a methy situation
October 2, 2012 3:28 PM   Subscribe

I just found out my landlord is a meth addict. How worried should I be?

I rent an apartment in a beautiful building divided into three spaces, sharing the downstairs with another tenant. Our landlord ("Jim") lives in a completely separate space above us -- even our entrances are on different sides of the building. Jim's in his fifties, and is usually friendly, although he can get cranky and hard to pin down. A few weeks ago, the other tenant told me that Jim mentioned his meth addiction. (I believe this; Jim over-shares a lot.) Since then, certain details have fallen into place -- Jim's shady guests, the times he's disappeared for four or five days at a time, his teeth grinding, etc.

Additional details: I don't think Jim deals. I've been in his apartment multiple times, and it's always clean. I don't think he's doing anything to get off meth. He's probably upper middle class -- he owns a few properties in the neighborhood.

If we were talking about a different drug -- say cocaine -- I'd be less worried, but I've heard such horror stories about meth I'm wondering if I need to find a new place to live before my landlord goes off the deep end.

Is there such a thing as a functional meth addict? Or is Jim heading to some massive meltdown?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can claim no personal experience with this at all, but if my landlord had a drug addiction - any drug - I would be worried as hell that this person who has a key to my front door might reach the point where he starts stealing to support it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:35 PM on October 2, 2012 [22 favorites]

posted by elizardbits at 3:37 PM on October 2, 2012 [19 favorites]

Move ASAP. If I found out my landlord was a meth user I'd be out of there SO fast...
posted by sarcasticah at 3:45 PM on October 2, 2012

Many people who use meth are functional vocationally and socially. Many are not. If Jim is upper middle class and owns properties and keeps his own place neat and clean I would suggest you have little to worry about from him. Aside from health issues, the greatest danger from a drug like meth (or cocaine) arises when there are no resources left to obtain drugs and resort is had to using other people's money/stuff to procure with.

As a "monied" user Jim is likely able to avoid using low grade, often adulterated, drugs and to avoid dealing with more sketchy suppliers. This is not in any way meant as an endorsement for Jim's use, but to help you more realistically assess the need for action on your part. If you see significant deterioration in Jim's condition or conduct, you should re-assess.
posted by uncaken at 3:49 PM on October 2, 2012 [24 favorites]

Me, I would move. If you really aren't ready to pull the plug on moving, make sure you have excellent renter's insurance and really good records of any valuables you may own. Just because Jim seems to have it together doesn't mean he doesn't have any friends who are less well-situated.
posted by ambrosia at 3:52 PM on October 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

I've known many functional users, but not addicts. Addiction to me implies they use every day and will generally lose their shit if they can't get their hands on more product.

Anyways, you might want to get a better idea of how far gone into addiction he is. Doesn't sound like it's cause for immediate concern, but I wouldn't feel too comfortable having a landlord in that situation. It would be a different story if he was just your neighbour, but this guy has keys to your personal space.
posted by mannequito at 3:57 PM on October 2, 2012

I wouldn't want to stay, but I also don't think you should get too hysterical about it, either.

Worst case scenarios I can think of are that Jim eventually gets busted by the cops, leading to complications for you, or that Jim's drug use comes with unsavory friends who come looking around your property for apartments to rip off/cars to steal/crimes to do. Or, as others have suggested, if Jim has a key to your place, he might start helping himself to your stuff.

If it were me, I would probably start casually looking for a better living situation. But not urgently, unless you think there are extenuating factors you're not mentioning here (like he's cooking it in his apartment).
posted by Sara C. at 3:58 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Being a 'monied user', as uncaken puts it, I wouldn't worry a whole lot about Jim's behavior. I would worry about jim's shady friends, however. Meth suppliers tend to be of a less than savory character, and if Jim's going on 5-day benders, he may at some point be off his tits enough to lend* one of his suppliers your front door key.

In any case, not a lot of good comes out of meth. I'd bail.

