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Yes. I am cheap. That is evident.
August 3, 2009 7:44 AM   Subscribe

is it my responsibility to pay for fixing the rearview mirror?

I have an older, kind of obnoxious foreign landlady who frequently asks myself and my girlfriend to perform odd little favors for her around the apartment. This can range from making her cable box work to carrying her laundry to the laundromat for her. I find her constant requests annoying, and generally feel put out by them, but I do them in the interest of keeping relations between her and I on the up and up. Also, since she's somewhat hard to communicate with (English is not her first language) I find it easier to acquiesce than to explain why I don't want to do things for her.

A week ago Friday (the 24th) she asked me to back her car into her driveway, because she can't do it herself. Obviously, as you will soon find out, I can't either. The driveway has a gate that opens inward (the driveway is incredibly narrow and between two buildings) and while I was backing it up, the rearview mirrror was caught between two slats of the gate, *snap* *crackle* *pop* it is now hanging by a wire on the side of the car.

She wasn't home at the time, so I left her a note, and we talked about it briefly before I left on vacation for a week the following morning. She kept asking me "What I do? What I do about this?" I just told her to take it to the mechanic, because I didn't have any other advice. I left at 4AM the following morning.

I got back last night, hoping against hope that the mirror would be fixed, and that's the last I'd hear of it, or she'd at least present me with a bill and we could talk about it. Alas, it's still dangling there, taunting me.

My question is basically this:

Is it my responsibility to pay for this? My impulse is that I should, at most, pay for half of this, if at all. But I understand that by agreeing to do something like this, it becomes at least partially my responsibility. I don't want to make my living situation difficult or annoying, but at the same time, I don't want to shell out because my landlady doesn't know how to park her car.

I fully expect to be eviscerated in the comments, so be as mean as you like.

Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total)
 
Pay for it if she asks you to, but make it clear to her that you're not going to lift a finger to help her again. You now have a perfect excuse to not do anything else to help in future. If she asks, just point out the mirror in a "Oops, I'm so clumsy!" kind of way.

You pay her money, she provides you with somewhere to live. That should be the extent of your relationship with the woman. If she wants the cable box fixing, she should call the cable company and pay them (hint hint) to fix it for her. She shouldn't be relying on her tenants to do stuff for her.
posted by Solomon at 7:52 AM on August 3, 2009


I would pay for it but I would use it as an excuse get out of other favors, especially car related ones.
posted by valadil at 7:52 AM on August 3, 2009


I think if you broke something you should fix it, whether or not it belongs to a foreigner. (wtf?)

After that, either stop doing these favors for her, or stop being bitter about it. You're not doing anyone any good.
posted by fritley at 7:53 AM on August 3, 2009


a) You agreed to do the backing in
b) You broke it. Again: -YOU- BROKE IT.

If you can't figure out a + b then there are bigger issues at stake.

oh, and
c) Move. You obviously have an issue with your foreign landlady's foreign-ness.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2009


I'm a little confused as to how she asked you to back in her car and yet she wasn't there when you did it (did she leave you a note?) but honestly I think if you were doing her a favor and didn't do it to her liking, you have no need to pay for a thing. You weren't using the car as a favor to YOU where you needed to get somewhere, you tried to do her a favor and it didn't work out.

I think it's on her. If you pay half you're being overly nice (which you've been already with all the imposing favors she's put on you).

All that said, draw a line in the sand, and set boundaries that are landlord/tenant. If you do "favors", bill her and take it off the rent, etc. Or move.
posted by arniec at 7:55 AM on August 3, 2009


I'm not sure about the responsibility side of things, but from a practical side, might you offer to fix it if she pays for a new part? Side mirrors are very user friendly and easy to replace (at least in my experience). Usually you just take of the inside door panel, loosen three nuts, unclip all the wires, and then pull the old one off. Putting a new one in normally involves hooking the new wires up (very easy, just a plastic snap, no electronics experience needed) and then bolting the new one on. Garages/mechanics charge an arm and a leg for this, but it's one of the easiest car repairs to undertake on your own.

Maybe at least that would put the problem to rest, and not leave you with any bill except your time? And just for my two sense, if you don't want to fix it yourself (or politely guilt a mechanically minded friend into it), I'd cover half of the cost of the repair.
posted by scdjpowell at 7:56 AM on August 3, 2009


I don't think you are responsible. You were doing her a favor not the other way around; however, it might be easier to fix it and never help her out again.
posted by useyourmachinegunarm at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2009


When you started driving her car, you assumed the risk. You broke it by being a bad driver, you bought it.

