What happened to Jamie is so common that it may have happened to you when you were a wide-eyed, wet-behind-the-ears freshman away from home for the first time. Not that Jamie really fit into that category at the time, but I don't want to be overly critical of how long it took her to catch on. Just kidding.
They Started Out As Friends
From what Jamie has told me, she and a number of her friends decided to move into an apartment together. As is often the case, each of the friends had a separate utility put in her name. One got the electric bill, one the water and Jamie got the telephone bill. The friends were to split the electric, water and telephone (cost of standard service) and each friend was to pay for her own long distance telephone calls. So far, so good.
It seems the roomies rocked along quite comfortably for awhile splitting the bills, hanging out and enjoying each other's company. Then one day things started to change. One of her roommates had started dating a hoodlum. After the hoodlum was thrown in jail (as is often the case with hoodlums) he began making collect telephone calls from prison. Each time her friend accepted a collect call from prison the call would show up on the telephone bill in Jamie's name as "Collect Call: Sing-Sing Prison." Jamie didn't like the idea that her name was now attached to a building repository for the underbelly of society. But that is not what has upset Jamie lo these many years.
They Stiffed Her
At some point in the relationship, the roomies decided that all good things must come to an end. The three packed up their boxes, loaded up their cars and parted ways. The problem arose when it came time to get payment from the newly separated friends. When the final telephone bill arrived the collect call portion from Sing Sing Prison was outrageous.
Jamie contacted her former roommate about paying the bill. Payment never came. She again contacted her roommate. Still no payment. Again she contacted her roommate. Well, you can see where this is going. It wouldn't be much of a story if the roommate ended up paying the bill now would it. Jamie was stuck with the bill which, I am told, has never been repaid by the roommate.
Now A Word Of Advice
To those students who are getting ready to move into an apartment with roommates for the first time consider this:
(1) If the utility bill is put in your name you are responsible for it. The utility company does not care that two of your roommates stiffed you on the bill. When it comes time to issue a negative credit report or sue, you are the one who will suffer; not your roommates. Try to have the bill put in all of the roommates' names.
(2) Before parting ways with your roommates, call and have any utilities in your name shut off. You do not want to be responsible for bills from people who moved in after you left.
(3) Get a payoff from all of the companies that have bills in your name (i.e. utility, telephone, Blockbuster, etc.) before you move out. Make sure your roommates pony up their portion before you part ways.
(4) Check out my post on repairing your credit for more information on fixing your credit.