Roommate's work problems coming home to roost
September 26, 2012 8:16 PM   Subscribe

How do I tell my roommate to get it together at work before he screws both of us?

A few months ago I got an apartment with a friend of a friend who was transferred here for work and things have been going fine. However, through our network of friends, I have just learned that his manager thinks he's a terrible slacker and his manager's boss wants to transfer him back (the word "hate" was used in the conversation, apparently) and his manager can't come up with any good reason to keep him here, let alone keep him employed.

For the most part, he's a nice guy, pays rent, cleans up, etc. I have no reason to want him to leave. However, if he were suddenly transferred, it would cost me a fortune. I can't afford to pay for the apartment on my own and moving is going to cost me a lot in addition to what I paid just a few months ago to move here.

He has been reprimanded at work and knows that he's in serious trouble. However, he's such a slacker that he hasn't produced any results since they transferred him here almost a year ago and it's doubtful he's going to start laying golden eggs any time soon. I don't work with him, but since my ass is on the line, what course of action can I take? I know the manager, but he's basically given up and is pretty ineffectual otherwise (passive, avoids confrontation, which is probably how this escalated so much in the first place and wasn't dealt with sooner). Thanks.
posted by princeoftheair to Human Relations (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think you sit him down and have a conversation about what you're writing here. It's up to him to get his act together, not you.

And I'd also make contingency plans for what happens when he decides not to take your advice and you have to find a new roommate or a new place to live.
posted by xingcat at 8:23 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

If being reprimanded by his boss and getting transferred or possibly fired aren't motivating your roommate to work, I highly doubt you have any power to motivate him yourself. And even if you did, it would likely be ineffectual and ruin your relationship with him.

Maybe you should focus instead on the part of this that directly affects you-- what kind of agreement do you have with your roommate? what about your lease? Is he allowed to just automatically stop paying rent if he leaves town? Or does he have to keep paying rent until he finds a replacement tenant for his half of the room? Are both of you on the lease with the landlord or just one of you? It seems more likely that you can negotiate some kind of security on that end than that you can force your roommate to get it together.
posted by willbaude at 8:26 PM on September 26, 2012 [16 favorites]

I'm not sure you can do much more than what his manager has already laid out for him.

If I were you, I'd have the conversation that xingcat mentioned. Don't make it about his job. I'd just mention that I'm worried about paying for the apartment and talk about his obligation to keep up his end of the rental agreement.

And I'd consider posting an ad to Craigslist for the room. Even if you had to subsidize the room for a while, it'd be cheaper than being on the hook for the total amount or having to move.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2012

Yep, put your energy into a backup plan in case he gets canned. Sounds like it's unlikely he's going to hang onto that job.
posted by HuronBob at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2012 [16 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone, roommate's job sounds like it's gone. Spend your time on solving the follow-on problems.
posted by jacalata at 8:33 PM on September 26, 2012

You're not worried about your roommate, you're worried about you -- so take care of you. Make some backup plans, like trying to line up potential new roommates or seeing how you can lessen the financial costs should the situation arise. You wish your roommate best of luck in keeping his job and are on his side, but don't want his unfortunate situation to turn into your unfortunate situation.
posted by Pwoink at 8:37 PM on September 26, 2012

This is none of your business unless he's come to you about the reprimands in the past. I would be unbelievably offended if a roommate came to me with office gossip that had somehow gotten around to them. Especially if the tone from said roommate was in the vein of "how dare you screw me over by not working your hardest!" You are not this guy's boss. Frankly, it's creepy that you assume that because some of your roommate's money pertains to you, therefore you're somehow responsible for chiding him about how good he is at making said money.

