who keeps the apartment after a break-up
November 1, 2011 2:51 PM   Subscribe

A couple living together broke up. Who keeps the apartment?

Asking for a friend:

1. A and B have been dating
2. A has a nice apartment that A loves and has been living in for more than a year
3. Last month, B moved in with A into that apartment.
4. Recently they broke up, due to A not wanting to be with B anymore.
5. They can't live together, and both want to keep the apartment.
6. A is distraught because the apartment means a lot to A.

I know in most situations where a couple lives together, the dumper should move out. But A absolutely loves the apartment. Is it reasonable for A to fight for it? Some details:

7. B has recently been added to the lease
8. All of the furniture is A's.
9. B cannot afford to live there without another person.
10. A is willing to give B plenty of time to find a new place.
11. This break up didn't come as a surprise. A has been honest with B about uncertainties and even qualms about living together, but B was very insistent. This was not an abrupt break up but a culmination of many conversations and doubts they've been having for awhile. I don't think either really initiated the break-up, but the conclusion came during a recent conversation. Though B has been asking to try again, A is standing by that decision.

A admits that A shouldn't have let B move in, but feels both are equally responsible for the situation, whereas B insists that B "never signed up for this when [B] moved in", and it's all A's fault for putting them there.

They are at a standstill. Any advice for them?

(Specifically, is it right for A to insist on keeping the apartment, and how does A make it possible? Granted A feels awful about hurting B, but A is being reasonable about any accommodations, but just wants to keep the apartment due to strong emotional ties. It's possible B also loves the apartment, but it seems this is mostly out of spite. Logistically, it makes little sense because B cannot afford it (B would need to get a roommate) and B would not have any furniture.
posted by lacedcoffee to Human Relations (60 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Given that B only lived there for a month, doesn't have any furniture, can't even afford and only wants it out of spite, it I think it's reasonable that A keeps the apartment.
posted by bleep at 2:54 PM on November 1, 2011 [62 favorites]

Not seeing any reason why B should get the place. At all.
posted by yellowbinder at 2:55 PM on November 1, 2011 [23 favorites]

It's A's apartment filled with A's stuff. B has been living there for less than a month, they probably still have all their boxes. B needs to move out and find their own apartment. A needs to not feel bad about standing firm on that issue.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:56 PM on November 1, 2011 [18 favorites]

posted by Neekee at 2:56 PM on November 1, 2011

The technicalities of the lease aside, A has far, far more than B invested in the apartment. B has absolutely no reason to stay in the apartment and should move out.

It's possible B also loves the apartment, but it seems this is mostly out of spite.

Given that B was the major pusher in living together, and things lasted all of a month in the apartment, what kind of scheme if any is B actually working here?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:57 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

B is trying to dodge a bullet he's already been wounded by.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:57 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Just to be clear, A has been living there for something like twelve months and B has been living there for one month?

It seems like this shouldn't even be a question. Of course A has a nice solid claim to the place.

(B being on the lease worries me, since it basically means A can't kick B out using anything other than the usual tools of civil discourse, and it sounds like those tools are currently ineffective. But A's claim is reasonable and B's is not, regardless.)
posted by SMPA at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

B has absolutely no claim to this apartment. I can't even see why this is an issue.
posted by swingbraid at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

After one month, you don't get noral rights to the apartment. Of course, as A and B are both on the lease, A cannot actually kick B out (or vice versa).
posted by jeather at 2:59 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Exactly how long has B been living there? A should speak with the landlord to see about removing B's name from the lease and give B a certain length of time, during which B has to find an alternate situation and move out. If B fails to do so or refuses to do so, A should seek legal action, although beware the longer B lives there the more squatter rules etc apply. However, IANAL, and A should check local laws etc.

I'm all for being nice, especially if A initiated the break-up and feels bad, but it sounds already like B is not going to go peacefully, and having dealt with a bad live-in break-up situation myself, have A IMMEDIATELY find out their rights and start whatever processes they need to.
posted by krakenattack at 3:01 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I know in most situations where a couple lives together, the dumper should move out.

I think this applies when the couple moved into the apartment together. But the fact that A has lived there much longer than B breaks the symmetry.

