For those playing along at home, I'll be living alone next time.
March 27, 2012 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I need some help navigating a sticky parting-from-roommate situation. (Apologies: LONG)

Long story short: I am not doing anything wrong, and my roommate's inability to see this has the potential to make this very, very ugly.

I moved in with my roommate, back in October after a very sudden parting with my last roommate (she wanted her boyfriend to move in and basically kicked me out while I was in another country for a month). Due to my financial situation at the time, my only option was to move in (off-lease) and rent a room from someone who already had a place. Craigslist, ahoy!

Because of how things ended with the previous roommate, I was very careful when signing my agreement with this one, to make sure I (both of us) were protected when it came time to part ways. In the last few days, I have read and re-read our agreement (that my roommate provided) many times. It says the following (paraphrased):

-Lease term (with my roommate--I am not on the lease with the landlord) is month to month.
-If the situation is going to change, the party leaving must give the other one 30 days' notice.
-If those terms are breached (i.e. if less than 30 days' notice is given), we do not have to find a replacement. (This one has a stipulation, initialed by my roommate, to "be nice" about it, and not leave the other one in a lurch as my previous roommate did with me. There is even a smiley face.)

For a variety of reasons, I need to move out. I decided I needed to move a long time ago, so I suppose I could have given her a heads up that I was looking, but experience has taught me not to make any decisions until I have 100% confirmed that something's going to happen. (Like, if I said I was *probably* going to move May 1, then she found someone, then things fell through with the place I was going to move to, then we've got problems.)

So, anyway, I found a place I liked last Thursday (after less than a week of serious looking), with plans to sign a lease on Friday (for either May 1 or June 1), and I decided it was time to tell my roommate. We have very different schedules, and often she's not home until after I'm asleep, so I texted her Thursday afternoon to see if she would be home that night to talk. She asked what was up, and we ended up discussing the room thing over text.

At first she said "that's fine just find a replacement," but then I guess re-read and realized I had found a place and she said, "you should have talked to me and [given] me notice. [You] signed that agreement one month."

I explained that it WAS more than a month's notice, and that I could sign it for May 1 or even June 1 if she needed more than a month. She confirmed "end of April" as being a month, and that was that. I signed the lease the next day for May 1. In person over the weekend, I asked her if she wanted me to help her find a roommate for when I move out. She said sure. So I posted an ad on Craigslist for the place Sunday night. I got a few responses, weeded out the creeps, and forwarded them to her yesterday morning, saying that I'm available to start showing my room this week, and for her to just let me know when she'll be available.

She FREAKED OUT. She responded (via email) saying how much stuff she's got to do this week, that it's the end of the semester (she's a student) and that she "wishes [I] had thought of that," and that I need to do this for June 1 because she can't meet with anyone until May.

I responded that I signed the lease for May 1, that I've given a month's notice, and that I'm just trying to help her find someone.

She responds again, even more exasperated, saying that I'm springing this on her at an inconvenient time, and that she was only trying to be nice in case of an emergency (my guess is that she's referring to the 30 days' notice), that I'm doing the exact same thing to her that my previous roommate did to me, and not to forward "any more crap" to her about people responding to the Craigslist ad.

I responded with the following: "I'm sorry you're upset. I'm following the terms of our contract and gave you notice. I'm trying to help out by finding a replacement. If you don't want my help, that's OK."

She responded that I do have to help find a roommate, said I was being shitty, and called me a jerk.

I responded yet again trying to deescalate the situation, saying that our agreement was month to month, but that I wanted to try to help find a replacement as a favor, and for her to please let me know how I can make it easiest for her with regards to bringing folks in to see the place.

She responds "No guys please and no crazys and no kids 25 and up and our agreement says as long as you replace yourself you can move out."

And now she will not talk to me. I tried to engage her in conversation last night (starting out with just a friendly hi! when I got home from work), but she is flat out ignoring me.

I don't know how to handle this. Honestly, I don't know if I can find someone to fill the spot (there's only been one female over 25 who has responded to the ad, and I haven't heard back from her since yesterday), especially if she refuses to work with me. Legally, I DO NOT have to find a replacement. I don't know if she misunderstood the agreement we signed, or if she's just angry, or what.

I need advice (perhaps with a script to follow?) as to how I can try to talk about this with her. I don't want her to yell at me, I don't want her to sit there and ignore me, I want her to have an adult conversation, acknowledge what our agreement actually says, and find a way to productively move forward.

I'm almost at the point where I'm ready to throw up my hands and walk away (since, technically, I can), but that's not the nice thing to do, and that doesn't help anyone. (Except maybe my sanity.) This whole situation is really upsetting, because she's reacting like I'm doing something very wrong when I'm not, and I don't know how to fix it.