I agree with others, though, that it's probably worth looking at what specific agreements you guys have made. Did he sign a lease that he'd stay for a certain period of time? Was there any provision for breaking said lease? Or is it all just a verbal agreement that he is welcome to live there as long as he pays his way? Similarly, how easy would it be to replace him? It might be time to get your ducks in a row in terms of a possible future roommate hunt.
posted by Sara C. at 8:38 PM on September 26, 2012 [28 favorites]

I would totally stay out of the work situation. Plenty of people have roommates where they aren't at all privy to what's going on at their workplace. Try to keep your boundaries clear: what your roommate's gig is at work is nothing to do with you. Your sole interest in him and his success is as a co-payer of your housing bills.

All you need is a good legal understanding and a solid backup plan - just as you would with any roommate. Pull out your lease and figure out what each of you is entitled to. If you think it wise, starting putting out quiet feelers that there might be an opening in your household soon. Maybe write up a listing for whatever apartment search site would make sense and have it ready to go. Or, if it looks like you wouldn't be the party that could stay, start looking for your own Plan B place to live.
posted by Miko at 8:56 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

He's probably kinda freaked out and worried.
posted by rhizome at 9:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

All of this is hearsay and the manager you're talking to sounds like a dick. How do you know with certain, verifiable proof that your roommate is what this manager claims? How come your roommate is totally a slacker when apparently the guy pays his rent on time and does what he's supposed to do around your apartment?

You are making a lot of leaps here.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:54 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to clarify in response to questions:
We can get out of the rent with little trouble, but have to give the landlord a couple of months notice. The problem is finding another apartment and moving will be very expensive and probably require that I live alone a couple of months to look around, which will also be expensive. I emailed to ask about deposit and rent should one of us leave early and am waiting for a response so I am fully aware of the agreement we signed.

My girlfriend is close friends with the manager (how I met the roommate in the first place), so I am privy to a lot of details I probably shouldn't be. This has been going on for a while but I never knew it was this serious until now, and the manager was quite clear about how much trouble the rm was in when he spoke to her. Additionally, another manager flew in on a work trip last week and also had a talk with rm. I trust my gf and know the manager well enough to know that he doesn't make stuff up.

Thanks for all the advice. I understand that it's none of my business and I have no right to confront him, which is why I am asking here. However, it's frustrating knowing this could blow up real soon and he hasn't given me any indication. I'll start sending out feelers and have a back-up plan just in case.
posted by princeoftheair at 11:39 PM on September 26, 2012

Why can't you just find another roommate through friends or craigslist?

You seem to be making drama where there is really just normal roommate stuff. Replace him, don't move out. Moving out is ridiculous!


You can find someone to rent the entire apartment and take over the lease, the landlord should let you out of the lease without penalty as long as there is no gap in the rent being paid AND landlord approves of the new tenant (credit check, etc.).

But your easiest move by far is to quietly line up potential new roommates.


BTW, your roommates work situation is NONE of your business, and the manager might be in breach of employment laws or whatever for telling your gf about your roommate's disciplinary status and likely firing. Stay away from that drama. Stay far far away from it.

YOUR only concern is if roommate can pay rent or not. Will unemployment cover his share while he looks for another job? Does he have savings? Family who will pay his rent if he gets fired??

It's smart to plan ahead just in case, it is not smart to be angry at your roommate at this juncture, since for all you know he may have the rent covered and such.

CYA, but chill out!
posted by jbenben at 12:49 AM on September 27, 2012 [9 favorites]

Your roommate hates his job and doesn't care. I don't see how this is any of your business at all really. He is required to pay the rent obviously but how he does that is his problem.

I think you should just stay out of it. Perhaps he has back-up funds to get through a few months of looking for work?

Secondly, If he ends up having to move out, why can't you just find a replacement housemate? This sort of thing happens all the time. People move out. You find someone knew.
I usually firstly post something to all my friends - friend of a friend is better than a complete stranger. but if that doesn't work there are craigslist and local adverts in Cafes etc. This is standard operating procedure in share accommodation.
posted by mary8nne at 1:58 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

it's frustrating knowing this could blow up real soon and he hasn't given me any indication.

The thing is, you don't know if there's any "indication" he would need to give.

