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Should I kick my roommate out?
November 27, 2012 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Should I kick my roommate out?

I am a early-30s female living in an outer borough of NYC. I've been living in my apartment for a little over 7 years and am the only leaseholder with the landlord. My roommate has lived here for almost 2 years and is a late twenties female. I have a lease agreement with her. The landlady knows I have a roommate but doesn't know/care who she is (it's been like this for about 5 years).

We get along just fine and haven't had any interpersonal issues. She's a sort of messy but not "nightmare roommate messy" - like, if she cooks, she won't wipe down the stove or counters; her clutter is piled up on our (mostly unused) kitchen table; she's never cleaned the bathroom or swept the floors. I've always overlooked those sort of things because 1. she's honestly not here all that often, 2. I am non-confrontational, and 3. she pays half the rent, so eh. I have spoken to her a few times for things like the fire escape window being left wide open all day when no one was home (someone could easily "break" in), the heat being jacked up to 90 (she said she just meant to turn it on for a few minutes to take the "chill" off but then forgot to turn it off when she went to work), or when food was left out that could attract roaches. She always responded with, "omg, you're right, sorry!" and then something (sometimes the exact same thing) would happen again a month later.

I think she's nice and means well, but she's sort of flaky and absent-minded.

So today, my day off, I woke up and hung out in my room for a few hours, putzing around online and whatnot. I heard her getting ready and she left for work around 10. At about 11, I went out into the kitchen to get some breakfast. I noticed a very strong smell of gas and I looked at the stove. One of the burners was on a very low setting but the pilot light was out. I immediately turned it off and opened all the windows. The apartment is aired out now. According to the dishes in the sink and the splatters on the stove, she cooked last night (I haven't cooked since before Thanksgiving, I was out of town and got take-out last night.) There is a window near the stove that opens to an airshaft that we leave 1/3 open all year long, and I honestly believe that's the only reason that the apartment didn't blow up.

If today hadn't been my day off, or if that airshaft window hadn't been opened…well, I don't even want to think about what could have happened.

I texted her about an hour ago saying "Did you cook last night? One of the burners was on but not lit. Kitchen/living rm smells like gas. Airing it out now. I honestly don't know how there wasn't a gas explosion." She read it about an hour ago (iMessage) but hasn't responded yet.

I am strongly considering ending our roommate agreement because of this. I do have it written into the agreement that either party can end the agreement for any reason, at any time (after a truly horrible nightmare roommate situation about 3 years ago where kicking them out wasn't even a question, I made sure to give myself an out, so I'm not worried about the legality of doing so). However, because I have kicked out a roommate before, I know how unpleasant and awkward that last 30 days of living together can be, and I really don't want to have to go through that again. Is this worth kicking her out over?

Why can't all roommates be like the first couple roommates that I've had? Wah! They were found on Craigslist, they are awesome and we are still in touch but they left! (One got married, one got pregnant.) Waaah.
posted by AlisonM to Human Relations (55 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think it's worth kicking her out over. It was a mistake; she didn't do it maliciously. I know that it's scary to think about what if, but happily, nothing bad happened.

I think it would be an overreaction if you were to kick her out over this. A business-like discussion of "hey, please be extra careful" is more appropriate.
posted by punchtothehead at 9:50 AM on November 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


Not cleaning is one thing but she sounds pretty careless in general and that would be a problem for me--this time nothing DID happen but it could have had disastrous consequences. Don't know if you're a worrier but I am, and the possibility of something like this happening again would keep me up at night. How important is peace of mind to you? Base your decision on that.
posted by lovableiago at 9:54 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel that these things just happen sometimes and aren't really an indication of whether a person is likely to do this again in the future. If you had the problem of her constantly doing dangerous things like this, it would be a different matter, but a one-off leaving the stove on could happen to anyone (it's happened to me and to almost everyone I know). I understand that you're freaked out about what could have happened, but nothing terrible has thankfully happened. Your problems with this roommate don't seem severe enough to risk taking on another roommate with who knows what other issues.
posted by peacheater at 9:56 AM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are you debating kicking her because of the sum total impact her presence is having on your life or because she left the gas on and you feel like that is a deal breaker?

If it's the former then I think you're more likely to be better off trying to find another roommate because it sounds like your roomie is just one of those people who doesn't take things as seriously as you and/or lacks the focus that some people just naturally have. I've known people who were like that and it's silly to expect them to change their ways at this point in their life.

If it's the latter then things are actually probably a bit less bleak because it was a single mistake that, honestly, you or anyone could have made on any given day.