(Now if this happened, say, five years from now, so A had lived there for six years and B had lived there for five years and one month, then maybe this wouldn't be true. But at this early date, I think A's seniority as a tenant trumps A being the dumper.)
posted by madcaptenor at 3:02 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, I think a major factor is that A feels terrible about putting B through this. And the situation can boil down to A breaking up with B (though it's more complicated than that) most people (granted, mostly B's friends) would say A put B in a tough spot and should move out. A just feels like a terrible person, but I think this is due to A's compassion and it's good to know that she's not being unreasonable for fighting for the apartment.
posted by lacedcoffee at 3:03 PM on November 1, 2011

Oh right--the lease. Still, after one month B should just plan to move without fuss since the relationship is over.
posted by swingbraid at 3:03 PM on November 1, 2011

Yes, I think a major factor is that A feels terrible about putting B through this.

Feeling bad about something is not a good reason to be a sucker.
posted by mhoye at 3:04 PM on November 1, 2011 [24 favorites]

B put him/herself in the tough spot. A allowed it to happen, but B is certainly not the victim here, and even the instigator in moving in with A. B is being unreasonable. A should stay in the apartment, and because B is now on the lease, A should work to figure out exactly how to get B out if B will not be reasonable.
posted by aabbbiee at 3:07 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

about the lease, as long as A is willing to pay the entire rent (of course), the leasing company should have no problem removing B from the lease.
posted by Neekee at 3:11 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's a story problem!

Train A arrived at apartment city at one year ago o'clock traveling at (presumably) a reasonable speed. Train B railroaded A into allowing Train B to arrive at the station at one month ago o'clock, traveling (it would seem) way the hell too fast. At what time should Train B move out of Train A's domain?

A) Now

B) Now

C) Now

D) All of the above.

yeah, and also, this: A has been honest with B about uncertainties and even qualms about living together, but B was very insistent
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:13 PM on November 1, 2011 [13 favorites]

Just wanted to add that B will come to regret keeping the apartment out of spite if B manages to to convince A to give it up. B is distraught and not thinking straight. The apartment is going to become a reminder of the failed relationship. It will be baggage and keep them from being able to move on and make a clean break. Since A has been living there a long time, B probably associates the apartment with memories of A. When A moves out, B will be left with the empty apartment--feeling abandoned, instead of feeling like they have a new start somewhere else. B will be getting random mail meant for A for months. When my relationship ended, neither of us wanted the apartment. I opted to keep it and the shared belongings he no longer wanted. It was painful having all those reminders of us around. I think I would have gotten over the relationship sooner if I had moved out.

It would be kinder to B to prevent them from keeping the apartment.
posted by millions of peaches at 3:14 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

A breaking up with B (though it's more complicated than that) most people (granted, mostly B's friends) would say A put B in a tough spot and should move out.

A has been honest with B about uncertainties and even qualms about living together, but B was very insistent.

B is a pushy creep who gets what B wants by browbeating, berating and insisting until B's opponents give in out of exhaustion. B should be given no quarter here UNLESS it would be faster to get B out of A's life if A moved out. But I suspect that if A moves out, B will petition A for rent for months because it is so hard to find a roommate, and that this will continue ad infinitum. Focus on getting B gone in whatever way is necessary.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:15 PM on November 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

It was A's apartment before, it was A's apartment during, it is A's apartment after.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:23 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

If A feels that bad, A can give B some funds to cover the considerable fees associated with moving. Perhaps A can offer to pay for the security deposit, or for movers to come and deal with the stuff. But there is zero reason for A to leave this apartment.
posted by barnone at 3:29 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Even though by all rights the apartment should be A's, it's going to boil down to the legal issues if they both want it and B won't back down. As MoonOrb said, legally B has just as much right to stay as A at this point. A should probably talk to a lawyer/the landlord to see if there is a way to force B out if B refuses to go/act reasonably.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:32 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sure that from B's perspective this would be quite different, and I do think it's a bit of an asshole move to have someone go through the trouble and expense of moving if you think you're going to break up with them--they could easily (and reasonably) see it as a sign that your relationship is more committed, or definitely improving. Especially since A can't decide in the question whether A was the dumper, or it was a mutual decision. The whole thing is murky as hell.

The kind thing to do would be to leave, despite the "connection", but it's not the kind thing because B can't afford it, so...no matter what this is going to suck for B. I can't lie and say that it won't.

Of course, breakups often suck no matter what you do.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:32 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Additionally, if all the furniture is A's, that means that B will have to completely refurnish the next apartment...if B left furniture behind elsewhere or got rid of furniture to move in, then I agree that some financial or practical help is necessary to ease the guilt.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:35 PM on November 1, 2011

... most people (granted, mostly B's friends) would say A put B in a tough spot and should move out.

