Dealing with a passive aggressive landlord.
February 7, 2012 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend. She currently lives with 3 other people in a single family household in the Boston area. Recently her landlord/roommate sent the entire household a very passive agressive email and she'd like some opinions on how to deal with it.

Here's her question:

So I currently live with 3 people - we're all around the same age group (early-mid 20s). One of the roommates is the landlord (let's call her Pam) and owns the small house we live in. The other roommate is the landlord's boyfriend (Tom). The third roommate (Anne) is just like me - a random craigslist find. The house is small - we see each other daily, all of the bedrooms are upstairs and within a step of each other.

The house is clean and tidy. Anne and I keep to ourselves mostly, we don't own anything that is outside of our rooms. We are allowed to use the kitchen, use the living room, etc, like any normal living situation. When I say the house is clean, I mean, it's EXTREMELY clean if you compare it to most other people our age group who live with roommates. Dishes get done promptly (you know, within reason after completing a meal), but every once in a while a dish or two will sit overnight, we had a cleaning schedule that worked fairly well up until Tom moved in, no trash left anywhere, everything has its place, etc.

Tom recently moved in - so a new cleaning schedule was put up on the fridge door. I'm not even sure if Tom is paying rent or not, to be honest. At first Pam told me she was going to decrease the rent because he was moving in, but then because property taxes went up she didn't.

Then, yesterday (a day after the new cleaning schedule was put up), this email was sent to the entire household. I already find the idea of sending out emails when we sleep a step away from each other a little annoying, but oh well - but this time, the email has made me feel very akward and unwelcome. I would appreciate input from you guys on how to reply and deal with this situation. Here it is:


I wanted to share a couple of updates and reminders for the house [HOUSE ADDRESS].

First, a new weekly cleaning schedule has been posted. A few reminders regarding weekly cleaning:

Weekly chores should be completed by Sunday evening. To avoid confusion around who's responsible for what chores each week, there will be no extensions into the following week. When your chores are completed, please mark the date next to your name. Any assignments not completed by Sunday evening will be assumed to not have been completed for the week, and will be noted as such to avoid confusion around weekly assignments.
Although there are formal chore assignments each week, we all have a shared responsibility to keep shared areas and facilities clean and usable by other members of the house. This means that everyone should be helping with the following:
Taking out the kitchen and bathroom trash bags when they're full (and then putting in new trash bags)
Promptly washing your own dishes and prompty clearing pots / pans / food items from the stove area and counters after use
Rinsing dishes thoroughly before putting them into the dishwasher (the dishwasher will not clean off dried, crusty food if dishes go unrinsed)
Emptying the dishwasher once dishes have been cleaned (note that Anne and me handwash our dishes after use, so we should not be clearing dishes as frequently as those using the dishwasher on a regular basis)
Avoiding use of outside shoes in carpeted areas (e.g., bathroom rugs, upstairs carpet) so we keep these areas free from outside dirt / moisture, etc.)
A new addition to the weekly cleaning schedule is the "Last TP / PT Purchases" (Read: Last toilet paper / paper towel purchase). To avoid confusion (and so we don't end up going 2 weeks without paper towels), please capture your name and the date of your TP / PT purchases. If your name hasn't appeared recently on the list, it's probably a sign that it's your turn to next contribute to the TP / PT stockpile.

That's all for cleaning and house upkeep. A couple of other general house reminders:

Any requests for adjustments to systems / facilities that impact all house residents (e.g., heating / room temperature, hot water temperature, etc.) should be directed to me. This will help ensure everyone's needs, rather than solely an individual's preferences, are being taken into consideration.
Any activity that is illegal under local, state, and /or federal law (this includes use of drugs and other illegal substances) in the house and / or on the premises / property of [HOUSE ADDRESS] is not sanctioned. Any legal actions or consequences resulting from illegal activity by a resident that becomes noticed / reported by members of the community, or otherwise known to local, state, or other authorities, are the sole legal responsibility of the individual conducting illegal activities.
That's all from my end. Any questions, suggestions, etc. at all can be directed my way (in person, or via e-mail / phone / text).


This seems extremely passive aggressive to me. "Residents" - um, ok? I mean in the past the emails just started with "Hey guys!". And seriously, we're all the same age group - and sometimes we even hang out / drink together. Then, she goes on to talk about the dishes - which I think is insane. Is she going to be so petty about how often someone clears out the dishwasher? How many dishes I put in the dishwasher versus how many she does? In that case, I should not have to clean the dining or living room - since I NEVER use them. Did I mention that our sink is dish free for 95% of the day? Everybody does a really good job of cleaning up. I'm not sure why she thinks it's a problem. Additionally - she talks about "facilities" towards the end. She is hinting at a situation that happened recently - I was using an electric heater in my room and shut off the gas heating to my room. The electric bill went up so they asked me not to use the electric heater - fine, no problem - I stopped using it immediately and haven't touched it since. But they (Tom and Pam) also told me not to touch the heating control under any circumstance, since Pam manages it. However, my room is MUCH colder than the rest of the house, so I usually come home to a freezing room and am not allowed to use my electric heater. So there have been a few instances (maybe 3?) where I came home and turned up the heat in the house by 2 degrees without asking for permission first. They never said anything to me about that, so I assumed those few instances weren't a big deal - but I guess they are.

