Give me a script for kicking out my roommate
May 12, 2012 3:27 PM   Subscribe

I need to kick out a roommate nicely, but for no "real" reason. Help.

I know there are many many roommate questions on metafilter -- sorry if I didn't get a Previously in my search.

I have two roommates, G (great) and A (awful) and we share an apartment in NYC. G and I are on the lease, and A has a month-to-month written agreement with me. After months of suffering in silence, G and I spoke and discovered we both can't stand A. He has done nothing 'wrong' -- he pays the rent, doesn't steal, isn't loud, etc -- he just NEVER leaves the apartment and somehow makes both of us really super uncomfortable. Imagine a granola-y Pete Campbell (from Mad Men).

Under these circumstances, what do I say to A to let him know he needs to find a new place to live? We will need to show his room to potential new roommates, so "Oh, my sister is moving to NYC and needs an apartment!" or the like is not an option.
posted by sideofwry to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's understandable but you are not being nice here. There may not be any way to do this nicely.
posted by XMLicious at 3:30 PM on May 12, 2012 [15 favorites]

Can you and G cover A's rent for one month? Because if you can, you can give him his one month's notice using any excuse you like, then wait to find a new roommate until after he moves out.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:32 PM on May 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

Not sure there is a tactful way of doing this. But coming up with a fake reason will be worse than just telling him: "Hey, this isn't working, and we don't want to live with you anymore. You've got 30 days to move out. Sorry."
posted by valkyryn at 3:33 PM on May 12, 2012 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah pretty much what valkyryn said. Just rip it off like a bandaid. I had to do this with a roommate (though he did cross some boundaries, so it was a little easier to point at a reason, but he still made me uncomfortable). At least in this city you don't have to really worry about crossing paths so much, especially if he never goes out like you say. But yeah, don't worry about being an asshole. It's your place and where you live so your comfort should be the most important factor honestly. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but I'm glad I did because things have worked out splendidly for me and I don't feel uncomfortable in my own home anymore.
posted by greta simone at 3:41 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow, it's awful to actually show the apartment while he's being kicked out of it. I mean, you *can* do it, but it's not nice at all. Leave the dude his dignity and tell him the truth—tell him it's not working out and give him 30 days. Wait until he moves out to show it and eat the cost, if you possibly can.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:45 PM on May 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

Speaking from experience here: "Hey, you've got to move out" is sufficient.
posted by singingfish at 4:03 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it's not working out then it's actually more mean not to tell him. singingfish is correct "hey it's time for you to move out" No real reason is necessary, why would he want to live with people who don't want him there?
posted by ibakecake at 4:21 PM on May 12, 2012

Look him in the eye and tell him that he's no longer welcome to live with you and G without delving into your specific grievances/issues. The cleaner the break, the better.
posted by lotusmish at 4:44 PM on May 12, 2012

If you want to go with a reason, the most neutral is "We are the only two on the lease, so we want to be the only two tenants". That's blameless and pseudo-legalistic and impossible to argue with. But yeah, you don't need to say a reason.
posted by anildash at 4:52 PM on May 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just say, "Hey, we dont like that you don't leave the house, so we
want you to move out."

Luckily my past roommates didnt give a shit what I did with my personal time - because I basically never came out of my room.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:58 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd suggest the nicest way of phrasing is similar to what you'd say when you were leaving a job that you hated but wanted to be tactful; "it's not a good fit."
posted by kaybdc at 5:06 PM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Just as perspective, if I was being told out of the blue to "get out in a month and btw, we are going to show your room in the meantime", I would not make any effort to make it easy or help the people kicking me out. Getting a new place in NYC is not that easy, even for a person looking for a mtm.

Give the notice, eat a month's rent for the empty room so you can show it and save a bunch of hassle. Besides, if someone shows up who is perfect, then they can move right in.
posted by lampshade at 5:07 PM on May 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oh and if there is an issue with the 30 day timing, refer him to this page at
posted by lampshade at 5:10 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Hey, this isn't working, and we don't want to live with you anymore. You've got 30 days to move out. Sorry."

Please, please don't do this. You need to lie in this situation. Honestly, you think your roommate makes you feel uncomfortable now?

Give him a 30 day notice without an excuse, and watch what happens. Because it's going to be a shitty month for you.
posted by lobbyist at 5:12 PM on May 12, 2012 [8 favorites]

You can soften it a little bit--
"We're going to look for a new roommate, and we're going to need you to move out in a month. I know this is going to uncomfortable for all of us, and I'm really sorry for that. I don't mean this as any sort of personal insult, but living together is a really intimate way to be with someone, and we need to find someone who has better chemistry with us. I know it will be hard not to be offended by this, and I understand that and I'm sorry for it. I hope you're still comfortable enough your last month here, please let me know if there's anything I can help you do to prepare to move out."
posted by tk at 5:31 PM on May 12, 2012 [18 favorites]

Either give no reason or, if pressed, say that you want to find a 'better fit' and that you hope he can find some roommates that he'll fit in better with.
posted by Green With You at 5:36 PM on May 12, 2012

Just being honest and upfront is probably the easiest and most respectful thing to do, like tk's response above.