Ha ha, no. It sounds to me that B friends are looking forward to having fun in the apartment.

Finding and furnishing an apartment is hard work. A did both, so A should stay there.
posted by clearlydemon at 3:39 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Financial help!? Holy mackeral, that's guilt gelt. All's fair in love and real estate, especially if they are in Manhattan.
posted by thinkpiece at 3:39 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If one person's name is on the lease: that person.

If both people's names are on the lease: the person who lived there first.

It's really straightforward. However, since the person who is breaking things off is also the person who is keeping the apartment (in this case), the person keeping the apartment needs to acknowledge that this should be treated as a roommate leaving situation (ie give them time to find their own place), rather than a simple breakup (and the other person has to disappear now.)

Oh, and no on the financial help. You place your bets and take your chances. Presumably B saved on rent living with A, so now they can go back to being in the same situation they were in before, having saved that money. Time help (being patient about them finding their own place) and being a good rental reference, those should definitely happen, though.
posted by davejay at 3:52 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, yeah, the legal issue: if A can't make B leave, B certainly can't make A leave either, and since A can afford the place and B cannot, A should reach out to the landlord and let them know they're keen on signing a new A-only lease when the time comes. Since B will have to get a roommate and A will not, the landlord will likely prefer A.

and it sounds like there's a small chance that B was so insistent about the lease and moving in because B was already thinking about taking over the apartment.
posted by davejay at 3:55 PM on November 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

B should make every effort to move out as soon as possible. A should be as pleasant as possible for up to a month. After that month, though B may still have a legal right, B has lost any sort of 'moral' hold. Person A doing anything for B above the polite behavior that should be a given between ex's is above and beyond.

And Person B having any expectation is, quite honestly, a huge red flag that should be telling Person A that a huge ass bullet has been dodged in dealing with this person for any longer than has already happened. Lucky stars should be thanked.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:56 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

It doesn't sound too likely the landlord will revise or renew the lease under B's name. You certainly can't move out and leave your name on a lease. B needs to look for new digs.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:56 PM on November 1, 2011

A stays, helps with the costs of moving B out
posted by inturnaround at 4:07 PM on November 1, 2011

As many have said here, it is A's apartment. B should go, it's the right thing to do. Did B contribute to the security deposit when B's name was added to the lease? Give B a check and have the landlord write a new lease. Tell B that you are willing to help B pack stuff up by xx/xx date and say goodbye.
posted by Yellow at 4:10 PM on November 1, 2011

A did put B in a tough spot and therefore should foot the cost for movers and maybe a couple other related expenses.
posted by whoaali at 4:11 PM on November 1, 2011

Oh, as for the guilt, A didn't put a gun to B's head to move in so don't A go feeling guilty.
posted by Yellow at 4:15 PM on November 1, 2011

A has been honest with B about uncertainties and even qualms about living together, but B was very insistent

As he is now with the apartment. A needs to learn not to give in so easily. The apartment is a good place to begin.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:20 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't see even one person saying B should get the place but just in case--one more vote for A. If A was there first, and potentially 12x as long as B, then A gets the place. Having been in the same spot as A, with a legit insane exboyfriend, though, I found the easier thing to do was to just find my own place. For me it boiled down to being right v. being happy.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:21 PM on November 1, 2011

Yeah, as someone who was once in B's shoes (though I lived in the apartment longer, and originally we were both supposed to move), I'd say at least help pay moving expenses, especially if B paid for the first move / gave up furniture, etc. People can be all tough-guy and "all's fair" but I lost a ton of money and it was shitty and sad and it would be decent to help.
posted by dame at 4:34 PM on November 1, 2011

A should be very careful, especially if thi is Manhattan. I too think B is scheming, or just being spiteful, or both.

This answer is so obvious, B sounds at the very least willfully obtuse about The Right Thing to do here.

If friends are playing that big a part in this break up, I hope the social pressure on B helps them learn a lesson. The lesson being that sometimes you win more by "losing."