In either case you need to sit down and have a chat with her and address things such that it is made clear that things can't continue the way they have been going or else matters will have to be attended to, up to and including her finding a new place to stay. It's not as groovy of you to simply say "hey, last straw, you're gone, consider this your 30 day notice". It may be your right, but I think going that route is sub-optimal for both of you. Things could be better but they could also be worse.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:56 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you should approach it as a "this isn't working out so great for me" rather than an "I'm sorry, but you need to leave". (then again I have a bit of sympathy for her, as a reformed flake myself). Perhaps if you explained to her that you're unhappy with the way things are going, making clear that it was not just this one incident but a pattern of habits. Because if you make it all about leaving the gas on, she'll just say that she'll never do it again, but she probably will do it again. You have to tell her your personalities aren't compatible and you think you'd both be happier living with people who are more like yourselves.

Hopefully the result of the conversation is that she starts looking for another place to live without you having to come down on her hard or make things really uncomfortable. If it doesn't look like she's getting the message, you could end with "OK, well, I hope you'll understand if something like this happens again, you'll need to find a new place to live." - sets you up for an easier future convo.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:58 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's hard to tell from your question how seriously you've talked with her about these issues before.

And meanwhile, she actually pays the rent, which is huge.

A real sit-down conversation with "holy crap this is seriously heart-attack territory for me and we really need to come up with some ground rules and procedures here because my wits are so at an end" kind of language will probably help you more than getting a brand-new stranger in your house will.
posted by SMPA at 9:59 AM on November 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


For what it's worth, a gas explosion would have required someone to light a match. Gas doesn't randomly explode.

This doesn't sound worth kicking her out. But from your description I'm guessing the low-level messiness is bothering you more than you're letting on, and this is just a straw on the camel's back of passive-aggressive negative feelings you've been having towards her the past two years.

The fair thing would be to sit her down and come up with a more set list of expectations for cleanliness, as well as a chore schedule for bathroom cleaning (have you ever asked her to wipe down counters, clean the bathroom, etc?).

And if you do kick her out, be very clear with what you want from the next roommate. Normal roommate standards for cleanliness usually do not include "wipe down everything in the kitchen, always" and "never leave stuff on the kitchen table." So if those are your standards be explicit so you don't encounter this issue in the future.
posted by schroedinger at 9:59 AM on November 27, 2012 [26 favorites]


I wouldn't kick out a roommate over this, because it seems like an honest mistake, and one that in my experience happens rather frequently, and without anything blowing up. I think your notion that you don't know how there wasn't an explosion is way off base.

From what you've written, it sounds like you've already decided that what she's done is seriously beyond the pale. If you do kick her out specifically because of this, I'd mention to the next roommate "I kicked my last roommate out for accidentally leaving the gas on", because I'd never in a million years think that THAT would be something that would be grounds for me getting kicked out.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:02 AM on November 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


When you drafted your version of the roommate "lease" with her, was there a specific time frame that it was good for or up for "renew" (so to speak)? Or was it just indefinite until one of you decide to part ways? If there is a specific date you could wait until close to that date and then express to her that you would rather not have a roommate on the other side of that date.

Alternatively, if you are just dead set on not shaking the boat but still would like to terminate the roommate situation you could move to another apartment and have your current roommate take over your lease in your current apartment.

To me it sounds like you aren't satisfied with the living arrangement and want to terminate it. The whole gas being left on sounds like its just the straw that broke the camels back. It really doesn't matter if you have had worse roommates in the past.... what matters is your current situation and how that effects your quality of life. I've only been able to tolerate 1 roommate that just didn't clean up after himself, and that was because we were really good friends. I really didn't tolerate it from other roommates and understand your frustration.
posted by nickerbocker at 10:02 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's pretty bad, I'd freak out in a big way over it. Although I've awakened to discover that I've left the stove on all night with a wee flame on it. Toasty, but not explosive.

That said, invest in a Carbon Monoxide detector. That will give you peace of mind.

Each item taken separately is just a small thing, but when you add them up it's a big, fat, hairy deal.

I'd be direct but nice, and I wouldn't blame.

"Cassandra, I've enjoyed our roommate agreement until recently. I'd like to invoke the clause in our contract where I'm giving you X days notice to find a new place. I know that finding a new place around the holidays can be challenging, so let's agree on a date that will work for you."

Giving her some control, and acknowledging that this is a shitty time of year to find new housing might make her more mellow and resigned.

No matter what, I think it will be awkward. Although, she may want to move because in her mind, you're a controlling nightmare. (I agree with you, a clean, non-gassious environment is preferable.)

In your next Craigslist ad, be SURE to stress that you want a neatnik who remembers to turn off the gas appliances.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:03 AM on November 27, 2012


I think she sounds dreadful, but that's just me. Paying the rent on time is great, but it sounds like the time that she is in the space, you're not actually able to enjoy your home, because she's a slob. If she can cook, she can clean up after herself. The burner being left on wouldn't bother me as much as the open window to the fire-escape. Maybe you need to have a come-to-Jesus chat with her about shared spaces and expectations of cleanliness and safety.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:04 AM on November 27, 2012


Agreeing with Roland and Treehorn+Bunny. I think that you should sit her down and have a meeting/dialogue with her. I can understand your concerns - it's scary to come home and find the gas on like that - but it's most likely a one-time oops and not an ongoing concern.