But if you suspect HE will not be respectful in return or spend the next month being pissy/punitive/whatever, I think a vague white lie is fine. Don't be falsely apologetic. I'd probably say something along the lines of: G and I have decided to split the apt. just the two of us to have more space. We decided we can now afford to pay all the rent ourselves so we won't be renewing our monthly contract with you at the end of this month. We wanted to make sure you have 30 day notice so you have time to move and find a new place. Hope you understand, it's really nothing personal. (This is all assuming you won't be seeing much of A after he moves.)

Then let him move out before you start roommate searching and pay the extra rent temporarily.
posted by dahliachewswell at 6:33 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

He will certainly ask why he needs to move. Tell him you want a roommate who goes out once in a while because you want to be able to alone in the space from time to time. This is not an unreasonable expectation to have with roommates. Speaking of which, make sure A's replacement has a social life outside of the house.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:32 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why not tell him you and G have a mutual friend who wants to move in and is in a bind or something? Then, if he finds out later, you can say the mutual friend fell through.
posted by Little Orphan Ennui at 7:45 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh and yeah, don't show the place while he's living there. No good can come of it, no matter what excuse you give.
posted by Little Orphan Ennui at 7:46 PM on May 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Can you say that you and G have decided you want need to use his bedroom as a home office, and therefore give him 30 days notice and wish him the best?

You're not friends, so he'll never find out this is untrue. If he does, you can say that you both overestimated the impact on your budgets.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 8:10 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was in a similar situation once: roommate #1 and I had to ask roommate #2 not to renew his lease. The conversation was quite uncomfortable, and no way of sugar coating it could ever change that fact, so set your expectations accordingly. However, the long-term outcome of not having to live with roommate #2 was a significant increase in comfort, so that's how I psyched myself up.

We decided to do a little good cop-bad cop when we told him our decision. Roommate #1 got to be bad cop and delivered the bulk of the bad news--"hey man, we had a talk, and this just isn't working out. Our lease is up for renewal, and we really like living here, but we don't see ourselves living with you any more. You are going to need to find a new place." I was good cop (well, maybe it would be more accurate to call me less-bad cop) and all I did was quietly agree with bad cop but not really say anything else. After "the talk", I gave roommate #2 a lot of "hey man, I'm really sorry"s etc. and although I didn't ever reverse course on the fact that we wanted him to move out, I tried to stay in his corner a little bit (even though I wanted him out of my life as much or more than roommate #1).

Why bother with the good cop-bad cop scenario instead of just two bad cops? Because he wasn't mad at me and therefore didn't do anything vindictive in his final time with us (which was a risk, hence why we wanted him out).

The only other advice I will give is a caveat to the recommendations above suggesting that you say you want a roommate who is gone more often. If you do this, it is plausible that he could counter with, "oh, ok, I'll leave more then. Can I stay?" I'm not saying you shouldn't be honest with him about why you want him out (we did give specific reasons to roommate #2 above during The Talk), but just be prepared with a response if he says this.
posted by wondercow at 8:18 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Knowing next to nothing about A's personality, I think telling him (as several have suggested) the reason you want him to move is him not going out of the apartment could lead to him trying to negotiate with you, along the lines of "if I leave the house for (X time) every (Y interval), can I stay?" If you say no, then he will just be angrier ("They are being unreasonable"); if you say yes, then things will not get better (since it sounds like him going out is a symptom, but not really the underlying cause). So I'd advise against taking that tack. YMMV, of course.
posted by dendrochronologizer at 9:07 PM on May 12, 2012

I've done this before, but it was when another housemate was moving out as well, so I had to do the telling all on my own.

It wasn't very pretty, but it really was better having it over with. I just told him we weren't working out as housemates and I would be looking for new people to replace him as well as the other housemate moving out. He wasn't very happy. But he found a new place and moved out, and I got to live with awesome new people.

I do think it was a little easier that I had another transition to tie it to; is there some transition coming up in your lives (start of schooling, new job, new job for him, etc) that you can give as a timing, if not a reason?
posted by nat at 9:41 PM on May 12, 2012

"We were hoping to have a more social and intimate atmosphere in the house, and we feel that don't click with you socially. You've been a good roommate but we would like to look for someone who we have more in common with on a socializing level. So sorry to inconvenience you and we hope you do not take it personally."
posted by bearette at 10:08 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Start with a question: Lease is ending in 30 days, have you thought about whether you want to keep living here? Hell, maybe he is already looking, or at least thinking about it, and a boost would be good.