*or forget to lock it up, or leave it where they can get it, or whatever.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:01 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nth-ing move. Not urgently, but definitely. Sounds like he's got other resources to exploit before getting to you, but realistically it's only a matter of time. Personal experience voucher on this one.
posted by Aquaman at 4:01 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

The thing with addicts is that, unless they get clean, functional eventually becomes non-functional, and when that will happen is impossible to predict. I don't think you necessarily need to panic, but I would still get out of that situation as quickly as you can. Even the "best" addict is going to be questionable as far as reliability and the people he chooses to surround himself with.
posted by something something at 4:02 PM on October 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

Addicts of all kinds are unpredictable. I would strongly consider moving if my landlord were an alcoholic, for example, even if they didn't live in the same building.

Meth, and the activities and visitors you describe, sound like something you need to move away from fairly immediately.
posted by tel3path at 4:08 PM on October 2, 2012

The shady guests thing would make me want to move. Regardless of the landlord's level of drug use, shady people around your place (and hanging out with someone who has a key to your apartment) doesn't seem ideal. I wouldn't put all your things in your car right now or anything, but maybe start looking around for a new place.
posted by bluefly at 4:11 PM on October 2, 2012

Is he responsible for paying any bills on your behalf? For example, does the rent include money for water bills, heat, or electric? If so, consider that he might see this at some point as a source of money he can "borrow from" to fund his habit. You'll probably only find out when your power gets cut off.
posted by lollusc at 4:38 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't sweat it unless he actually does something shady. I knew a bunch of highly functional meth users. It's not a particularly stable lifestyle, but from my experience, they're just as likely to quit it and get their shit together as they are to have a complete breakdown. Just pay attention, maybe keep an eye out for another place. If he starts acting delusional or paranoid, get a new place as soon as you can.
posted by empath at 4:41 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

(Also, meth isn't a particularly expensive habit. I wouldn't worry about him stealing to fund it if he has an income)
posted by empath at 4:41 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Will your apartment ever need repairs or other landlord attention of any kind? It might be hard to get his attention and have him follow through on things. Even if the guy is not invading your space or behaving in sketchy ways, it may just be challenging to engage with him as a landlord. I learned this the hard way.
posted by judith at 4:44 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meth addiction is no worse than cocaine addiction: treatment success rates are identical. You just are more familiar with cocaine so you know what claims are BS; meth is the scary drug of the moment so everyone tells stories about it being the worst. It isn't: alcohol and heroin addictions tend to last longer, for example. Moreover, anyone who makes global statements about "all addicts will do x" or "all addicts will do y" is wrong: like any other psychiatric disorder, it's incredibly heterogeneous.

Some people with addiction will be functional their entire addictions; some will immediately decline. Some will have good and bad phases; some will recover and never relapse. Some are violent; most are not. Pharmacologically, stimulants (cocaine and amphetamines) and alcohol are the drugs most linked with violence but most "drug related" violence is related to the drug trade and most people who become violent on drugs are also violent when not on drugs.

Also, meth is legally sold as DesOxyn as an ADHD treatment: it is FDA-approved and does not turn people into monsters simply by being taken.

As people above have noted, income and drug-related crime are highly correlated: if you can afford your drugs, you're unlikely to rob or cheat people to get them.

So, should you move or not? The shady people, moodiness and unreliability suggest that you should move: there's no need to worry about whether he's an evil meth head or not.
posted by Maias at 4:58 PM on October 2, 2012 [29 favorites]


*The landlord has keys to your place, AND CAN SEE WHEN YOU AREN'T HOME. He's a meth addict, and he needs money for his drugs; your property is not safe from either him or his sleezy guests.
*YOU aren't safe: meth ain't pot, and users have been known to get paranoid and/or violent. You've got to consider interactions between the landlord, his friends, perhaps a dealer or two (possibly pissed from thinking he was cheated in a trade, maybe merely dropping by to sell more drugs), and, of course, there's the chances of a drug bust.
*Meth is a rough drug, and all too many time a user either turns to making it himself or just makes his place available to cook it --- either way, living near that shit would be VERY bad for you: there's the fumes and chemicals used, plus the the fire and explosion hazards.