Still, it sounds like her personal habits are bothering you, and if they are, you should address this with her before dropping an ultimatum. It's not fair to her to kick her out without giving her a chance to mend her ways, or at least let her know whatever is bothering you.

So talk with her, and let her know that X and Y (leaving the gas on, leaving dishes in the sink, etc.) are bothering you, and what can you do to mitigate this? Give her a chance to clean up her act and if she's on notice and still is flaky and slobby, THEN discuss her finding a new place to live.

If you do decide that you can't live with her anymore, give her enough time to find a new place, especially in a tough market.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:05 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


We had a similar event happen in my house a few months ago. I was working upstairs in my office & smelled something strange. Came downstairs & found one of the burners on, but no flame. At least in our house, there was NO WAY the gas could have been running all night with nobody noticing it. I'm guessing it was less than an hour before it was *obvious* that something was wrong. We're pretty sure that somebody just bumped one of the stove knobs (they're on the front of the stove) with a backpack or jacket & didn't even notice. Is it possible your roommate did something like this?
posted by belladonna at 10:10 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


ditto on the carbon mono detector. you should have one anyway. I would put it in terms of ZOMG we almost died and I could do the same thing as you, flaky roommate, so ZOMG detector now and charge her half the cost.

Honestly, because I hate confrontations, I would make up a reason for a New Cleaniness Regime. I'd make up a friend saying a thing or two. Even better, a boyfriend/girlfriend who is really awesome but is a neat-freak so hey, flaky roommate, can we step up our game? And then make up a schedule, something basic, but trading off cleaning the bathroom each weeks.

Condolences, part of the reason I moved away from NYC is I decided I was too old to put up with roommate shennanigans.
posted by angrycat at 10:17 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is she supposed to check all the pilot lights whenever she cooks? I think a "apparently we have a crappy stove that can't maintain a pilot light, so it looks like it's gonna be important to make sure all the burners are turned all the way off whenever we cook" is in order, but you may have other problems with her that lean toward her moving.
posted by rhizome at 10:21 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a forgivable mistake, I think.

The "I honestly don't know how there wasn't a gas explosion" is rather passive-aggressive and hostile though.. Even if this blows over, there may some tension afterwards. Hopefully you can work it out.
posted by WCF at 10:24 AM on November 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Take this seriously.

First....A CO detector will not detect a buildup of gas from an on-but-not-lit gas stove... no protection there.

Second.... If the gas is left on long enough to reach an explosive concentration, almost anything can set it off. A college friend of mine, when he was in high school, left a Bunsen burner on with no flame in his room (chemistry set stuff). When he entered the room and flipped the light switch on, there was an explosion- the roof was lifted off the house, he was burned horribly - skin grafts all over his body, in the hospital for the better part of a year. He was lucky to live.

I don't have the pilot lights on my kitchen stove turned on. I use sparkers and/or the little butane flame-sticks to light it.
posted by drhydro at 10:31 AM on November 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


I agree with other posters that if you do kick her out, you need to be veryvery clear with your next roommate about your expectations, because I don't think that they sound like normal roommate expectations. I think that if you do ask your roommate to move out, she will be (justifiably) confused.

I know a lot of people who leave fire escape windows open all day, occasionally forget food out, etc. It sounds like you're neater than she is - it's quite possible that the bathroom/floors never get dirty enough for her to notice/want to clean them, because you take care of it the instant they're too dirty for you, which is still below her threshhold.

I also wonder - do you like this roommate very much? It sounds kind of like you barely tolerate her as a necessary evil as it is, and I wonder how much this is influencing your perception.

However, I will say that I wouldn't turn a dog I hated out into the NYC real estate market at this moment, particularly as everyone and their mother is trying to find post-Sandy housing.
posted by corb at 10:33 AM on November 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


Kick her out - this is death-level.

An explosion would have affected everyone in the building. No need for a flame - an electric short circuit from a ringing doorbell would have triggered it. You're absolved from giving 2nd chances to non - family on matters of life-death carelessness.

And, when you do inform her that you are kicking her out, tell her it was the gas reason - that is best way to teach her for her new place, and nothing says "lesson learned" better than being booted out for said reason.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:33 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think leaving the gas on accidentally is anything but a one-time accident. While it's scary, nothing bad happened.

You say she's flaky and not around very much, and you're non-confrontational. You need to set ground rules for your apartment with your roommate.

For me personally, if my roommate once a month was absentminded and left a window open or the heat cranked up, I would be willing to forgive them. Never cleaning the bathroom though? That's unforgivable. You need to sit down with her and explain that you are at your wit's end and make a cleaning schedule with her, and stick to it. If she can't, then I would kick her out.
posted by inertia at 10:38 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's possible next roomate is a lot worse.