There is also an issue of a Comcast bill in my name. The easiest thing for me to do would be to cancel it and return the equipment, and let her deal with a new install. It would be a dick move to leave her without internet, but I know (sometimes you just know) that she is going to flip a shit about how much time it's going to take if we have to go to the Comcast service center and sign the account switchover form together. (Yes, I've talked to Comcast, and those are the only two solutions.)

Also, I have a 1 month's rent security deposit at stake. There is nothing in the agreement about how/when it is to be repaid (only that it is to be repaid), and I am wary about getting it back. I don't intend to pay my last month's rent unless I have a postdated check from her in my hand. If there is a better way to handle that, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
posted by phunniemee to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: that doesn't help anyone. (Except maybe my sanity.)

After your good faith efforts to resolve this amicably have fallen flat, why do you care about helping anyone other than your sanity?

You extended a hand, she slapped it. Your work is done. Cancel Comcast, get out, don't look back.
posted by fatbird at 11:39 AM on March 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

You don't have to help her find a replacement. So don't. She can find someone herself if she wants to be crazy about it. Tell her that the next time she decides to talk to you if she's still being unreasonable at that time- hopefully she will have calmed down and the two of you can work together on the issue. But if she's crazy, oh well, her choice. Cancel the Comcast and move on with your life. As for your 1 month security, the new person should pay the deposit to you directly
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:41 AM on March 27, 2012

Response by poster: the new person should pay the deposit to you directly

I'm working off the worst case scenario assumption that I will never meet or interact with the new person. I had no interaction with the person who lived with my roommate before I moved in.
posted by phunniemee at 11:46 AM on March 27, 2012

Best answer: Offer to be available when you can for the people she brings in to see your room. Offer to keep your room and common areas clean. Don't go further than that. You've fulfilled your obligations, she's just trying to make you feel bad about that.
posted by xingcat at 11:47 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

What does your sublease agreement say about the deposit?
posted by rhizome at 11:47 AM on March 27, 2012

Best answer: Is your deposit for more than your last month's rent? If it is the same amount, send her an email stating that the deposit will cover your last month's rent and tell her the date comcast will be cut off.

If you want to help her find a roommate then do. You don't owe her anything. You had a business arrangement that has now come to an end. Act professional about it and ignore her pity party.
posted by myselfasme at 11:54 AM on March 27, 2012 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I'd tell her that you will remove the Craigslist ad and be available to show your (neat) room when she is ready to find a new roommate. If she signs the switchover form before (some appropriate date), then great, otherwise you will cancel Comcast as of April 30. Just inform her that you will be using your security deposit as last month's rent. You cannot do much more than you are doing.
posted by jeather at 12:03 PM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: What myselfsame said. Except I would definitely not keep trying to find her a roommate, because I would hate to "trick" some unsuspecting person into living with this unstable woman. You could tell her that you don't feel it would be right for you to find her a roommate because you and she obviously have different views on many aspects of living together, and you think it would be best if she chose someone she could evaluate on her own, according to her own criteria.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2012

Best answer: Agreeing with the above, don't continue working to find her a roommate (what are you going to tell them when they ask about who they will be living with?), let her know when the internet will be shut off, and use the deposit as your last months rent.

You're never going to see her after you move out and there's nothing reasonable you can do about her unreasonable behaviour, I see no reason to bend over backwards trying to placate her.

And I commend you on your actions to date, you've acted very mature and done more then would have been expected.
posted by Dynex at 12:52 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I realize it's water under the bridge, but discussing it via text was a mistake; I tried putting myself in your roommate's shoes and it's possible she interpreted your texts as snarky or rude; the effort you went to (in your account) to minimize the drama can also be read as condescending or sarcastic in text. Without tone, it's impossible to tell, you know? So on the one hand, she's very upset. On the other hand, it might not be quite the dramarama it currently is if you can manage to have an actual conversation about it. However:

"I need advice (perhaps with a script to follow?) as to how I can try to talk about this with her. I don't want her to yell at me, I don't want her to sit there and ignore me, I want her to have an adult conversation, acknowledge what our agreement actually says, and find a way to productively move forward. "

You can't force her to do this. There is no script to follow, no advice we can give you, that will MAKE her have an adult conversation. You can only control your actions.

I do think it's a mistake that you're trying to be BOTH strictly-business-stick-to-the-contract AND oh-gosh-don't-hate-me-be-nice. Again, imagining myself in your roommate's shoes, that's a disconcerting mix of messages to be receiving: I am going to lawyer the crap out of this contract, and pleeeeeeease don't have any negative feelings about it or me, I am so nice!

Personally, I think the tone you need to take is pleasant, but businesslike. Quit worrying about whether you're being nice or whether she'll still like you or whether you're a jerk or whether you're doing what your previous roommate did. You've committed to following the contract, so follow through on that. Be pleasant, don't lose your temper, but stop trying to make her feel better.

