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What to do now that I've broken furniture in a subleased apartment
January 18, 2013 2:10 AM   Subscribe

Broke a piece of furniture while subleasing. Moved out. Owner is coming back. What to do? I feel bad, but she doesn't even want the furniture.

Sorry this is (unnecessarily) long:

I had to move to a major city short term, so I found someone on craigslist looking for a subletter. It was a pretty sweet deal - I just took over all the payments and she left all her (nearly new) stuff in my apartment for me to use. She was so ansty to get out and move to her home city that she said she'd get everything after the lease ended. The thing is I've moved out already and I broke a drawer attached to her bed frame. The bed frame has these little nightstand drawers attached that stick out on the sides and I broke one of them. I put something too heavy on it and it just kind of collapsed under the weight and the wood cracked and now the drawer sags.

I moved out weeks ago and now she is coming back to the place to get her stuff. I never said anything to her about it before I moved out because I guess I didn't feel like dealing with it. I thought I should tell her and offer to pay but everyone I asked said I could tell her it was an accident but not offer to pay or replace it. She has a new apartment in a new city and doesn't want the bed -- all she's going to do is try to sell all her stuff (bed, TV, couch, table) on craigslist anyway. I wanted to figure out the value of it to determine what would be a fair amount to offer her, but I couldn't find any identifying info about the frame -- it could be something cheap she assembled, or it could be nice. (I honestly can't tell... it's not a luxury frame, but I've bought and assembled worse stuff. If I had to guess, I'd say Target, maybe?) Looked online, could not find a match at my best guess stores. I could offer to send her a check for $100 and leave it at that. I already tried to see if I could fix it, but I couldn't without lifting the whole bed or taking it apart somehow (both not possible).

Now she's going to get back to the apartment and find it today. What should I do? We met through craigslist. She doesn't know where I live now. She has my cell phone number and email. I don't want to be a dick. People tell me it's unreasonable if she expects me to pay for it because that's what happens when people live in an apartment and use the furniture, but I'd probably be mad if someone did that to me and didn't offer to rectify the situation somehow. I just don't want to open myself up to any unreasonable demands. She's been a bit difficult to deal with... wanting me to help sell her TV while I was still living in the apartment... acting surprised that I was moving out in December as we agreed while her lease ended in January... and then thinking it was my problem that she would need to pay for a few weeks the apartment sat empty... bugging me about paying bills, as if I wouldn't pay them... so my experience with her makes me worry I'll offer an inch on the broken bed and she'll demand a yard.

What should I do?
posted by AppleTurnover to Human Relations (26 answers total)
 
I don't want to be a dick. People tell me it's unreasonable if she expects me to pay for it because that's what happens when people live in an apartment and use the furniture, but I'd probably be mad if someone did that to me and didn't offer to rectify the situation somehow.

Send her an email and offer to pay the repair cost for the drawer. You broke it and you should make it right. It's irrelevant whether it was an accident or not (what else would it be?) -- it's your responsibility.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:13 AM on January 18, 2013 [24 favorites]


I never said anything to her about it before I moved out because I guess I didn't feel like dealing with it.

Yeah you're being a dick if you don't try to rectify the situation. None of that other stuff at the end of your question matters - you broke, you buy.
posted by mannequito at 2:22 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


People tell me it's unreasonable if she expects me to pay for it because that's what happens when people live in an apartment and use the furniture

Those people are wrong. The only free pass you get is normal wear and tear. Just as if you'd stained the carpet or punched a hole in a wall, damage (as opposed to normal wear) is your responsibility. But that doesn't mean you have to buy the bed; it means you pay for the cost of repair or the difference between the bed's previous and broken resale values.

Did you give her a security deposit? If you did, then you'll have to work with her to figure out a reasonable amount. You should alert her before she finds it, so she doesn't suspect you of trying to get away with something and feel even less charitable.
posted by jon1270 at 3:32 AM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is it the IKEA Malm bed/nightstand combo by any chance?
posted by payoto at 4:05 AM on January 18, 2013


I moved out weeks ago and now she is coming back to the place to get her stuff. I never said anything to her about it before I moved out because I guess I didn't feel like dealing with it.

Whatever it is you decide to do, the fact that you did this is going to make this fact a tiny bit worse.

Unless there was no way you had to contact her, you should have called her right away (or, first thing in the morning if it was about 3 am or something) and copped to it ("hey, so, this is dumb of me and I feel bad, but here's the thing....") That honesty looks really, really good to landlords (because, technically that's what she is). Your not saying anything at all and letting her come home to find it looks pretty shitty, and is going to make her wonder "wait, what ELSE broke around here that the putz didn't tell me about?"

Call her ASAP. Cop to this. Don't let her just discover it when she comes home, that sucks. Offer to pay for it; if she says "yes, please," work out how to get it to her. There IS a chance that you could get VERY VERY lucky and have her say "eh, don't worry about it, I was getting rid of it anyway" or something.

But the chances of your getting that lucky will go away if you don't tell her what happened. Call her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:12 AM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'd be pretty pissed off if someone broke something and didn't offer to repay me (either with words or $), especially since you didn't contact her when it first happened. For me, it's not even so much about the money as it is about the meaning behind actions (or lack of action in this case).