The other thing is - come on. Is she going to punish me if I don't do my chores? The way she phrases it makes it sound like it. First of all, we're all grown ups. If you see that something's dirty, just clean it up. Sometimes we're all in a hurry and don't get things done until a few hours later. And there's nothing in my lease about doing chores - but I'm a decent and sane human being, so of course I'll contribute. But the way she phrases is makes it sound like I am breaking the law or something by not cleaning the house 24/7.

Speaking of which - the last paragraph in that email was directed towards Anne who smokes pot on a fairly consistent basis. Obviously I think that Pam should take Anne aside and talk to her in private about it and not put Anne on the spot like that in front of everyone else. But I guess she wants to let everyone know not to do that.

Finally, I want to add that our roof leaks. It started with some windows that were leaking. Then, in december, the roof and window in Anne's room leaked too - onto her bed as well. The next day it happened to me and I had to sleep on the floor that night since the roof was leaking onto my pillow. A few weeks later it rained again and the bathroom floor was soaked when I got there in the morning - there was a huge area of the roof that was leaking in the bathroom. Pam has done nothing about this roof leak - she hasn't expressed that she plans on doing anything about it either. She just said "oh, wow, that's not good". No, it is not good. She has an inspector come and he told her why the roof is leaking, but she has not done anything about it since then.

So yes - at this point I'm extremely irritated, I feel unwelcome in the house, I don't want to be there at all. I will be moving out in June, but until then, I have to deal with this. And now I'm wondering - how can I express to her nicely and reasonably how I find this email petty, annoying, unfriendly - and explain to her that we are all adults and there's a better way to deal with these "issues". My initial reaction was to hit reply to that email and tell her that there are better ways to phrase things - that she is making and promoting an unfriendly environment in the house, and that she should fix the goddamn roof before counting how many dishes I put in the dishwasher and how many times I've emptied it (needless to say I usually am the one to put dishes away).

Hopefully I explained everything well enough but I'd be happy to clarify on anything that might be confusing. How would you reply to this email and not cause more drama?
posted by thekiltedwonder to Human Relations (52 answers total)
Golden rule. You've expressed your irritation and humiliation at receiving this and you are very clear about how you think she should have handled it instead. Treat her as you've expressly stated you would like to be treated- speak to her directly as an adult.
posted by fshgrl at 10:24 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are leaving in 4 months -- expressing your (justified) irritation at the email will likely make those 4 months more contentious. Hardly seems worth it to me.
posted by murrey at 10:25 AM on February 7, 2012

To be honest, I don't think there's a way of convincing her that she is being petty and unreasonable.

I'd suggest emailing back with 'Thanks for the note'. It has the benefit of being polite, yet not actually agreeing to anything she said, nor causing drama by not replying.

As for the heating, you could react by using the common areas, stating that it's too cold to sit in your room. And, so making it a problem for her that you don't have any heating.
posted by plonkee at 10:26 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think that email is pretty straight forward. Relationships are always going to be a bit more formal between a landlord and tenant than between two tenant roommates - and I think formal can be a good way to deal with things professionally. I could see myself using email or a written note in this situation so as to make sure that I a) didn't forget anything, and had b) clearly communicated what I needed to say to all of the people. I would ignore anything about how some people should be unloading the dishes more, etc, it's just not important.

That said, if the roof leaks and your friend's room is too cold, these are really serious. I would answer the email something like this:

"Thanks for your email, Pam. I should let you know that my room is currently too cold for me. I'm currently not using the electric heater because it costs too much; can you please turn up the heat? Also, the roof leak is getting very serious and the rain was even dripping on my pillow. Obviously this is something that needs to be dealt with immediately, so if there is anything I can do to help you fix it asap please let me know."
posted by jb at 10:28 AM on February 7, 2012 [27 favorites]

I'd stop e-mailing. Pull Pam aside in person and talk through your actual real world problems such as the heater and the roof and ignore the overall weird sudden tone shift of the e-mail. Do as much of the note-taking as you feel is justified to cover your own ass. And post the in person conversation write her a follow-up e-mail that says hey just confirming that what we talked about was X. That way if things get weird you have proof that she knows about the issues, but you've brought the conversation back to the real world.
posted by edbles at 10:32 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would respond with a comment that the tone of the email came off a little harsh and you think that to avoid confusion it would be best if the entire household get together for a face to face discussion of the issues and the reason behind the requests.. a reasonable and fair distribution of household chores based on each tennant's use of the facilities. I would also bring up, publicly in the email, household repairs (the leaks) and state that you would like to address the temperature of your room and discuss with the household how you can be comfortable without the rest of the household being too warm.