It's possible with a serious conversation and some precautions that this will never happen again.

I'd engage in a little of that confrontation you don't like. It will be worth it either way.
posted by French Fry at 10:41 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Given the 'bad roommate' horror stories I've seen here and lived through myself, I think you should count your blessings and try to salvage this before you kick her out and possibly end up with someone worse.
posted by empath at 10:42 AM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


okay, I'm in the camp of "this is pretty serious if it bothers you this much". You know, it's true that people can be well-meaning flakes, but it's also true that if living with them is affecting your serenity and stressing you out, even to a low-level degree of grar, then the least you can do is sit down and confront the issue.

Leaving the gas on after cooking, to me, is a serious deal breaker. I don't even really care how it happened (hitting the knob with a backpack? really? if your stove is that touchy then you need to talk to your landlord about that, or hey, don't wear a backpack in the kitchen). So okay, it's true nothing could happen. It's also true that there's a risk, however slight, that something, a worn electrical appliance, a smoker in the hallway, anything, could level the flat with you inside it.

Personally I've always had pretty great roommate experiences, but it's also because I tend to be kind of a mouthy bitch about minor complaints up front, before they mushroom into major dealbreakers. And conversely I've been told I'm easy to talk to about problems because I typically don't take this stuff personally, it's just the price of fitting into someone else's space.

Anyway. I'm kind of tired of garden-variety socially irresponsible / clueless people being passed off as "oh they're just a harmless flake". If that makes me intolerant, well, then, fine. I'm sorry but when my safety and sanity is at stake, you don't get a pass to be a dangerously forgetful slacker in my household. I don't even care if you do pay the rent on time, because if you are on a lease with me that's an expectation, not a privilege.

I wouldn't say break the lease YET. But this incident is clear indication of time for a serious, sit-down, come to jesus meeting, where you say, in essence: this is the last straw. Because it is. Tell your roommate, clearly and without too much elaboration or apology, that they have majorly fucked up for the last time with this, and if they leave the staircase window open again, or the gas on, or the front door unlocked (I would maybe skip the general-slobbiness factor and focus on things related to safety issues), then they will have 30 days to find a new place to live. End of conversation.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:54 AM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks everyone for your comments.

Yes, that text was passive aggressive, I see that now. I was furious when I sent it.

Regarding things like cleanliness, I don't think I'm a super duper neat freak, but I don't like coming home to put my mail on the counter to have it soak up the puddle of olive oil I didn't see was left there. I don't need things to be sanitized, I just don't want crumbs and grease on the counter and stove, both because ew and because of roaches. I don't think that's unreasonable, and it falls under the "let's both make sure we clean up after ourselves" conversations that we've had, but maybe I need to be more specific.

I have mentioned the bathroom a few times, but it falls on deaf ears. Again, I'm not super obsessed with cleanliness in there, but when globs of hair gel start drying up, collecting dust and getting sticky on the floor, yes, I get annoyed.

And the fire-escape thing (I should have mentioned this) is sort of a Thing in NYC - it's how a lot of burglars break in since many buildings are connected and you can climb down from the roof. On my block, I could walk the entire length of the block if I wanted, the buildings are all the same height and they're connected. I know two people who it's happened to.

Like I mentioned, I had a really, really, REALLY bad roommate situation a few years ago so I am well aware that it could be much, much worse, which is the biggest reason why I'm torn over this.

Thanks again for your thoughts, I really do appreciate it and they've given me a lot to think about. In related news, yeah. (Youtube, NSFW :)
posted by AlisonM at 10:56 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think throwing her out over a honest mistake like this is way overreacting. And doing so without ever having a sit-down conversation is major-league passive-aggressive overreacting.

Here's a script. "Roommate, I've talked with you before about X Y & Z. Any one of them is not a big deal, but all together they are creating a real problem. The common element in all of these issues is your being absent-minded and inattentive. This latest thing with the gas could actually have been dangerous. I need you to be more mindful and attentive. Specifically, I need you to do A B & C. If this pattern doesn't change, I need to you know that I'm going to ask you to find a different place to live."
posted by ottereroticist at 10:58 AM on November 27, 2012 [27 favorites]


Keep in mind, kicking out a roommate isn't actually all that easy. Once they have moved in, they have rights under the law. For you to evict, them, if my understanding of the law is right, you must provide a 30-day notice. Then you have to actually file a petition with the housing court in your borough to kick somebody out. The housing court will issue an eviction notice, and you must get it to your roommate five to 12 days before the next step -- a court case, in which your roommate is entitled to plead her case. Once the court decides the eviction is fair, your roommate still has about 72 hours to leave before you can call the police. I am sure if I have gotten some of the details wrong, somebody will correct me; it's worth checking with your housing court for the exact procedures.

Not following these procedures makes you potentially liable for criminal charges and triple damages, as I understand it. And, yes, as a roommate, you have to go through this; alternately, you can ask your landlord to do it, but it sounds as though the landlord isn't especially present for this.