The best way to rectify this situation is to send her an email saying something like this:

Hi _____,

I forgot to mention this to you while living in your apartment, but I accidentally broke the drawer that's underneath the bed.

Sorry for not telling you sooner. I'd like to rectify the situation by mailing you a gift card for Target, let me know if you're interested.

Best,
AppleTurnover
posted by livinglearning at 4:14 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are being a dick.
Someone of your friends are being one too.
But you're easily curable.
Own up and offer to pay.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:08 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd suggest asking her what she needs to make this right - on the one hand, it's only a drawer; on the other hand, the broken drawer really impacts the value of the whole bed. Can she replace the drawer via the manufacturer? Can a local furniture/contractor guy fix the drawer? (this is probably the best option for price and durability).

Perhaps the lurking subtext of your question is "I am afraid she will ask me to pay for the whole bed and it will be very expensive". If that's what you're worried about, here are two thoughts: 1. "replacement value" is usually considered to be what it would take to buy an equivalent that has been used as much as the original, not the full price of the original. So it would not be legitimate for her to say "you must pay me as much as I would pay in the store, even though I brought this home and slept on it". (For small stuff, people sometimes just buy a new one - who wants to worry about the value of a "nearly new" coffee maker or something?). 2. You can negotiate with her - if she says "you broke my precious, precious designer bed and I want $15,000 for it", you are able to say that this won't work for you. But I doubt she'll say that - someone in that situation would not have sublet her apartment via Craigslist to a stranger.

If she just wants $100 or a Target card or something, that's fine. If she wants a total bed replacement or whatever, I would suggest that you find a local craftsperson who can fix the drawer (or, in a worst-case scenario, build a replacement - people can totally do that!) and offer to cover the cost.

Your friends are wrong that you should not mention it or offer to pay - how would you feel if you lent or rented something and it came back with meaningful damage and the person pretended that nothing had happened? You'd feel angry and you'd talk shit about that person!

But I certainly get that this can be stressful - it will start being less stressful as soon as you resolve to act, though, especially if you bear in mind that you are not going to incur ten zillion dollars in costs or replace her whole bed.
posted by Frowner at 5:18 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Hi, while I was renting your apartment I accidentally broke a drawer on your bed. I'm really sorry, and I would like to make it up to you. What amount do you think would be fair as compensation?" My guess is that $50-100 will be more than enough for her.
posted by Slinga at 5:33 AM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


1. You offer to pay for the furniture you broke.
2. You find new friends. They are giving you advice that indicates that they are not decent folk.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:09 AM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ask her what she wants, if she's unreasonable deal with that. You've spent weeks now stressing out about this, there is no way it would have been worse to just mention it to her. This kind of avoidant behavior is really good to...avoid, if possible. Trying to keep unreasonable people from being unreasonable by hiding things from them really takes a toll on you and it doesn't usually fix the situation.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:09 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do the work of finding a craft repair person and getting an estimate. Don't make her do that or come up with a number. This is on you. Then tell her, hey, sorry, I broke this drawer on your bed, and it will cost $75 to repair and I'd like to write you a check -- that sound ok?
posted by J. Wilson at 6:18 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Regardless of what she plans to do with the item you broke, it is property she left in your care. You broke it and you are right by thinking you ought to mention it and offer to pay for it. She may tell you don't worry about it, but if it were the other way around, you would be disappointed if the person borrowing your things broke one of your things and didn't even mention or apologize for it.

Tell her you broke it, you apologize and if there is something you can do for her.
posted by Yellow at 6:44 AM on January 18, 2013


The one time I sublet my place, my tenant broke a casserole dish and replaced it without asking - on the whole she wasn't even a very good tenant and I don't think either of us especially liked the other, but even she realized that when you break other people's stuff you take responsibility for it.

I hope the unusual unanimity of the answers so far makes it clear that not saying anything about this to her, or not at least offering to throw a little money her way, is really not cool. Your friends are totally in the wrong here, and the fact that she bugged you about paying bills - while definitely annoying - isn't really relevant.

Quit rationalizing and call this woman.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:55 AM on January 18, 2013


I thought I should tell her and offer to pay but everyone I asked said I could tell her it was an accident but not offer to pay or replace it.

What the fuck? Are these people eight years old? When you break something that belongs to someone else you tell them you broke it and you pay to replace it.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:06 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


You pointed out that she's moving and getting rid of all her stuff, and doesn't even plan to keep the bed, as if that makes it okay. However, a broken bed doesn't sell for as much as a non-broken bed, so you've still inconvenienced her.

I hear you saying she's a pain in the neck as a landlady, but a lot of that sounds like she's tight on cash during her relocation and/or disappointed that every step of that process is costing her money, so she's just being anxious, and asking "are you *sure* that (thing that's going to cost me a bit of money) is true?" So something like this bed is going to bother her. You need to start this conversation out on the right foot by contacting her.