For instance, if you turn off the gas to your room, perhaps your portion of the gas bill should be reduced to compensate for an increase in your share of electricity for running a heater or similar. And while on the matter of increased payments, whatever happened to the decrease that was promised due to Tom's moving in.


but I would make it clear that the purpose of the email is to lay out the issues which you feel should be discussed in a household meeting
posted by myShanon at 10:34 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Did she send it to her bf too? Perhaps she's trying to lay ground rules for him as well.

As far as the e-mail, I would be put off by her tone (because she is combining landlord-tenant relations and issues with roommate-roommate issues). But I think you just need to suck it up. Being right is not worth 4 months of hell.

You should address the issues you have (heat and leaking roof) and ask they be handled. She is being a demanding landlord -- you can be a demanding tenant.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

The reason she might be doing this via email is to create a solid record of various updates/policies to cover herself in the even she needs to ask someone to leave. I wouldn't say anything, it's just 'business' even if it comes across as passive-aggressive.
posted by marimeko at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

posted by marimeko at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2012

as the landlord it is *her* responsibilty to maintain the household repairs. If you offer to help that gives her the opportunity to demand money or claim that she needs to increase your rent to meet the costs of fixing the roof.
posted by myShanon at 10:39 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

You're out in June? I'd email back, "OK!" and leave it at that. Who cares?
posted by thinkpiece at 10:40 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yup, she's documenting, and I think given that she sees the need to do that in the first place, you should respond accordingly. Reply with "Hi Pam, thanks for the note about the house. I have seen the new chore schedule and it looks fine. Also, I was wondering when the roof leaks will get fixed. As you know, the roof has been leaking since [date] and I am concerned about damage to my property if it continues to leak. Thanks, OP."

Then if she doesn't fix the roof soon, she doesn't have anything on you, you have it in writing that she has been negligent as a landlord, and it will be a bargaining tool at your disposal if she tries anything funny with the security deposit in June.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:43 AM on February 7, 2012 [35 favorites]

I wouldn't bother with answering the email. Also, the entire idea of signing your name after completing a "chore" is totally ridiculous. Just keep your end of the bargain, and let her spin her wheels enforcing the inane details.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:43 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I guess this is kind of odd but the thing that bothers me most about the email was that whole thing about the chores. She made such a huge deal of it, and it's driving me crazy. There's a list on our fridge of chores and I have to mark the date next to my name of when I completed that chore, and write the date of the last time I bought toilet paper. It's as if I'm back in kindergarten. It really, really bothers me - and it makes me not want to be there. It doesn't promote a sense of community/friendly living environment - it's like a job now. I don't know why it bothers me so much. I just think that being petty about the dishwasher means that I might as well just tell her "since I don't ever go into the living room or dining room, I shouldn't have to clean that area, as you aren't going to clear out the dishwasher".

The roof leak - well technically that's illegal according to MA law - but I doubt she's going to fix it (she needs a new roof). And since it hasn't been that rainy here lately, I can only really point to the 3-4 times it has happened, and she doesn't care. She'll probably just say to let her know the next time it happens. And the heat thing - well, it doesn't bother me that much that she keeps the house colder - it's just that it obviously REALLY bothers her if I even think about touching the thermometer and I am NOT ALLOWED to touch it. Seriously? Yes, we've had a warm winter, but there have been days in the 20s here recently.

Yes - I'm out in 4 months but in the mean time I am going insane and I tend to take things personally. So right now, I will basically hate every minute of being at home for 4 months and will replay that email in my head over and over again - which is not fun. It makes me resent her and her boyfriend.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 10:44 AM on February 7, 2012

lame "this is official!" passive agressive email is lame, reply with "Thanks for the update!!!" or whatever and ignore it.

If you have other issues re heat and leaks, address it in person and send a quick email as a followup if you don't see any changes after about a week.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:51 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

So what would your ideal chore breakdown / tracking method be? Or do you just object to doing so at all? I ask not to be snarky, but as someone who (back in the day) had roomies who didn't do much around the house, I always found some kind of explicit chore arrangement (even if it was 'we hire someone to come in every two weeks) to make things a lot easier.

I think edbles suggestion is sensible - go talk to her in person, ignore the weird tone. Hash out issue that need hashing out, then reply to the email with a summary of topics discussed and agreements reached.

Don't just let this simmer, or you will stew and stew and hate every minute of the next four months, when the attempt to sit down as a house and talk stuff out could smooth stuff out. She might just have gone overboard trying to be formal, and it's not good manners to just try and impose a chore thing from on high, but if she's been frustrated by how stuff's been kept up (running out of TP can really suck) I can see where it might be coming from.