Of course, you could just ask your roommate to leave. But you should be aware that they are free to say no -- when you start renting, even a sublease, you have rights under the law. And not being aware of these rights and the law could potentially be a hassle for you. Some part of the equation here might be "Do I consider this a big enough issue to go to court over?"
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:03 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think it would be unreasonable to kick her out over this. Not at all. Without real evidence that she was changing her ways, I'd be scared to live with her.

But. The seriousness of this incident does give you a script for a sit down Come to Jesus talk as ottereroticists suggests. If you think she could improve, then try that first, just because that would be less of a pain than finding a new roommate.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:04 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clarification: gas detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are two different things, but some gadgets combine these two functions, which may be why people are confused.

(My vote: buy a gas detector, charge her for it, and sit her down for a Come-to-Jesus talk, in order among other things to clear the air and avoid the need for further passive-aggression. Then sit back and count your blessings. On the Flake-to-Fusspot spectrum, you are a 6 and your roommate is a 4: this is suboptimal but decent. The blessing you should most appreciate, though, is that gem of a roommate takes criticism gracefully, and keeps your concerns on her radar for as long as a month at a time; hopefully the bathroom thing just requires more explicitness. Also, Corb makes an excellent point re the post-Sandy housing shortage, which would either prolong the 30 day period you dread (if you wait until she can find something reasonable) or make it more than usually unpleasant (if you're kicking her out regardless).)
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:06 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Two tips that kind of relate to your latest post, and that are kind of "to dos" for just before and just after you talk with your roommate:

Learn how to be more assertive and how to negotiate calmly and effectively. Also learn how to figure out what your boundaries & goals re: neatness, accountability, etc., actually are, and how to communicate them. (I suspect you haven't written down exactly how neat things need to be, and what is acceptable and what isn't. Writing this stuff out in advance helps.)

Make it easy to clean. Have a big can of Clorox Wipes (I prefer the lemon scent for the kitchen) on a counter in the kitchen. Have a broom and a dustpan and a Swiffer with wet and dry pads. Get a little hand vacuum thing. Raise her rent by $10/month to cover these costs. If absolutely necessary, add $50 to the monthly rent and get a cleaning service.

BTW, these are good tips for surviving having a roommate in general. Especially a messier-than-you roommate, or one who does aggravating things in general. Written roommate agreements may seem like Freshman Year 101, but they can be darned useful.
posted by SMPA at 11:32 AM on November 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Once they have moved in, they have rights under the law. For you to evict, them, if my understanding of the law is right, you must provide a 30-day notice. Then you have to actually file a petition with the housing court in your borough to kick somebody out. . . .

I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer, I do not practice in New York state, and this is not legal advice. It seems unlikely to me in this situation that would require a formal eviction proceeding. Most of the time, people find a new place.
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:33 AM on November 27, 2012


I am a messy flake. I leave papers piled everywhere. When I was pregnant and subletting a crappy studio apartment, I would lean over the stove to get things out of the cabinet, nudge the burners with my huge belly, and not realize it until I smelled gas later on. This happened at least four times. So I really feel for your roommate, but people who do not clean bathrooms and leave counters dirty are inconsiderate, and you have every right to want a more considerate roommate.

If you want to be nice, then give her the "come to Jesus" talk. If she doesn't shape up, tell her the situation is no longer working for you, and ask her to leave.

For your next roommate, have the apartment in the state of cleanliness you need it to be in, and then explicitly talk about it. I have a strict "messy but not dirty" rule, and I discussed it in great detail when I've interviewed roommates in the past. Papers? Coats? A-okay. Even crumbs. But oil, hair gel, grease everywhere? Not cool. It turns some people off, but it's better that everyone discovers that before we move in together, right?
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:43 AM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm going to go against the crowd here, because this kind of goes beyond mere flakiness and absent-mindedness and is potentially life-threatening. I don't think this kind of behavior can be negotiated with, especially if she has continued to flake out after sincerely apologizing. I believe she is sincerely sorry, but I don't think she really has a lot of control over it, and is unable to see how her behavior affects others.

I would sit down with her and tell her politely that you have thought it through very carefully and you cannot take the risk of an event like that happening again, and you would like her to start looking for a new place and move out within 30 days.
posted by matildaben at 11:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


You may want to buy a gas detector, even though you can't make her pay for half of it.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:47 AM on November 27, 2012


I can't speak to the seriousness of the gas issue, because I don't have experience with gas, but I can speak to your non-confrontational nature and the other issues you are having.

I am also non-confrontational. Nine times out of ten, if I have a problem, I just take care of it, then mention it to the other person. To me, just mentioning it means I have an issue, and if you know me, you get this. If I'm dealing with another adult, generally an effort will be made not to do that thing again. Should I slip up, the same process goes on in the opposite direction, so there is a give and take going on.