But on the assumption that he's not, you can then follow up with "okay, look, you haven't done anything wrong, you always pay your rent, you don't steal, you're not loud, etc., but...we don't feel like this is a super-compatible fit with our personalities, and we think everyone would be better off if we found a new roommate. This is really awkward to say, and we want to not be assholes, and we'd be really happy to vouch for you being a trustworthy person."
posted by desuetude at 11:53 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I rarely add my two cents to human relations problems on AskMe, but this seems exactly the situation for which white lies were created!

Tell him that you've got an old friend moving into town who you promised the place to, that you're turning the bedroom into a spare office, that the landlord says no subletting.

Whatever story you tell him, leave it vague and skip out on the details. If it helps, think of the chain of events which would lead you to renege on whatever you told him: that the friend ended up staying put, that money got tight and you needed to fill the room again, that the landlord changed his mind.

The white lie allows him to save face. If I were to be kicked out of a housing situation--even if I knew it was because of my personality or because of a "bad fit"--I would want the plausible deniability. Most likely you'll never see him again or, if you do, the circumstances of move-out won't come up. If, God forbid, he has poor enough social skills to call you out on the lie, tell him you did it because he's a nice guy and you didn't want to hurt his feeling.

I think AskMe can sometimes lean too far towards 100% radical honesty. Social conventions like white lies serve a purpose in our society. One perfect purpose would be evicting a roommate in a way that leaves both parties with an OK--if not great--feeling at the end.
posted by whitewall at 1:03 AM on May 13, 2012 [19 favorites]

I don't understand why some of the advisers here think it's okay to lie in these circumstances. The reason you want to kick out this guy is that you don't like him and you'd rather live with someone you like more. It's not that you should be "100% honest"; you shouldn't give personal dislike as a reason. But that doesn't magically make it appropriate simply to make up a reason. He is going to know that you're not telling the truth. It's hard enough being asked to move out because of your character, because you "make your roommates uncomfortable". Being lied to would be (or at least I would feel it to be) adding insult to injury. When you live together, you have a kind of relationship, and you are committed to being truthful.

In my experience, when flat-sharing arrangement come to an end, people tend to stop respecting the normal rules of human relation. In circumstances like this -- the last month of you living together -- a sudden change of behavior made me feel as if all the time before, the roommate was friendly or considerate only for instrumental reasons, because he had to go on living with me. I found that hurtful.

The virtuous thing to do is not what is easiest for you but to say that your flat-sharing arrangement is not working out -- that you're looking for a flatmate who has more in common with you (desuetude's suggestion sounds good to me). The moment you kick someone out "for no reason" is not the time for being selfish, it's the time for being particularly considerate and accommodating. He's a person who has done you no harm and deserves friendliness, even if you dislike him.
posted by faustdick at 3:47 AM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm with dekathelon - this is not nice. If this was done to me I'd be devastated.

If you have to do it lie, lie, lie and lie, and make sure the truth can never come out. Otherwise you're just hurting and alienating someone for no good reason.
posted by Summer at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

(For reference, my post was deleted. I didn't think it was inappropriate at all. This guy deserves consideration too; being "granola-y" or like Pete Campbell doesn't change that.)

As I posted before, the only obligations he has are to pay rent and utilities in full on time, not steal or otherwise harass you, not damage the property and fulfill whatever other agreements you laid out from the start. Otherwise, he is paying rent to have a room of his own, and it's his right to stay in that room as much or little as he wants. And the amount of time people spend at home can be something people feel really guilty about, especially if they don't have any other place to go. (You say he "NEVER" leaves the apartment. So what do you expect him to do? Go out and roam the streets of New York aimlessly for a few hours? Leave his own room that he's paying for, for no other reason than somebody else who isn't really his friend wants him to?)

Put short, this is not going to be nice no matter what you do, and if you handle this the wrong way, it'll actually be really, really cruel.

Other considerations:

- You're in NYC. Apartment hunting in NYC is much more difficult than it is elsewhere, and it's also much more expensive. I imagine he's got furniture in the room? Expense. A huge expense. Depending on weight or time frame, a potentially hundreds or even thousands-of-dollars expense. Are you prepared for a sudden, large expense over something you weren't told to expect? And over nothing you've done wrong? Can you start to see how this is a bit... well, not nice?

- Where is the landlord in all this? If you must do something about this, I'd do it through him.