I'm not convinced at all A owes B moving costs. That depends on circumstances not cited in the ask, like if B gave away or sold furniture, put in towards the deposit, etc. etc.
posted by jbenben at 4:52 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agree with everyone else (A).
I have found myself in B's situation a couple of times (give or take a few months) and never did expect my A's to move out of their apartment. I also never expected reimbursement or financial help. I did receive some moving help, though.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:59 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by holgate at 5:01 PM on November 1, 2011

I'm advocating for A because A lived there longer. By a significant length of time. Period.

Is B on the lease as an occupant or a tenant? If as an occupant, the rental responsibility is with A and A should keep the apartment by notifying the landlord that the situation has changed. If as a tenant, it's more complicated. I'm not sure how the landlord could force B out if B is paying rent. The same applies to A, really. But the landlord would doubtless prefer to keep A as a known tenant than gamble with B + roommate.

A doesn't owe B any length of time beyond a month or two to find a new place, and unless B gave up something when moving in with A (money, furniture, etc), A doesn't owe B money. If A wants to kick something in to be nice or to hurry things along, that's fine.
posted by sm1tten at 5:02 PM on November 1, 2011

There's what's right and then there's reality.

The reality is that A has been a pushover. B is willing to push and has a track record of winning.

So the gets the apartment? Whoever is willing to fight for it. That should be A's que to find a lawyer and quit being nice about all this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:59 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

It seems crystal clear from your story that A ought to keep the apartment. However, I can't help but feel that your telling of the story is influenced, by some degree at least, by your friendship with A. I don't think you're deliberately trying to direct us towards sympathy with A, but your account does seem to convey A's point of view much more persuasively and sympathetically, and I do wonder if B's version of this story would shed a different light. So, as it stands, though your account sways me to side with A, I am sceptical of my own response.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:52 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

They both get to keep the apartment. It is B's home, and A doesn't get to kick B out just because you broke up. Likewise, B doesn't get to kick A out just because A was the "dumper."
posted by grouse at 7:29 PM on November 1, 2011

Well, A has the better moral claim to the apartment. But if they're both on the lease, they both have the exact same legal claim on the apartment, and neither one can kick the other out. So, considering that B seems unwilling to move out, A should rent The War of the Roses and then decide whether or not keeping an apartment is really worth the nightmare that's about to happen if they both stay in the apartment for an extended period of time.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:19 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, seems there's a pretty clear consensus. Thanks everyone, this at least makes the moral dilemma a bit easier, but yes, it appears to be an uphill battle to get B out by talking reasonably (and I'm not sure if A will be willing to get the landlord or lawyer involved).
posted by lacedcoffee at 8:46 PM on November 1, 2011

Landlord is a baaaaad idea. Everyone will look bad, and the Landlord is powerless via the signed lease. Lawyer is not helpful because they both have legal claim.

I hope B calms down after a few days and sees reason. What a shitty shitty shameful way for B to behave.

Tell B I said so.
posted by jbenben at 9:22 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Point 11 is really the crux. I mean come on, surely B didn't have to be on the lease right away. What's the story there?
posted by rhizome at 9:35 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think A should try for about a month to get B to leave the apartment, willingly. but if B won't go, i think A should try to leave. Because A is allowing B and their own attachment to the apartment to hold them hostage, and is trying to control B's behavior.

It is terrible for A, but A allowed B to sign on the lease. A probably has no legal standing to get B to move. There is also probably a question if the landlord would let A off of the lease. From the landlord's perspective, why let A off the hook, particularly if they find out that B can't pay. Hopefully A, being a great tenant, has a good relationship with their landlord, who will let them take one of them off the lease.

But as it stands now, B has no reason to get themselves off the lease, because they can afford to live there, because A is responsible as a co signator, whether they live there or not. Legally A probably has no greater right to it, though decent-person-wize they might. But it doesn't sound as if B is trying to be decent right now.
posted by anitanita at 9:45 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

A should leave and chock it up to a life-lesson. Is it fair? No. But does A want to be tied to B for the duration of the lease or move out, move on, and get happy?
posted by 6550 at 1:21 AM on November 2, 2011

I think B should move their A out of the apartment.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:25 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think the problem here is that at no point did A stop thinking of it as her apartment, which is tricky when you live with someone. As soon as you put someone else's name on the lease, it stops being your apartment.

I'm not sure we can really speculate about B's motivations (the spite comment is rampant hearsay) but if we can, I suspect this is a clash of expectations. A was running this as a test case, given misgivings about the relationship, with an expectation if it didn't work B moved out. B believed the clock reset as it was now their apartment (as per the lease). So equal claim.