"Hey, Pam, saw your email, why don't we have a meeting about this, so we can go through stuff and make sure we're on the same page?"
posted by canine epigram at 10:56 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

You say that it is miserable in the house NOW, so there is no need NOT to tell her about who insane this list of chores if, because it is already bad.

I would abstain from doing any of the marking off of the list. I highly doubt those responsibilities are laid out in the lease contract.

I would tell her to butt out and live by herself if she can't handle having roommates.
posted by LeanGreen at 10:56 AM on February 7, 2012

I am always so tempted to kill passive-aggressiveness with 'kindness.' Like, I would go out and buy 100 rolls of TP and PT. "Oh, I had a coupon and I thought we were having problems keeping them stocked!"

But rationally, I agree that you shouldn't just let the email stew. Your points seem to be (1) you don't want to check off your chores, (2) the heat is too low, and (3) you have a leak. So just tell her this! "I want to do my share of chores, I appreciate the chore chart, but I will not be checking chores off. My room is freezing - please get the heat checked or allow me to use an electric heater. I expect the roof leak to be fixed within a month."
posted by muddgirl at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2012 [12 favorites]

"OK, let's make a deal. I'll do all the other stuff you want-- and ignore that we didn't get the promised rent decrease-- if you give me a warm bedroom. Whether that includes running the electric heater or whatever." Being comfortable will do wonders for your ability to put up with inconsequential bullshit. By laying all that out on paper, she really opens the door for you to make requests of your own.
posted by BibiRose at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't even bother signing or checking my name next to anything on that chore list. I'd still do the chores and buy things when needed but this isn't kindergarten like you said. You're out in 4 months, so just do what you need to do to keep things fair/civil but no more.
posted by hellomina at 11:05 AM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Tell your friend:

It doesn't read as passive/aggressive to me, but as a business/managing thing, maybe more in regard to the pot smoker.

I agree with the posters above that the best way to respond is for your friend to say "Okay" or "Thanks for the update" of whatever. The best way not to engage in drama is not to engage in drama.

Also, as others have said, talk to her about it, as she has invited you to do.

Temp difference - tell your friend to get a cheap thermometer and measure the temp differences between the house and her room on a cold day. Tell your friend to tell her landlord that she would like the room to be as warm as the rest of the house, however achieved.

it's driving me crazy
I am going insane and I tend to take things personally This is the real problem in the question. Your friend really needs to let this go. It's Pam's house, Pam's rules, etc., for another four months, and then your friend is out of there. Let it go. Step back. Take some deep breaths.

I would abstain from doing any of the marking off of the list. Now this is confrontational and would be passive/aggressive ...
posted by carter at 11:08 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't know why it bothers me so much.

Because it's awful.

There's a list on our fridge of chores and I have to mark the date next to my name of when I completed that chore, and write the date of the last time I bought toilet paper.

If you are looking for what to say to this, "I'm sorry. That won't be possible" is Miss Manners' classic.

Write down all notes re dates of the inspection and incidents related to the roof leaking and dates of any conversations related to it. Put things in writing when you can. You might find it useful later on.

If you want to be generous, you could assume that she is young, inept, and utterly lacking in the confidence to manage the experience of being in charge of anything, so she's doing the only thing she can to manage the situation without being brave, straightforward, or possessing the skills necessary to do it. Otherwise known as 'she's in over her head.'
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:10 AM on February 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

As for the temperature, MA law requires the temperature to be at least 68 during the day and 64 at night. Get a thermometer and if you're room isn't warm enough, either get the space heater out or turn up the thermostat because that's your right by the law.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:14 AM on February 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

It's not ok for her to be blending her two roles, landlord and roommate, this way--though it's understandable that she'd blur that line. I'd call a meeting to discuss this stuff as a household, but with specific recognition of which issues are landlord-tenant things, and which are roommate things. Something like:

Hey Pam, Tom, and Anne:

Let's talk this through in person. I think it would be good for us to separate out landlord-tenant issues and roommate issues. Does tomorrow evening work for you?


Then, you approach the meeting as a chance to clear the air. Bring a list of landlord-specific questions or issues, such as:
1. I am totally on board with not doing illegal things in the apartment.
2. My room is too cold. When I checked it using a thermometer, it registered at X degrees, which is significantly colder than the rest of the apartment. What can I/we do to make it warmer? If you are unwilling to increase the thermostat and don't want me using the space heater, can you arrange for a technician to come check the heating system in the apartment to see if there's a problem with my room's vents? (check your local laws: there's probably a minimum temperature your room needs to be able to warm up to)
3. I see that the roof has still not been fixed and am concerned about potential damage to my belongings, especially since spring is around the corner. Do you have a plan and timeline for getting it fixed?

