My roommate unilaterally decided to force me out of the apartment. She and 3 new tenants already signed a new lease. What are my options (if any)?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I lived with 3 other girls in an amazing apartment found via craigslist. L has lived here the longest. Willowy, deliberate, soft-spoken... she seemed so nice. But she turned out to be an utterly passive-aggressive neat freak. I'm pretty conscientious about cleanliness, but her standards made the house feel sterile and oppressive. If dissatisfied, she would never say anything to our face, but email the group in capital bold red font, or stick post-it notes on the offending "dirty" item.
A subletter replaced L for the summer, and without an enforcer, the apartment's pristine state began to slide (yet not too badly; it remained neater-than-average and reflected the natural lower standard of the 4 of us). A month before returning, she privately emailed another roommate asking how the house was and who wanted to renew the lease (me + the subletter; the other 2 roommates planned to move out).
That very night, she emailed me out of the blue from Europe: "...When I learned that the apartment hadn't been kept clean to the standard she knows I prefer, I realized then that no matter how much I like you personally, I don't think we're compatible as roommates. I want to live comfortably in the apartment and in order to do so, I need to live with people who have similar living habits. Therefore, I'd like to let you know now that you should start looking for another apartment to move into once the lease is up in a month. I apologize for any inconvenience it may cause you, but I think it's for the best." (She separately emailed the subletter to disinvite him from joining the lease.)
I was stunned. I'm on the lease. She is not the landlord. How did she have the power to force me out without so much as a 2-way discussion? She apparently assumed I should bend to her will just because she had "seniority."
I stupidly didn't go to the landlord immediately. Instead I took a planned 6-day vacation. On return, I frantically started apartment-searching. In mid-August in a college town. Demand >>> supply. I also just started a f/t job (including 3 night shifts a week) and am in the time-sucking process of applying to med school. My small budget and lack of easy transportation around town were also limiting. With a week left, I finally turned to the landlord. She didn't want to get in the middle, but explicitly said that 1. I was welcome to renew the lease if I wanted, 2. if I didn't, I could stay into the fall until whenever I found a new place. I didn't get this in writing -- also stupid.
L returned from Europe. She went straight to the landlord. I don't know what she said, but it must have been twisted and persuasive. Her gentle, graceful demeanor can lull anyone into agreeing to anything. After, we talked 1-on-1. She said, "If you don't willingly agree to move out at this month, we will make you move out. The landlord has agreed to refuse to let you renew the lease." I was shocked at the 180. I said I had the same rights as she did, as we were both on the lease, and that anything that she told the landlord was just hearsay. She then told me she'd already found 3 new roommates (while in Europe) to sign the lease and move in on the 1st.
I started to plead with her: I would defer to her wishes to move out, but she had to give me more time to look for a new place. I wanted to stay for 1 or 2 more months. I tried to make her understand this was a huge burden she had put on me, all for the sake of her selfish desire to "start fresh." She replied, stone-cold, "It's as if you expect me to be kind or generous to you. But you are just a roommate to me. You can't stay here. Stay with friends. Find a hostel." She made a decision unilaterally, behind my back, and now she wanted it fulfilled completely on her own terms while getting to stay in an awesome, cheap apartment. At that point I lost my cool and started crying angry tears. She kept on going: "You shock me sometimes. You get so stressed out by little things. Girl, shit happens. This time I caused the shit to happen to you. Stop acting so self-righteous. You're acting like I *wronged* you. But you just need to deal with it. Move on. One week is enough to find a place."
Basically, she bullied me out. She manipulated everything before I even knew what had hit me... I practically rolled over for her. But I'd never done anything to her. I've always been thoughtful and easygoing. I always just want everyone to get along. We were not BFFs, but we always joked and chatted and were friendly. We had never argued before.
In the end, she ever so reluctantly agreed to let me stay in the living room (because a roommate's boyfriend walked through and she changed her tune literally mid-sentence). I have until October 15 to move out. I've been biking all over the city for the past month looking for a place, to the detriment of my grad school applications. I've been looking mainly on craigslist and university-affiliated housing websites to avoid broker's fees. Meanwhile the 3 new people have already moved in. They very nicely agreed to let me stay in the living room for now, but were firm about a move-out date of October 15. They don't know the story and I'm not sure if it will accomplish anything to tell them, in part because L has started dating one of them, who has become her bitch. I pay rent but feel like an outcast, and feel deeply resentful as I watch her put on her act with the new roommates.
It's been exhausting and stressful, and all this time, I wonder: Is it too late to do something? What should I do if I can't find a place on October 15? I have friends who will let me crash for several days, but I can't keep bouncing around from place to place with all my furniture. If it's too late, what SHOULD I have done? I would love to know, just so I can learn how to better stand up for myself in the future. I also have no idea what my legal rights were, especially as pertaining to the END of a lease. Everything I've read addresses situations where the lease is still ongoing. I just figure it must be completely up to the landlord's discretion who can renew it, so if L got the landlord to side with her, I had no choice. (This is in Somerville, Massachusetts.)
I apologize for the length. Thanks for reading this far, and for any advice (even stern talking-tos).
throwaway email: ishallthrowthisaway at gmail