Give her a day or two to cool off. And then here's my suggested script: "I understand that you're upset, but I have signed the lease and I'm moving May 1."
[This is a really inconvenient time, why didn't you think of that???!?!?!]
"I'm sorry if there was any misunderstanding, but I gave appropriate notice and I've already signed the lease for May 1. To minimize your inconvenience, I'll be keeping my room immaculate and I'll be happy to do room showings. Meanwhile, I just wanted to call to your attention that we need to transfer the Comcast account. I have all of the paperwork right here. We will either need to go down to Comcast together to transfer the account -- I'll buy you a coffee, and I'll drive so you can study in the car -- or I'll cancel the account on April 28 and you can reinitiate it at your convenience."
"I'm sorry you feel that way. Please let me know when you schedule room showings; I'd appreciate twelve hours' notice."
"Please let me know when you schedule room showings. I'll remind you about the Comcast bill next week, it's probably better if we deal with it sooner rather than later so you don't have to deal with it during final exams."

Etc. Just stay very calm, and keep reiterating your points, which are that she needs to do this paperwork and to give you notice for room showings. "I'm sorry you're upset" and "I apologize if there was a misunderstanding" are good phrases, but always followed by a "but, here is my main point again."

You can offer to do the Craigs List thing, but give parameters. "I can run some CraigsList ads until April 15 and help you pre-screen, but after April 15 I'm afraid I'll be too busy with the move." Or whatever.

I know this is an upsetting situation and the yelling she might do will be upsetting, but just put on your "I am a calm, reasonable professional" persona armor and stay in that persona until the conversation is over. The crazier she gets, the calmer you get. It's kind-of addictive because you feel pretty good about yourself afterwards for not losing your shit, and it's hard to fault someone who is being calm and reasonable.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:55 PM on March 27, 2012 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: So, I tried to talk to her about it when I got home today.

I opened with a simple, "do you have a minute? We need to talk." She stared at me straight-faced and said, "about what, Jen? About how you're SCREWING ME OVER!?!?"

I stayed calm, explained the terms in the agreement that we signed (she swears up and down that what we signed said I can't move out until I find a replacement, but I have paper with her signature and initials on it saying otherwise) and explained that I was moving out on May 1.

She kept throwing up her hand, saying "whatever, I don't want to hear it," and telling me that I was screwing her over.

I told her that I wasn't going to look for another roommate, but that it was perfectly OK for her to start showing my room to people.

Again, she said she didn't want to hear it. Then she started yelling about how I don't clean the apartment (which will be absolutely hilarious to anyone who knows me) and how it's not her fault that there are ants (oh yeah, I forgot to mention--she leaves food sitting out all the time and hasn't washed dishes in weeks, and we have a rampant ant problem because of it). And how, again, I'm totally screwing her over.

I said, "I don't want to talk about cleaning issues right now, we need to discuss the fact that I'm moving out. The Comcast bill--"

She cut me off, saying she didn't want to hear it, then said, "whatever, I can just live by myself for a few months and not get another shitty roommate," and stormed out of the apartment.

Cliff's notes:
-I didn't do anything wrong
-I'm completely and totally (legally and personally) off the hook as far as finding a new roommate for her
-Tried to bring up Comcast, got shot down

I'm going to try to muddle through the next month with as little interaction as possible. I'll send her an email (so it'll be in writing) on April 1 saying that I'm using the security deposit as last month's rent and tell her when Comcast is going to be shut off. And I'll be sad that she's crazy, but not sad about anything else. End of story.

Thanks for your answers. Even though I knew that I didn't owe her anything, it helped to hear other people say so.
posted by phunniemee at 9:47 PM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Wow, yeah, sounds like you handled it as well as you could have. I did have some sympathy for her earlier, about finding a roommate with approaching finals. But after your update that sympathy is gone. You'll be well shot of her.

That paper was a smart idea!
posted by 6550 at 12:40 AM on March 28, 2012

Ugh, sorry she was so immature. I think you handled the in-person interaction really well. It's too bad she can't calm down and behave in an adult fashion and help herself here, but oh well.

(And doesn't staying calm and on point in the face of crazy feel good? When someone's being crazy it makes me feel secretly even better that my calmness is making them crazier because they're really spoiling for a fight and trying to get me to react. But sometimes I am not a good person.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:59 AM on March 28, 2012

Response by poster: And doesn't staying calm and on point in the face of crazy feel good?

Oh, absolutely. I grew up in a crazy shouting family, and I was always the calm, rational one. (And yes, it totally pisses them off even more, which, yes, is way more fun than it should be.) But you expect family to be crazy. You don't expect people you enter into business relationships with to be crazy. C'est la vie.

posted by phunniemee at 6:13 AM on March 28, 2012

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