Bring a list of roommate-specific questions or issues:
1. It seemed like, up until Tom moved in, our previous chore routine was working well. Are there new considerations? I'd like for the four of us to work together to come up with a chore plan that works for us. Here are my concerns about Pam's proposed chore schedule... ("proposed" because she's just a roommate when it comes to this issue)
2. Can we talk about expectations regarding cleanliness in general? Specifically, I think we're doing a good job of keeping the house clean, but clearly you're seeing things differently, Pam--can you explain what you're seeing that's a problem?
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:14 AM on February 7, 2012 [28 favorites]

Well, I can see interpreting the email as either passive-aggressive or factual--it's something that can really go either way. You're choosing to interpret it as a passive-aggressive dig at you & Anne, and your comment reinforces that idea.

I tend to take things personally. So right now, I will basically hate every minute of being at home for 4 months and will replay that email in my head over and over again - which is not fun. It makes me resent her and her boyfriend.

Your reactions are the one big thing you can control in this situation. Stop taking it personally and working yourself up into a pitch of resentment. By doing that, you are making your living situation miserable for the next 4 months. You don't need to do that. Just let it go, say "okay!" and don't engage in drama.

Doing that whole "we're all adults and we're living in a community living environment, so we should all know how to behave" thing only works if you all magically happen to share the same assumptions about what being adults and living in a community living environment looks like. This is highly unlikely. Housemates assuming that their particular interpretation of "being adults and living in a community living environment" is the obviously correct one, and, further, that people who don't conform to their preconceived notions are either lazy/slobs/uptight/neatfreaks/etc etc etc is the trickiest part of living with housemates. The ways to avoid this (aside from not living with housemates) are:
1) be very clear about household expectations
2) be very good at just doing things yourself without resentment
3) be okay with doing things you may think aren't strictly necessary without resentment

It sounds more to me like she's trying to be very clear about household expectations. You certainly can chose to interpret this as some sort of unfair restrictiveness that ruins your quality of life, but why would you want to do that to yourself? Assume positive intent (she's just trying to be very clear about expectations now that there is a new roommate) and stop making yourself miserable.
posted by Kpele at 11:24 AM on February 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

I totally understand your friend's discomfort with the check marks and charts. I lived in a shared house like that, and it was miserable. All the sense of friendliness and living in a relaxed shared house went away. I would probably sign the chart anyway, and use it as a passive-aggressive opportunity to display that Pam doesn't do her share of dishwasher chores.

Also, I really, really strongly agree with slow graffiti. Use this formal email chain to have a record of the unresolved roof leak, ready for when you move out.

My gut feeling is that she has moved her boyfriend in, and with you moving out in the summer, she wants to get Ann out too and just live together with her BF. If Ann isn't planning to move out already, Pam is (consciously or unconsciously) trying to assert herself in a way that makes you and Ann feel like lodgers in her love-nest. I should also note that one of the shared houses I lived in took a turn for the worse when the landlord's girlfriend moved in, and these sorts of passive-aggressive notes started appearing. Me and my friend soon moved out.
posted by Joh at 11:34 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd also just reply "thanks for your email!" (Then I'd compose an elaborate, extremely scathing reply -- not to send, just for my own personal satisfaction.)

You're well within your rights to send a perfectly reasonable, businesslike letter requesting that the landlord address the inadequate temperature in your room and the leaky roof. Quote landlord-tenant law if you like.

As for marking the chart and all of that rubbish, what's she going to do if you don't comply, put you over her knee? Clean up after yourself as usual and do the agreed-upon chores, and if she fusses at you for not promptly making an X using a No. 2 pencil on the Official Chore Scorecard, just say "oh, sorry, must'a forgot" in a vaguely pleasant, neutral tone of voice. If she pushes you further on it, just neutrally point out that you did do the dishes (or whatever.) Stay reeeaaallllly calm. Think of it as a game.

But also consider that this may be largely for Tom's benefit. Meaning, she doesn't want him getting any ideas about being a slob in her house.
posted by desuetude at 11:49 AM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't own anything outside your bedroom, the place leaks, it's freezing cold, your rent was supposed to go down and didn't, and you're moving out in five months, anyway. Why don't you just find a sublet or some house-sitting/pet-watching gigs between now and then and wash your hands of this whole thing?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:59 AM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would totally address any major issues you have that can be enforceable under your local tenancy laws, such as the roof and the heat.

The trick is to take the high road in the response, ask for some sort of action, and keep it short and businesslike. Also say that you would be happy to talk about the roof etc in person.

But keep your list of demands short, and make sure they address significant issues that she is required to address by law.

For one thing, you'll be in the right, and you'll put her off balance. But you never know how that will work out, and if you have 4 months left, the best option is often to disengage. Getting into a pissing match will make the remainder of your time in this place worse than it already is.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:04 PM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Buy 50 rolls of toilet paper. She's ridiculous.
posted by MangyCarface at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't pull any of the above recommended moves like "forgetting" the chore chart or making constant snarky/ bitchy comments to your landlord. That is not going to help. Talk to her as am adult and tell her what you're going to do. If you're not down with the chore chart just tell her no, you won't ne using it. Don't be childish or petulant and stand your ground. Point out that you're leaving on 4 month and so no one needs to die on this hill.