I tend to agree with A, but I'd recommend next time they communicate their expectations more clearly and not have someone move in because they insist. And then actually commit to living together. Given all of this, I'm not sure A will be assertive enough to get B out. Which increases the drama and gets everyone's friends involved.

Has this happened to A before? Do other people fight her battles a lot?
posted by eyeofthetiger at 3:41 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think B should move out, but if B is refusing to move out, then I think A should move out as soon as possible to get peace of mind. It seems to me that B is refusing to go as a way to hold onto the relationship.
posted by emd3737 at 4:53 AM on November 2, 2011

Agreeing that A should get the apartment but...
B is probably using it as a bargaining chip with the hopes of salvaging the relationship. If A pretends to no longer care about the apartment and to let B have it just to be away from B, B will quickly realize that:

(1) that A really wants out of the relationship and that the apartment can't be used as a bargaining chip anymore and
(2) that B can't afford it on B's own and will have to get furniture and a new roommate if B really wants to stay there for reasons beyond B's relationship with A.

Chances are, B will lose interest in staying at that point and A will end up with the apartment (assuming A's acting skills are spot on and B is really convinced that A wants to be rid of B and the apartment).

One wrinkle is that even if A (or B) leaves, they are both on the lease and the landlord may not release the leaving tenant from the obligation of paying for the apartment. B might realize this fact and know that A may be legally obligated to pay rent on the apartment regardless of whether A lives there or not. I would usually say don't get the landlord involved, but I don't see any way not to at this point.
posted by murrey at 5:57 AM on November 2, 2011

I think both a and b need to stop blaming each other and realize that moving in together (without an agreement about the apartment in advance) was a very stupid decision for which they are mutually to blame. This mutual decision led to their mutual dilemma: custody of the apartment. The fairest outcome I can see is objective, drawing straws or something.
posted by yarly at 6:49 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

And also ... I think that A needs to stop thinking that his/her emotional claims ("A loves the apartment and has lived there longer") are somehow superior to B's. B may love the apartment too, and the incovenience and upheaval B would be caused by moving are just as meaningful as A's emotional motives. Seen from another perspective, B's emotional claims are actually stronger -- being forced to move twice in two months, after just being dumped, is tough. Likewise, A is also self-servingly exaggerating the reasons why it "doesn't make sense" for B to stay. B has to get a roommate and furniture? So what? That would be a perfectly valid choice for B to make. It may certainly be easier to get a roommate and a couch from Ikea than to move into a whole new apartment -- and B will have to get furniture in any event.
posted by yarly at 7:34 AM on November 2, 2011

A, definitely.

B "never signed up for this when [B] moved in", and it's all A's fault for putting them there.

The hell? What, is B a lamp? That's just silly.
posted by pepper bird at 12:47 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

"B was very insistent" about moving in. Chew on that a sec.
posted by rhizome at 1:23 PM on November 2, 2011

Is B holding on to the apartment or to A? In this situation, I wonder if A is being clear about intentions or if A perhaps is being "nice" and inadvertently giving B hope. Such things as the ongoing discussions about the relationship and giving B as much time as B needs, etc.

If A is done, than A is done and B should go quietly into the night. If A sticks to the decision and refuses to further engage, asking B to leave immediately and B makes a fuss, B is entitled to stay by the terms and conditions of the lease. Thus A is obliged to depart and A will certainly think twice about hopping into legal bed again.

Perhaps there is something deeper to this, that B gave up whatever the previous place of home and sense of security was for the promise of a relationship with A. Now that hasn't worked out and A is trying very gently to return to A's former life whilst B is in a relatively shit situation.

A sounds like A makes hurried and impulsive decisions without fully thinking through the potential impact on other people... and A themselves.

If A wanted a roadmap:

1) Stop being nice and confront B that the relationship is over and B needs to make other arrangements immediately.

2) If B resists, A should be empathetic toward B and apologise for fucking B's life up and offer some kind of assistance to B in relocating, be that financial or some other form of support. Perhaps another way of saying it is that whilst A needs to be firm in the decision to end the relationship, their shared life ends when B is sorted out in a satisfactory manner.

3) If B persists in claiming rights to the apartment, A will have to leave as there is no legal standing for A to remove B. (Fortunately, A, people usually only make these kinds of mistakes once...)

4) A and B should both grow up and stop being such tossers.
posted by nickrussell at 7:13 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

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