But with my kids, as they got older, I realized I wasn't doing them (or me!) any favors with this stance. Just mentioning a problem would often fall on deaf ears. I'd get frustrated with always cleaning up after them in the kitchen (like you, I didn't want to leave a mess and get roaches!), but they were fine with the status quo. It was very one-sided.

When my husband sees my teenager has neglected a chore, though, he'll go find my son, and make him do it right then and there. Yes, it's confrontational. It feels like making a "big deal" about something minor. But I've learned to do this, too, because it's how you keep those minor things from piling up when you are dealing with a child. If it still keeps happening, my son loses privileges, or forfeits his allowance. There are consequences not just for me, but for him.

In your case, you have unwittingly taken on the role of the parent because your roommate is not stepping up and doing her share. Now, she is not actually a child, of course, but since it's clear these issues bother you more than they bother her, she is not motivated to change her behavior, either.

Sit her down. Let her know that the gas was a huge red flag for you. Problematic situations are escalating, and that's not okay. Stress that you feel like this may be because the two of you never really established any House Rules to begin with. Draw those House Rules up with her, defining each person's responsibilities. Start with a regular cleaning schedule, and include wiping down the counters after using the kitchen, closing the window when no one will be home, etc. Set limits to what you will accept (for example, three broken house rules means you terminate her lease).

Expect a period of adjustment, but be firm about not just doing her jobs for her during that time. Force yourself to wait until you can confront her and insist she do the job herself. If that is just impossible--for instance, with the gas situation--assess a fine, added on to her rent, for the inconvenience. Build that into the House Rules; there is no need to ambush anyone here.

Yes, this entire conversation will seem overbearing to you, and you will feel uncomfortable during the process, but if you really want things to change, that's how you make the changes stick.

Otherwise, you are going to have to find a new roommate. And when you do, have the House Rules laid out in advance, to avoid running into this situation again.
posted by misha at 12:24 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


How easy is it for your stove to get turned on accidentally? I lived in a Brooklyn apartment for 5-6 years, when all of a sudden, our stove knobs became easy to bump on accidentally, and it took me forever to realize what was going on. Seriously. It was awful (especially the time the catsitter did it while my roommate and I were away for 4 days, and she thought we had a gas leak and didn't know what to do(!!!), so the apartment filled up with gas for 4 days), but it wasn't anyone's fault (except the idiot catsitter for not checking the stove knobs or calling the gas company). I had even very nice and very careful/considerate roommates do this. Which is not to say that you shouldn't kick her out for general quality of life stuff, just that this may not be the dealbreaker you're looking for.
posted by unknowncommand at 12:35 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Get a carbon monoxide detector, stat. This isn't advice just for you, but for everyone in this thread. It's just a good idea.

Now, to your question: use this stove incident as a catalyst for the conversation you and she need to have about her absent-mindedness. Literally, "hey, I've been meaning to talk to you about your absent-mindedness, but it didn't seem that urgent until the incident with the stove, so I want to talk to you about it now."

Then lay it all out: the stove, the heater, the dishes, the window, the lack of cleaning. Tell her that you really like her, and you appreciate how agreeable she is when you point these out individually, but collectively things aren't getting better, and some of these things are impacting your health and well-being.

Finally, tell her what you want from her: windows closed, thermostat set, stove off, etc. every time she leaves, perhaps; perhaps cleaning certain rooms regularly; perhaps other things. Let her know that you expect these things, because as a roommate she's responsible for the household as much as you are...and then invite her to share her feelings about it.

After she's shared her feelings, perhaps she'll decide to move out, perhaps she'll jump right on board, perhaps you'll agree on a trial period, perhaps she'll call you nasty names, who knows. The important thing is you've communicated your concerns, and what you expect, and you've had the dialog. If it then leads to improvement, great, and if not, you won't be kicking her out without warning.
posted by davejay at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


No. The dirty counters...no. Ugh. Even with that I'd kick someone out (or the heat). I have ADHD and am understanding about forgetfulness, but I won't deal with ruined property, huge gas bills, or non-cleaning roommates.

Forgetting to clean is one thing. Leaving visible mess every time you cook and doing nothing about it is another.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:43 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


All of the "generally flaky" type stuff, like doesn't clean that great, left a window open that one time, left food out once that "could" attract roaches, etc? Not worth kicking someone out over, and completely not germane to the issue of whether you should kick her out over the gas thing. But I'll get back to that.

So, the gas thing. I have to say I'm torn. One the one hand, that is really really bad. And dangerous, obviously. And I've had a roommate do something really dangerous out of negligence that could have easily burnt the place down, killed us all, whatever. It is definitely scary and makes it hard to be comfortable with your living situation.

That said, I would wait to see what she says when you talk to her about it. She might be feeling just as awful about it as you do now, and it sounds like something that was an absolute accident and will probably never happen again. She will probably never allow anything like that to happen again. I mean, I'm assuming that she's a basically sane and functional person and doesn't actively want to burn the house down.