You say he pays his bills on time and everything has been above board so far.

I wouldn't assume nothing can possibly go wrong, but there is a strong chance that this dude is a stand up guy who would be diligent and responsible and somehow manage to come up with the money. He seems like a pretty low flight risk, to use a Law & Order term.

Surely, if nothing else, keep in mind that if he gets fired, it's not like he goes from totally flush and great at paying bills to 100% Destitute For Life. You're going to know whether he's losing his job long before his financial situation becomes an issue for you.

You imply that his work problems could result in a transfer, but that seems like even less of a problem. Presumably the dude continues to get paid and can at least fulfill his end of any arrangement he has with you. He might even be willing to lose his deposit* (he paid a deposit, right?) or pay you some kind of penalty if things happen at very short notice and his room sits empty for a month.

Just get your ducks in a row regarding finding a new roommate. Maybe put away a little money on the off chance that his room is vacant for a month or you end up having to move. If you think moving is a distinct possibility for you, maybe have an eye on an exit strategy.

*This, by the way, is one of the reasons people pay apartment deposits. If for some reason he really can't pay his last month's rent, or he leaves at short notice and you aren't able to rent the room, he can forfeit his deposit and nobody faces eviction or penury.
posted by Sara C. at 4:45 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, his work situation isn't something that you should be worrying about unless he's spoken to you about it. He might have savings, or family willing to help him out, or be eligible for unemployment if he loses his job. Hell, he might just go on welfare. It's none of your business as long as he's paying his rent. Get a backup plan together in case you think you might need it, but really, it's not your problem until it becomes your problem.

I'd also consider not talking about this guy behind his back with your girlfriend anymore. Even if she is privy to information about him, she really shouldn't be sharing it with you- it's a violation of privacy and it's rude. Don't ask for that information, and if she starts gossiping (that's what it is, if you're not involved in their workplace it's gossip, and gossip about someone you live with no less) about him, redirect the conversation. Like I said, unless he makes it your business, it's not.
posted by windykites at 5:30 AM on September 27, 2012

Best answer: I agree that you should ask your girlfriend to stop sharing this information with you. Not only is it a violation of privacy, I'd be surprised if it weren't also a violation of personnel confidentiality. The manager shouldn't be putting her in that position, and she shouldn't be letting him, but you can't control either of them - however, you can control what you listen to. Ask her not share any more. Geez, would you want your private evaluation information shared in this way if your roles were reversed?

When and if the time comes when he says "lost my job, can't pay rent, need to move out," be ready. That's all. And that's nothing you wouldn't have to do even if you know nothing at all about his working life.
posted by Miko at 5:40 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

It would be nice if you could honestly sit down with RM and ask, "Just for grins, let's say it doesn't work out with the job here, what would your plans be?" Then you could have an honest discussion about contingencies, expectations, etc. But we all know that since you've come by your information in a round-about way, that you can't do that. This is why you're frustrated.

Maybe this dude has a trust fund, or maybe he's got his resume out there and is waiting for an offer on a great new job. You never know, it could work out.

On the downside, he may choose to live in the apartment, not pay rent and then he may need to be evicted, so you're not crazy for worrying about this.

Is it possible that you could approach him and ask him, "I'm concerned that this may not work out (notice how vague it is?) and I'm thinking that maybe we ought to think about either getting new places separately, or perhaps you can take over the apartment and I can move out, or whatever. What are your thoughts?"

I like being direct, but clearly your RM isn't confiding in you about this, so you may have to drag it out of him.

Good Luck, and know your rights!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:17 AM on September 27, 2012

the manager was quite clear about how much trouble the rm was in when he spoke to her. Additionally, another manager flew in on a work trip last week and also had a talk with rm.

If he became a model employee this moment, it would be too late. Just assume he is going to lose his job soon. This is going to get pricey for you; but if you start looking now you might be able to contain it. I'd seriously consider give your landlord notice now.
posted by spaltavian at 6:58 AM on September 27, 2012

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