The circumstances of how you came to be doing her a favor are not relevant.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2009


Fix it, because you did break it. Just because she asked you, doesn't mean you are relieved of all responsibility. And when she asks again, if she asks again, you have an automatic "out" of doing anything.

And when the lease is up, do everyone a favor and move.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:13 AM on August 3, 2009


When you started driving her car, you assumed the risk. You broke it by being a bad driver, you bought it.

This. You didn't have to say Yes. Suck it up and consider it a dunce tax.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:18 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately I do think you are responsible. I can see how the situation really sucks because you didn't want to do it in the first place and felt pressured, but you did break the mirror. I know the dealer charges a pretty penny for this. I hope scdjpowell is right that it's easy to replace yourself.

I would definitely use this as an excuse to not do things for her again (unless it's an emergency).
posted by radioamy at 8:24 AM on August 3, 2009


I don't think you have any obligation to pay. She took on the risk when asking a favour from an unqualified source. Having said that it may be easier to pay and tell her to shove it in future. Personally I would not pay and tell her to shove it in future.
posted by biffa at 8:32 AM on August 3, 2009


I don't know why everyone's jumping on the OP about his mention that his landlady is foreign. I thought his point was that she doesn't speak English well and is therefore difficult to communicate with.

Anonymous, I think it *is* your responsibility to pay for the mirror. You didn't have to park her car for her. She asked you to and you agreed. Yes, it sucks, but I would just pay for it and make this the last favor you do for her.
posted by katillathehun at 8:38 AM on August 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


Even if a rhetorical argument could be made absolving you of responsibility, I think you know you have to pay for the mirror. A body shop will do it for far less than the dealer.

Once that's done, you can tell her that you and your girlfriend are just too busy to help her with chores anymore. She'll get the hint.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:39 AM on August 3, 2009


You should pay for the mirror you broke. And you should stop doing random favors for your landlord.
posted by Perplexity at 8:43 AM on August 3, 2009


I agree with paying for it, then using it as an excuse to not do any more favors, for fear of something going wrong again.
posted by orme at 8:47 AM on August 3, 2009


I maybe looking at this too simplistically: Does she have car insurance? If so, have her go through her insurance to get it fixed. Isn't this why people pay for insurance in the first place?
posted by KB.Boston_implant.By way of NY at 8:48 AM on August 3, 2009


I would pay if asked within the next 4 weeks, but not offer to do so unless asked or if asked beyond that time. It's arbitrary, but that's my opinion.

I am guessing that if she'd done an AskMe presenting these facts and asking whether she would be rightful in asking you to pay, most people would say "no" because of all the free work you've done for her and her knowledge (and failure to warn you) that backing in the car was unreasonably difficult.
posted by bunnycup at 8:52 AM on August 3, 2009


I'm in the pay-for-it and-move-camp.
posted by Richat at 8:58 AM on August 3, 2009


I don't know why everyone's jumping on the OP about his mention that his landlady is foreign. I thought his point was that she doesn't speak English well and is therefore difficult to communicate with.

Yeah, I assumed the same. Our landlord is pretty deaf and we have similar issues because it cuts down on the amount of nuance any conversation can have.

And sorry, OP. You owe for the mirror.

Also, the phrase you're looking for to get out of this stuff is "I can't right now. Sorry!" and keep moving. But honestly, I think I'd move. I'm wimpy like that. But carrying her clothes to the laundromat? Yeeesh.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:58 AM on August 3, 2009


katillathehun: "I don't know why everyone's jumping on the OP about his mention that his landlady is foreign. I thought his point was that she doesn't speak English well and is therefore difficult to communicate with. "

I love the MeFi community but we tend to be a little over-PC. It's often important to point out someone's race/ethnicity/nationality in order to better explain a situation that may have cultural implications/miscommunications. I had a question a few years ago that involved some obnoxious neighbors who were Honduran construction workers, and one particular user jumped all over me for mentioning their race.
posted by radioamy at 9:20 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's the Ethicist weighing in on a similar question. A reluctant driver, a somewhat culpable car owner, and a damaged vehicle.

It seems a split of the costs is what's called for, after which you might want to heed the general consensus above and use this as an excuse to put an end to the "favors" you've been forced into.
posted by philotes at 9:31 AM on August 3, 2009


I disagree with most of the people above -- both the people who are implying the OP must be some kind of racist, and the people who say he should pay for the mirror.

I have a landlady who is not Canadian by birth, and the fact that I only understand 2/3 of what she says is absolutely relevant to how to deal with her on any given issue.