But what I'd do is first talk to him, because you've said you've been "suffering in silence," which implies you haven't brought any of this up with him. You've spoken to the other roommate behind his back, but not him. This is not good. It sounds like he has absolutely no idea something's wrong, there's been no three-strikes rule, nothing like that. This needs to change. It's the only fair thing to do.
posted by dekathelon at 9:03 AM on May 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Don't be shitty to your fellow humans. Don't lie to him.
You want him out because you don't like him/his behavior. Which you said yourself is not wrong, just different from yours.
There is no 'real' other reason other than you wish to live with someone who is more like you. Fair enough. Tell him that, he's done nothing wrong, he seems like a quiet fella who is responsible, why should he do anything bad to you if you are being fair to him?
Tell him you want a better fit, give him a timeframe that is realistic in NYC and don't show his room while he is still there!

And if I were you I would hope that there never is a situation where you are kicked out for no good reason only because you are different.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:45 AM on May 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you are really going to do this, it is entirely appropriate that you look shitty doing it and feel shitty doing it because it is a shitty thing to be doing to someone; particularly in NYC. Part of having a home is using it like a home, which is all your roommate appears to be guilty of doing.

Please make sure that you soften the blow logistically as much as possible, by helping him find a place, helping him move his stuff, doing most of the cleaning, and giving him plenty of time.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:48 PM on May 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

There is nothing morally wrong with what you're doing. You're entitled to have roommates with whom you feel more chemistry, especially since he's on a month-to-month lease. Only proviso is that I'd give him maybe up to 2 months if he needs it to find a new place.

I also absolutely agree with the idea of a big fat white lie to help him save face.
posted by shivohum at 1:31 PM on May 13, 2012

Lie. Say that you and your roommate have decided you don't want a third roommate anymore. Give him 2 months (it can take a while in NYC) and offer to give him a good reference. (You don't have to lie on the reference--just say he is quiet and pays his bills on time and give the same line you're giving him--that you guys want to reduce the number of roommates you have in the place.) Once he is out, eat his portion of a month's rent while you interview another roommate.

It doesn't matter if he finds out after the fact--it'll be done and it sounds like you won't run into him again. If you *must* cover for it, just say that the two-roommate situation didn't work out financially and you ended up having to find another roommate after all, and that you're sorry he got screwed but hope he found a good place.
posted by elizeh at 7:32 PM on May 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. I would never dream of giving someone less than the agreed-upon notice to vacate, in NYC or anywhere. He will have at least 30 days to find a new apartment. I didn't want to unduly complain about A in my original post, but perhaps I should have included a few details: he lied about his employment status, and thus consequently about his daily schedule, which was part of our considerations in choosing a roommate. He does not do any household chores or cleaning. He complains about petty issues (landlord does not change lightbulbs -- real example) without first taking any initiative to fix the problem.

It is hard to find a place in NYC, so I feel reluctant to ask someone to leave based on these factors -- it is not "nice", as has been stated, but I don't think it's cruel. Perhaps I also was too facetious in my description of him. This is someone who genuinely makes me uncomfortable in my own home. He is a man, and I am a woman. Am I being clear here?

A white lie is certainly in order, and I appreciate the suggestions so far. If it was financially feasible to cover the rent myself while we find a new flatmate I would do so. I'm sure I don't need to reiterate how expensive rents in NYC are.
posted by sideofwry at 8:52 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there any chance that he's not happy in your apartment? Because I once spent weeks agonizing over how to end a perfectly miserable, bad-fit roommate situation and went through every script imaginable for how to ask her to leave. Ultimately, all it took was a "This isn't working. Do you want to move out?" She jumped and the chance and was gone in, literally, forty-eight hours. Oddly, after she moved out, she became one of my best friends. Still is.
posted by thivaia at 1:15 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would tell him that you and your other roommate are going to look for another female. If G is female, there won't be a good argument against this. Gender matching is completely acceptable! You can just say, "This isn't working out for us/me." If G is male, I think you could still say this because you two are the lease-holders and you get to say what the preferred gender balance is. This approach is good because he can't respond by saying that he'll become more female--he clearly is not the right fit when that is the criteria

If you would be inviting guys over to check out the place, though, this might not work.
posted by ramenopres at 6:32 PM on May 14, 2012

To be clear, I think that a very vague "we have a known person or two who's interested in moving in and would be a better fit" sort of explanation is pretty much the very definition of what makes a white lie "white." In my view, it's not really "more honest" in a broad sense to make the guy feel humiliated and rejected when it's just a personality clash among roommates-for-convenience.

After all, if you're going to dish out that kind of unvarnished opinion, you should be prepared to take it as well. Which is a great thing to keep in mind in serious personal relationships, but this is really a business arrangement between acquaintances.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 PM on May 14, 2012

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