And work on your own communication. Turning off the central heat and using a space heater is a huge no-no in any living situation with shared utilities and you should have talked to them first. Don't just start using it again without sitting your landlord down and saying why. Be an adult.
posted by fshgrl at 12:22 PM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would just reply with "Thanks. When is the roof getting fixed?"
posted by rhizome at 12:38 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

My thought was that maybe she's being stiff and formal in response to the boyfriend- like maybe he's not doing these things, and she's writing more to him (in the case of the chores). I agree with KokuRyu: the big problems in your household are the leaky roof and heat, not the chore chart. However I do like the idea of showing up with a trunk full of toilet paper and being all "OK, I just handled this. Now the roof needs to be fixed."
posted by oneirodynia at 12:41 PM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you want to use the electric heater, pay the increase in the electric bill. Leave your door open during the day and your room won't be colder when you get home and it helps regulate the temperature in the house.

As far as the formalness of the email, it almost sounds like she's just trying to clear herself of legal action should the pot smoking roommate get busted in the house.

Tell her you put your rent in an escrow account until the roof is fixed. If it's not fixed soon and leaks on your bed she can buy you a new mattress.

As far as the chores are concerned, just write your stupid initials on the board. I lived w/ 8 roommates for 4 years and chores were a constant point of contention. The people who work hard to keep the house clean (esp when they own the place) always think they're doing all the work. If you're truly doing the work then it takes two seconds to write your initials and keep her from bitching.
posted by no bueno at 1:07 PM on February 7, 2012

Your post makes me wonder if you aren't the problem (very literally: are.not.the.problem.)... but a weedsmoking room mate has pissed her off by not doing "a dish" one night and not supplying the ol' tp the next day- there WAS, in her email, a very clear- legal/illegal paragraph about "activities" that must have been put in for a reason- outside of chores not being done...
posted by misspony at 1:11 PM on February 7, 2012

Tell her you put your rent in an escrow account until the roof is fixed. If it's not fixed soon and leaks on your bed she can buy you a new mattress.
Don't stop paying rent without going through your local legal system whihc most likely has rules about repair demands and timeframes. Don't expect any landlord to replace anything of yours that is ruined. You should have renter's insurance for that.
posted by soelo at 1:12 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

She sounds awful and you sound unhappy with the living situation. I'd look to find another place before June. If anything, blame it on the leaking roof- I mean, you're paying money to live somewhere and not having water dripping onto your bed is an acceptable desire. I'd let her know that if the roof isn't fixed soon (i.e. within a month) you want a rent reduction and/or you'll start looking elsewhere.
posted by emd3737 at 1:36 PM on February 7, 2012

Everything Meg_Murry said.

The part about chores is passive aggressive, but it reads to me like she's just not very good at communicating about things that bother her. Could it be that Pam feels like she's been doing an unfair share of the housework?

For the roof: It's weird that someone so borderline-OCD about housekeeping is ignoring a serious maintenance issue. As the owner of the house, it's in her best interest to fix the roof ASAP; water damage is really expensive.

And for the heater: It's totally reasonable for you to keep your room at the same temperature as the rest of the house (at least, while you're in the room), even if you need to use an electric heater. Everyone in the house should split the cost of that electricity, just like you help pay for the gas that heats their rooms. You can use an outlet thermostat if you want precise temperature control with an electric heater.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:42 PM on February 7, 2012

Not only is roof damage expensive, but for her as a landlord it's actually illegal almost everywhere. My suggestion for a next step as far as the roof goes is actually to call the Building Inspector.
posted by rhizome at 2:02 PM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Fight fire with fire: As well as buying 50 rolls of TP, mark off all your chores as being done in advance, ending June. Also make a column called 'fix roof' with one checkbox next to the landlord's name.
posted by cogat at 2:18 PM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses thus far. I just want to add that this is not the first time that she has sent out emails like this - in fact, when the boyfriend moved in he sent us a really, really long email about how to use/wash/touch his things (TV, cappuccino machine, his knifes, his pots/pans, his cups, his ipad, his xbox, his roomba, etc.). He ended the email with "I know this sounds intense". I feel like they are definitely a team and are helping each other out with these annoying emails.

I definitely like slow graffiti's advice and I will most likely end up emailing her that.

I came back home today and the downstairs was 61 degrees - and my bedroom is much much colder than the downstairs. I will definitely buy a thermostat for my room to see how cold it gets.

I am still not sure how to handle the annoying chore chart which is driving me absolutely insane.

I'm looking for a sublet but I can't really find anything - I already had two rooms that I was supposed to look at that fell through last month.

I really do appreciate all your responses.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 3:01 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is no need for her controlling boyfriend to try and control you. Set boundaries with them both very firmly and directly immediately.

I am still not sure how to handle the annoying chore chart which is driving me absolutely insane.