I also disagree that he should pay for the whole repair himself. It's not like he borrowed her car to go get groceries or in any way help himself -- he was doing her a favor at the time. He could, generously, offer to split the deductible with her if she's in some way poor or unlikely to be able to afford the repair, and if he can afford it himself, but I really don't see a moral or legal obligation to pay for it all himself. If she hadn't asked for the favor, he wouldn't have even been driving.

Unless he was pissed off that she asked, and driving kind of carelessly because of it. In which case, he's a jerk and he should pay. But that's not the impression I get -- if he was that much of a jerk, he wouldn't be here asking this question.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:40 AM on August 3, 2009


I think you split the cost here, ethically. She takes on some of the responsibility for asking you to drive (similarly, employers do this as well when they hire employees to drive), and you share some of the responsibility for saying yes and doing the damage. I think offering to pay half of the cost would be quite fair.

In terms of assessing neglect, an insurer would look to the owner of the vehicle before the driver in determining financial liability, if permission was given to drive in the first place. But in terms of fairness, it wouldn't be inappropriate for a negligent drive to contribute to the damage costs.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:36 AM on August 3, 2009


Does she have car insurance? If so, have her go through her insurance to get it fixed. Isn't this why people pay for insurance in the first place?

The cost of replacing the mirror will most likely be (much) less than the insurance deductible.
posted by scody at 10:51 AM on August 3, 2009


Just to be clear, the reason I agree with the pay-for-it approach is that it is simpler. I don't necessarily think that the OP is entirely responsible, but it does sound like communication is not their strong suit, and so...pay for all of it, learn the lesson, and plan to move. (Relatively) simple.

And, boy, getting insurance involved would (even if it is reasonable cost-wise) run the opposite direction in terms of simplicity. Not to mention that the landlady's insurance would likely go up from such a claim, and then the OP might have a frantic, hard-to-understand, landlady who could think that the rise in rates is the OP's fault.

The more I think about it, the more I think, pay for it, and move. Maybe the landlady won't take 100%, who knows...but take care of this as simply as possible and make plans to get a new landlady/lord.
posted by Richat at 11:48 AM on August 3, 2009


Unless he was pissed off that she asked, and driving kind of carelessly because of it.

Do you get the impression that he was driving carefully when he backed into the gate?

You actually have to be driving pretty recklessly to tear a side mirror off in a driveway. Essentially what the OP is saying is that he was backing into the narrow driveway so quickly that he couldn't stop when he made contact with the gate.

He agreed to drive her car. With that agreement comes an implied "and I will do my best not to damage it", regardless of whether or not he was driving the car for himself or as a favor to her. He damaged her car by being careless. He should pay for it.
posted by toomuchpete at 12:03 PM on August 3, 2009


You actually have to be driving pretty recklessly to tear a side mirror off in a driveway.

No, you actually don't. I've crushed one side mirror and narrowly avoided destroying another going in/out of very narrow driveways, which narrowness was made even more difficult to navigate due to the placement of gates and other cars. Both times I was driving very carefully and very slowly. And I had neighbors at both residents who said they'd encountered the same problem with their own cars.
posted by scody at 12:22 PM on August 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


(guh. "residents" should be "residences")
posted by scody at 12:22 PM on August 3, 2009


Two things to consider:

1. Fixing the rearview mirror, since it has wires and electronic bits, will be more expensive than you realize (unless you have an extremely inflated estimate currently). This may weigh into your decision as to the approach to take. I mean, seriously outrageously expensive.

2. It's probably generally not a good idea to drive your landlord's car. I realize that, because of the context of your interactions with your landlord, it sort of built up to that. But seriously, if you had seen someone post the question a few weeks ago "Should I drive my landlord's car?" you would totally have answered no. So take this as a learning experience and use it as a handy reason to present as to why you can no longer help the landlord with this sort of thing.
posted by The World Famous at 12:31 PM on August 3, 2009


follow-up from the OP "Thanks, my landlady and I agreed to split the cost of the mirror."
posted by jessamyn at 1:17 PM on August 3, 2009


If I were in your shoes, since she seems helpless, I'd arrange to have the car fixed and then pay for it. Get it over with. But I would then tell her I cannot help her anymore. But that's just me. You may still want to help, but I'd limit the kinds of things I would do.
posted by Piscean at 3:34 PM on August 3, 2009



follow-up from the OP "Thanks, my landlady and I agreed to split the cost of the mirror."

Great resolution! Thanks for the follow up!
posted by bunnycup at 9:20 AM on August 4, 2009


scdjpowell, I just followed your instructions to replace my mirror, they were spot on and you just saved me $150.
posted by sageleaf at 12:55 PM on August 6, 2009


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