On the other hand, she could be a total dick about it and just be all, "oh. well, whatever. sorry." In which case I'd be tempted to kick her out because that sort of thing doesn't inspire a lot of faith that she cares about others at all or has any desire to not be grossly negligent.

So I would wait it out and see how the conversation about it makes you feel. You don't have to kick her out right the fuck now, and I think taking a cooling off period isn't a bad idea.

OK, back to the issue of her being generally flaky and inconsiderate. I think you should probably write her off as a roommate in the long term. Wait till 60-90 days before her sublease expires and let her know you're going to go in a different direction, roommate-wise. Nothing personal. Because it just doesn't sound like you enjoy living with this woman, and there's a whole city full of people who don't leave windows open or gas jets running.
posted by Sara C. at 1:47 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Once they have moved in, they have rights under the law. For you to evict, them, if my understanding of the law is right, you must provide a 30-day notice. Then you have to actually file a petition with the housing court in your borough to kick somebody out. The housing court will issue an eviction notice, and you must get it to your roommate five to 12 days before the next step -- a court case, in which your roommate is entitled to plead her case.

For what it's worth, in most New York City roommate situations, all it takes is for Roommate A to tell Roommate B "this is not working out, sorry", and Roommate B will find a new place to live.

I've been in a lot of roommate situations and known dozens if not hundreds of people with roommates in NYC over the years, and I've never heard of something like this coming to a legal eviction. The worst I've seen is if Roommates A and B leased the place together and can't agree on who should have to move out. And even then, usually there's just an angry standoff till somebody breaks and moves out.

It would absolutely not be irrational or unusual for AlisonM to ask her roommate to move out within a reasonable amount of time that works out for both parties, if that's what she really feels she needs to do.
posted by Sara C. at 2:00 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, in most New York City roommate situations, all it takes is for Roommate A to tell Roommate B "this is not working out, sorry", and Roommate B will find a new place to live.

This is absolutely untrue, especially when the roommate is on a lease, like in this case.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:06 PM on November 27, 2012


This is absolutely untrue, especially when the roommate is on a lease, like in this case.

You might want to re-read the question, the roommate is not on the lease.


More broadly, OP, I wouldn't kick my roommate out because they did something stupid one time that turned out okay. I would kick them out if they shat me up the wall for being messy flakey bastards who did not take their responsibilities as roommates seriously.

I dunno, maybe I've been lucky with roommates, but if you're selective I've always found that good ones are not especially hard to come by. If everyone is looking for accommodation as mentioned above, sounds like a perfect time to upgrade...
posted by smoke at 2:30 PM on November 27, 2012


What's your flake threshold like? Mine is nonexistent. She's forgetful? That's why Post-It notes were invented (for her use, not yours.) Not cleaning up is bad enough, but leaving the burner on? That is a big deal. Out she goes, before too much time goes by. And in your next quest for a roommate, be specific in your qualifications. You can; you have the power in this situation.
posted by BostonTerrier at 2:35 PM on November 27, 2012


You might want to re-read the question, the roommate is not on the lease.

The roommate has a lease agreement with the person posting the question.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:41 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


And adding to that, it is interesting that the lease agreement allows for terminating the agreement. You can't actually make a lease the supercedes state law, but, with a 30 day warning, that would seem to fulfill the terms of the agreement. Most roommates won't make a fuss. In case this one does, if they choose to terminate the lease, it is still worth checking with the housing court what the next step might be.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:44 PM on November 27, 2012


Just ask your roommate to move out with words.

99% chance she will voluntarily agree to find a new place.

I mean, if you wanna read up on tenant laws, AlisonM, sure, I guess that sounds like an interesting afternoon with google, but there is an extremely strong chance that if you decide to kick your roommate out over this, she will go voluntarily.

You will need to give her a reasonable amount of time to find a new place. With the holidays coming up and the rental situation being rough right now, I'd say give her till February 1 at least.

Aside from that, there is really no reason you need to escalate this to an eviction proceedings type situation unless there's something I'm really not getting, here. It's true that housing law stipulates that people have squatters rights and there are hoops to jump through in order to evict someone without their consent. But really and truly, in a bog standard basic "you don't clean the bathroom" kind of deal, your roommate is going to agree to move. You're not going to need to take this to court.
posted by Sara C. at 2:53 PM on November 27, 2012


Most new gas hobs now come with a Flame Supervision Device (FSD) you could talk to your landlady about getting one, after all she probably has a large financial stake in not having the place burn down.
posted by Lanark at 3:03 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. I would have kicked her out for leaving the fire escape window open. She wouldn't have lasted long enough to leave the gas on.