Just say No. Grow a spine or her boyfriend is going to bully you right out of your home. Sit them down and tell them you are living there till June and you don't accept ANY of the proposed changes to your living arrangements between now and then. (think long and hard about whether or not you are doing your fair share of taking the trash out etc.). Tell them you will not use the chore chart, you will have an adequately heated bedroom (although it is very reasonable for her to ask you not to use an electric space heater) and that you will not be micro managed in any way, shape or form. You have a lease and they can deal with it. Oh, and fix the dammit roof.

Then make damn sure you do your fair share of the housework and don't be a petty asshole like people are suggesting. Moral high ground! Keep it.
posted by fshgrl at 3:16 PM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ignore the chore chart and just make sure your part is done. If you act like an adult, you have every right to expect to be treated like one.
posted by cnc at 4:07 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hah, yeah. Sending an email on behalf of her boyfriend with usage and care instructions for his stuff definitely tells me they're trying to impose. Ignore everything, force her to use her actual voice to describe what she wants rather than writing stupid emails. Four months will fly by. If there is a regular "get home from work" moment you have with her on a daily basis, extend your inquiries as to the condition of the roof each time you see her. If it's never fixed, call the Building Inspector after you move out.
posted by rhizome at 4:18 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not only did she change your original understanding by moving her bf in (sharing the dwelling with 4 people instead of 3) BUT SHE IS IN BREACH OF REQUIRED HABITABILITY REQUIREMENTS IN EVERY JURISDICTION I KNOW OF CONCERNING THE HEAT AND THE ROOF.

I believe she's too ignorant to realize that as a landlord, she has legal obligations to you. The dishes are the least of her problems.

- I suggest you email back, "Thanks for the note," to the email. Just the one line. Let the rest go.

- Ask her in person about the heat and the roof. Report back here and/or a new AskMe, or MeMail.

If you want to break your lease with less drama, I can help with that. I'm keen for you to talk to her about the heat and the roof, then report back, because I'd like to get a read on whether or not she understands her legal responsibilities. My guess is she is clueless. Leave her clueless for now, but do report back the results of any conversations.

It seems like she has no business being a landlord, let alone be in the position to own a house. And for sure YOU can not live there without heat and a dry bed because the roof is leaking. Also, mold may be a part of the roof problem, too, FYI.

KEEP YOUR COOL. Don't worry about dishes and toilet paper. There are identifiable legal issues here that need to be addressed, and the dishes aren't worth your attention. Deal with the dishes after your room is safe and warm, know what I mean?

You don't want to fuck her over, you just want to live in peace. My suspicion is, tho, that you could cause her great financial harm if you need or want to. You have more power here. Really.

Boy, is she dumb. Relax. You'll find your way through.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 4:39 PM on February 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

My big concern is that the landlord and BF are going to drop a dime on the pot smoker. Please, if you are at all friendly with that room mate, make sure she is clear that there can never be the smell of pot in the house and her gear needs to be really well tucked away, or even better kept off site. You are just dealing with a bitchy landlord, but potsmoker could end up having their whole future fucked because landlord and BF want the house to themselves.

So: I would reply to email in whatever way the previous answerers have excellently advised above, and make a point of having a serious side talk with other lodger, in the interests of making sure she doesn't get totally fucked. Spread the good karma!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:10 PM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

- Meatbomb makes a GREAT point.

- I also agree with others that she is conflating her responsibilities as landlord with her role as a roommate.

One last thing....

If you suspect this is all about getting you to move out - ask her about that nicely! Maybe she would be psyched if you found a sublet and might happily let you move out (return your deposit, pro-rate the rent, etc) the minute you find a new situation.

This never occurred to me before I read other people's comments, butmaybe they just want to be alone? Or move his/her friend's in instead? In fact, I bet that's it! Pam likely has new roommates in mind.

I wouldn't gossip with Anne about the possibilities here, but definitely warn her to get ALL pot smoking materials out of the house. She doesn't need a criminal record over this, whatever is going on.


FWIW, I doubt you're taking this too personally, as other people suggested. It's more likely you had a gut reaction that this stinks because there may, in fact, be a lot more behind the email than dishes and toilet paper.

Whether Pam is trying to send a message to her BF not to be a slob, or she wants to gerry up an excuse to break your leases and move in others... It's all too much drama and 100% on her and not you.

No one here is a mind reader, but yeah, I think your over-reaction was actually your gut sounding the alarm that more is afoot than washing up.


She's still in violation of rental codes, BTW. But maybe understanding where she's coming from might help you make better choices as this develops?

Sorry to spitball in-thread. Hope this helps!
posted by jbenben at 6:40 PM on February 7, 2012

IANAL, but: The heating and roof leak violation may be grounds to break your lease--which would free you up to seek a new living situation sooner. But you will almost surely need to document both your attempts at redress and failures of her to fix the problem.