"Dear landlady,
(hello, just checking in with you, I'm all moved out, etc)
I forgot to bring it up during my moving out, but I set a box on the nightstand drawer of the bed, and the support wood cracked. I thought about trying to glue it back in place, but wasn't sure that that was what you'd want, so I left it alone.
You're planning on selling the bed on Craigslist, is that right? How much were you hoping to get for it? I know the drawer damage will affect the resale value, but I think it will still sell no problem.
Would you like me to give you $40 or so as a price difference, or would you like me to stop back by the apartment and try to fix it, or would you rather I talked to a repair guy about how much it would cost?
Sorry for the trouble,
AppleTurnover"


Note, sly tips: the wood is "cracked" (the bed is not "broken")
you spin your lack of action as a combination of forgetfulness and respect for her wishes, rather than avoidance and potentially being a big jerk
You mention that she's selling the bed on Craigslist, as a way of pointing out to her that used furniture is not gold.
You give her a couple of options that you're basically comfortable with, reducing the chance that she'll come back screaming like a banshee and demanding something else entirely.
posted by aimedwander at 7:26 AM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


You should have fixed the drawer on your own!! It would have been cheaper and easier, geesh.

Yes she is likely going to be a pain in the ass about this.

Offer her fifty dollars for the broken drawer. Make a boundary silently with yourself that you will send her no more than $100.

When the negotiating is done, send her $100. Write "paid in full" on the check. Move on.

Drawers are incredibly easy to fix or replace. $100 will more than cover her loss.
posted by jbenben at 9:44 AM on January 18, 2013


OK, I am emailing her now. For the record, the not telling her part was my fault. My friends thought I was opening myself up to more liability than necessary by offering to pay for the bed, but they never said to let her discover it. I should've just emailed her + maybe left her cash right in the apartment so it'd be there when she got there.

I found her craigslist listing - she is trying to sell the bed frame + the mattress for $400. She will probably blame me when it doesn't sell, but I've sold stuff in big cities and beds are easily the hardest thing to sell. We'll see how she reacts when she sees it.

Will be back if the situation gets stickier. :)
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:32 AM on January 18, 2013


Screen shot of her Craigslist advert.

$100 for the drawer is more than fair.

Yes. The bed will sell. That's not your problem, anyway.

The bed still works. It's just a drawer.

Send her the check for $100 with the notation Paid in Full and walk away.

That's it.
posted by jbenben at 11:16 AM on January 18, 2013


She wrote me back claiming that the bed didn't sell because people didn't like that it was broken and she was asking $400 so she wants me to give her $200. That's insane. If people didn't like that it was broken, she should've sold it for less. Frankly, I have trouble believing she didn't sell it for lower and think she may be lying. I also found a craigslist listing where she had asked $300 for it. I'm not sure what exactly I say, but there's no way I am giving her $200. Tempted to ignore the email altogether.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:54 PM on January 20, 2013


That's the kind of avoidant behavior that got you here. Tell her you saw her ad and don't appreciate being lied to, and ask her to make a reasonable request based on the actual situation at hand.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Um, my "avoidant behavior" didn't break the bed. Congrats on reading my previous questions and using it to lecture me, "the young rope-rider." I am not going to accuse of her of lying to me - I can't imagine anything worse than escalating bitterness over this stupid bed by insulting her on top of things. Legitimately terrible advice.

Still not sure what to say. If other people have ideas, I was thinking I could simply say $100 is fair -- 25% of her asking price over a drawer is plenty as she should've reduced the price of the bed to sell it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:07 PM on January 20, 2013


Um, my "avoidant behavior" didn't break the bed.

No, but as we've been telling you, your avoidant behavior compounded the problem.

Still not sure what to say. If other people have ideas, I was thinking I could simply say $100 is fair -- 25% of her asking price over a drawer is plenty as she should've reduced the price of the bed to sell it.

What you should say is "I should have told you right away and I apologize - and because I did not tell you right away, I will do as you ask. Here is the money you asked for in full."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Setting aside the behavioral debate...

I don't know about the used furniture market where you are, but here (Pittsburgh), to sell a used bed on CL in 2 days is unlikely at any price higher than 'free,' and to get $400 for one that's not either a fine antique or an upscale designer brand is pretty much never going to happen. Mass-market used furniture depreciates dramatically. So yeah, I agree $200 is nuts. Even $100 seems extremely generous unless it's much nicer furniture than I'm picturing. I wouldn't ignore her email (you do owe her something). I think my reply might be both conciliatory and firm, e.g. "I'm sorry you haven't been able to sell your bed at the price you hoped to get for it, but I do not believe compensation greater than the $100 I offered earlier is warranted. I am sending you a check for that amount. Good luck with your move."

And then, as suggested upthread, I'd send a check with "compensation for damaged bed, paid in full" in the subject line, and leave it at that.
posted by jon1270 at 1:52 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you should just pay the $200 and be done because, frankly, you've been such a brat about the whole thing, and hopefully that will make you feel good, generous, etc.

But if you're going to insist on paying her $100, then tell her that's what you believe is fair and you won't pay more.

For what it's worth, to me the drawer sounds like a really cool function, and without it working my desire to purchase that bed would go way down.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:10 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Please stick to practical advice and cut out the bickering.]
posted by taz at 6:31 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


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