I say kick her out, but then I have very little tolerance for this kind of carelessness. It's fine if she wants to be careless in her own life, but leaving your apartment open for burglary and leaving the gas on endangers your life. If this is the sort of thing she 'forgets', what else is she 'forgetting'?
posted by Afroblanco at 5:00 PM on November 27, 2012


As someone who's also a bit of a flake - I've left the stove on more than once myself, and forgotten to close the front door, and other things - there might be another factor (psychological) you're not aware of.

If she just refuses to put ANY effort into cleaning, that's one thing which has to stop. If it's just absent-mindedness that's the problem, try and talk to her, and work out something between you first. And cut out the passive aggressive texts and emails, whatever you do - nobody reacts well to those, and if it is some kind of psychological thing, she's already feeling terrible about it.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:05 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ask her to leave because you don't like her.

Ask her to leave because she's a flake about cleaning, if you like.

But you think her flakiness led to her leaving the stove on? Which then got blown out? Accidents happen. This was a freaky one. But it could have happened to you, too. Honestly, I'd be talking to the landlord about getting a stove where there's some sort of safety mechanism so you can't have gas leaks like that, rather than deciding that your roommate is a horrible person because somehow the stove got left on with the pilot light getting blown out. Or whatever.
posted by leahwrenn at 6:22 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Preface: I am a flake. I nearly burned our apartment down once by forgetting to blow out a candle. I have an amazing roommate who forgave me and who I am as nice to as possible in return. I felt a thousand times worse about it than you can imagine. I leave clutter in the common spaces. On the other hand, she never cleans the bathroom.

I have been the flake with a neatnik roommate. It didn't come to blows, but when it was time to renew the lease, we both moved on.

I don't think "kicking her out" is the right turn of phrase here. It's clear you aren't happy in this situation - I think you need to end your roommate agreement. You need to ask her to move out. But you need to phrase it as your problem - *you* aren't comfortable. Your name is on the lease, that's reasonable. Kicking her out at the end of the year is not. Work with her to find a time when you can find a new roommate and she can find a decent apartment. It needs to work for both of you. Nothing you've said makes it sound like she won't be reasonable, even if she's unhappy with the situation.
posted by maryr at 8:03 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's time to have the Come To Jesus talk.

Which goes like this: Roommate, I TOTALLY appreciate that you pay rent on time. I don't think you're a bad person, and I don't want to upset you. I feel like I've tried to be tolerant of different levels of housekeeping and am okay with compromising and not being a fussbudget about it, which is what I've tried to do. But come ON, we've talked about really basic levels of cleaning but there's clumps of dried hair gel in the bathroom, food splattered all over the stove, and grease smeared on the counters. I've talked to you about the very real burglary risk with leaving the window open, but check it out, window is open. And right now, I am FREAKING the FUCK out about you carelessly leaving the gas on because seriously, do you understand that this is how apartments blow up? So, I think that either we need to talk out an agreement about this living space, or alternately, it would be better for you to find someplace more copacetic for you. No hard feelings, I mean it. Tell me what you think, and let's figure this out so that we're both happy and not stressed out with our living situations.
posted by desuetude at 12:11 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anecdotal data point, I know someone like this back in college and they eventually did cause a fire that burnt down half of the apartment complex. There were warning signs like not locking the door, leaving their possessions outside of the house, left car keys in the car, etc. If you're going to let her stay in your apt, make sure you're insured or limited in your liabilities. Our friend and his/her roommates got hit with a huge, huge liability bill.

On the other had, I can be really absent minded, forgetting my keys, etc but never had anything like this.
posted by white_strawberries at 12:51 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Forget about the gas, and the dirty house. Just admit "it's not working for you" and maybe flake is actually palpitating whenever you're around too. There are millions of other people in New York. Surely one of them would be more compatible with you. Wouldn't it be better for both of you?. Be kind when you tell flake it's not working out.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 2:48 AM on November 29, 2012


As someone who is this roommate (like, I actually thought I WAS the subject of this except I didn't get a text an hour ago), please don't kick her out. Finding an apartment in NYC is hell, she's trying, and she pays rent. Furthermore, you haven't given her ANY warning whatsoever that this might be on the horizon. From her perspective, it is going to be 0 to "oh shit now my life has to be eaten by this hellish thing I thought I was done with forever." And that is not a respectful thing to do.

As far as the stove, I can't count the amount of times I've reached for something in an upper cabinet, bumped the heating dial for the stove and never noticed until it was pointed out, because it's not something you check autonomously. I mean, it could be, but you could also be fucking dreaming right now and you don't go around pinching yourself autonomously, right? (And lo, the apartment has not blown up somehow. Funny, that.)
posted by dekathelon at 7:39 AM on November 29, 2012


Also, I think it is probably useful to point out that there are two kinds of people in the world: those for whom little details like this come naturally, and those for whom they don't. I would venture that she is a "don't" and is trying REALLY, REALLY HARD to keep track of everything, more than you know, and yet, from her perspective, she keeps getting dinged over the one little mistake out of 99 non-mistakes.
posted by dekathelon at 7:44 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


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