Email her about the heat and roof issue. Cite the relevant building codes in the email. Also, buy a thermometer (or two) and document the temperature readings in your house (take pictures). Take pictures of the water damage the next time it rains.

Replacing a roof can cost way more than four months of your rent. She may be willing for you to move out sans penalty in lieu of replacing the roof. This is a conversaion to have off the record, though--"Pam, the roof and the heat have got to be fixed. They're not up to code. I know it's expensive to bring them up to code, so look, I'm going to just offer to move out early so you don't have to deal with it. Would you be open to the idea? Clearly this situation is breaking down, and I am just trying to think of solutions that would work best for all of us. Run your numbers and see if there's a cost benefit to postponing the roof and heat issues with no roommates to be responsible for. Anne and I have enjoyed our time here, but it's not working and we'd both be willing to move out early if that would help you with your problems. By law, unfortunately, you'd need to address these issues if you want us to stay, so it seems that having us stay is going to cost you a lot of money. It might be cheaper if we just moved out now and released you from your landlord obligations."

In the meantime, get renter's insurance for your belongings and start looking for a new place to live. Also, you might look into nailing a waterproof tarp to the ceiling to catch the leak and funnel it into a bucket somewhere in the room to protect your stuff. Keep those receipts for your materials and take pictures of your rig for future reference. Definitely get a picture of the amount of water funneled off into your collection bucket. Or if the area over your bed is the issue, cover the bed with a tarp (when not in use) and then put a sheet over it to sop off water to keep it from dripping on to the floor. A nice video of you pulling that soaked sheet off the bed and wringing it out into the bathtub to see how much water comes out is a very effective image.
posted by elizeh at 7:58 PM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Concentrate on finding another living situation instead of spending a lot of time trying to reason with your landlord. Someone who sends out a snippy email lecturing their tenants about doing their chores while ignoring a roof leaking on their beds is not worth trying to deal with.

I would find out if there's a tenant legal clinic/rights organization in your area and contact them for help if she gives you any issues.
posted by Melsky at 12:43 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

sometimes, i find it mentally helpful to write out my bitchiest responses to things like this in a draft email i never send. or i send after i get my security deposit back. just saying.
posted by anthropomorphic at 8:32 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with anthropomorphic in the bitchy draft email, but I would recommend writing it in a completely separate word document. There's nothing worse feeling than accidentally hitting "send" on an email that no one was ever supposed to actually see.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 3:26 PM on February 9, 2012

I don't think this email was passive-agressive; on the contrary, it was very clear, direct, and specific about her expectations. Whether you agree with those expectations is a different matter.

There are a lot of reasons that she might have chosen to send an email rather than have a discussion. She might have wanted to ensure she didn't forget anything. She might have wanted to ensure that it was clear and official with no grey areas. She might have wanted a paper trail.

She might be confrontation-adverse, and not have wanted a bunch of people trying to debate with her on these topics all at once, and trying to pressure her out of a position that's important to her. She might not have wanted a conversation to get derailed into other issues. She might have had many people bitching to her about these issues individually, plus had her own concerns, and decided to address it all at once by laying down the law. That way, no one can say "well, so-and-so is doing this and that, why haven't you done anything".

Managing a houseful of people is tough. Another reason that she might not have wanted a discussion is that, to her, this stuff isn't open for discussion. She's made the rules. It's her house. End of story.

I have lived with A LOT of different roommates over the years, and totally concur with those who have said that the whole "just let's be grownups and assume that we all agree what that means", free-flowing thing rarely works out in real life. It's a great theory, but not so much in practice.

I think it's ok to leave my dishes overnight because I know I'll do them in the morning- I still consider that cleaning up after myself and wouldn't expect someone else to do it for me. But, I would never use the kitchen without wiping down the counter- I just don't think that's right.

Person B, on the other hand, gets mad about my dishes in the sink, but never wipes the counter- he doesn't think it's important, and I in turn get mad because he's being disgusting and inconsiderate. Person C, however, hates us both for never pushing in our chairs the way a grownup should, but never even thinks of mopping the floor- he figures once a month is more than enough, but someone else always does it first; so we get into a fight over person C being a selfish lazy jerk who doesn't clean up after himself like an adult.

Meanwhile, person D wishes everyone would quit their bitching; he works a night shift and he's trying to sleep; his roommates are pretty damn inconsiderate and immature to fight about this stupid crap when he's always the one who replaces the tp, pt, a bunch of groceries everyone's always eating and garbage bags... but nobody notices and, dammit, why won't they let him sleep?

This is why chore charts are essential and I see exactly where the landlord is coming from on this one.

I agree that this particular chart is annoying and excessive, and if your friend has a serious problem with any of it, that problem should be addressed to the landlord clearly and politely. But I bet if this had already been in place and established before moving in, it wouldn't be nearly as big a deal.

The temperature and leak are seperate issues. They definitely need to be addressed, but seperately.
posted by windykites at 2:06 AM on April 11, 2012

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