Sorry if I sounded lunatic. I’ve been burned. Several times.

    • Hanna, I agree with you 100%!!!

  8. Elle says:

    I can speak from experience…as I was asked for a similar favor…however, my friend did have family nearby…because ultimately, that’s where she ended up going. But she didn’t want any rules at all. In brief, she moved to NY from San Diego without any work prospects…and I obliged. I also have a 1 bedroom. My only request is that she be serious about finding work, and get up at 8am each weekday to meet with recruiters I knew of and was introducing her and show me she was serious about making it a priority to find work. After 2 weeks…she refused to get up during the week (as she would have to anyway IF she did have a fulltime position)–and things came to a blow…and I had to ask her to leave. She was living rent free, no rules, and didn’t want to make it a point of looking for work everyday and commuting into the city with me to meet with recruiters. She wanted it all on her terms. So, just be careful. this friend later realized she was wrong and apologized…as I ultimately found her a position. But that was over 2 years after we had a conflict. The friendship was never the same. If you value your friendship, give it careful consideration and be sure she is not going to take advantage of your good nature.

  9. Sandra says:

    This is a tough one. You want to help your friend, but more than anything, you also want to preserve this important friendship. Whatever you decide to do, I think it’s important to let her know exactly that.

    Irene gave you great suggestions. In particular, I like the one where you set some kind of LIMIT on the time your friend can stay with you …. say, three or four weeks, as Irene said. Limits will need to be set firmly — or they are not limits.

    So tell her that she can stay for, say, 4 weeks, but she must be out by a certain date. You could tell her that YOU have special plans near that date and that you will need your apartment back to yourself, for whatever reason. It also gives you a “diplomatic” out. It’s your place and you have a right to set down the rules without feeling guilty.

    That would give you some light at the end of the tunnel. And by giving your friend a strict limit as to how long she can stay, she will be forced to get busy and really LOOK for a job. If you don’t give her a limit, she might tend to go at a slower pace, as long you as enable her to hang around.

    Again, I am assuming you really do want to preserve this friendship, and that it’s important to you. If you both keep reminding each other of THAT, I think it will help! Good luck to you.

    • Maddie says:

      Once she establishes residency llimits and agreements, even in writing, mean nothing. If she refused to left, she would have to be legally evicted.

      Having her living there may also violate the lease.

      The smartest answer is no.

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