Sure, you're not facing any of that now: he's not currently manufacturing it, and at least so far (I presume) you and your property have been safe..... but the future risk is too high. Please move.
posted by easily confused at 4:59 PM on October 2, 2012

A landlord who is also a meth addict has incentives to offer other meth addicts a somewhat safe place to cook meth in properties he owns in exchange for supplying said landlord meth. Meth lab explosions are not good at all and the fumes from production include substances one should probably avoid breathing. Just another thing to look out for.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:14 PM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

How long is your lease? I would move as soon as is was up, but probably wouldn't break a lease to do it. However, absolutely get out everything that you couldn't handle losing or is of value. Like jewelry and family heirlooms. Don't leave extra checkbooks or credit cards around the house and put a password on your computer.

If there are dodgy people coming around that would worry me more than anything. They would also possibly have access to your apartment.

I see this as a problem, but not an imminent threat, so plan your escape and take precautions.
posted by whoaali at 5:25 PM on October 2, 2012

I would move.

Your landlord may well be highly functional and scrupulously honest; are you comfortable assuming the same of all his dealers?
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:58 PM on October 2, 2012

A landlord who is also a meth addict has incentives to offer other meth addicts a somewhat safe place to cook meth in properties he owns in exchange for supplying said landlord meth.

Not to get into a huge debate about this, but that's ridiculous. Meth just doesn't cost that much money, even for addicts -- probably no more than a drinking or cigarette addiction. As long as he has a job and income, he's not going to have to do anything like that to 'fund his addiction'.
posted by empath at 6:06 PM on October 2, 2012 [8 favorites]

I would move because you know one really shady thing about him (uses meth) and several less-than-good things (creepy guests, poor social boundaries, him disappearing for days on end when you presumably depend on him for any emergency maintenance.)

And this is not the economy in which to be hoping a meth user is able to keep up his steady income from rental properties. Among other things: note how many open-minded, everything-positive MetaFilter users say you should move (and would presumably move themselves,) and how easy it was for you to find out that your over-sharing landlord is a meth user.
posted by SMPA at 6:43 PM on October 2, 2012

We don't know where you're located or what the laws are where you are but yes, ideally not living there is the best arrangement. However, despite his outwardly civil tone, you're probably in more danger than you think. Personally, I'd not leave immediately but I would tell the police right away. I'm not sure how that might play out exactly, but you don't want to be there and if you can also have him not there for a while (or forever) that's a big plus. In any case, you should make moving plans... You don't want to be around when he decides to set up his own lab to cook the stuff at home, you know?
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:47 PM on October 2, 2012

I understand the whoa! reaction, I really do.

But you may already have had landlords, roommates, live-in RELATIVES, you name it, with drug problems. You just didn't know about it. Landlord with a coke problem, landlord with a Vicodin problem, bag-a-day landlord, pothead landlord, all these sound a lot less scary than landlord with a meth problem. But they're the same.

Hell, a landlord who smoked cigarettes might actually cause a bigger dent in your quality of life.

I may have missed something, but how does he have a key to your apartment? A landlord shouldn't have a key to your apartment. If he could get in through a window, then anybody could...put up some gates.

I would file it away but not get too worried. You like the place, so just pay your rent and obliterate thoughts of his personal life from your mind.
posted by skbw at 6:55 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Landlords always have keys to their rental properties. I they're not supposed to use them outside of emergencies without 24 hours' notice, but I've never rented from anyone who gave me the only keys.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:57 PM on October 2, 2012 [8 favorites]

Not to get into a side debate, but it is a relevant issue here. I have lived in something like 12 apartments in my adult life and in zero cases did the landlord have a key. Sometimes the super had a key, sometimes the prime tenant had a key, but the LL did not, including the 3-family houses I lived in. (I can attest to this because I think I have gotten locked out of every single apartment I've ever lived in, sad to say.)

I worked as a housing advocate in NYC for years and, oddly enough, this never came up, probably because my clients were always installing all kinds of deadbolts to which the LL naturally did not have a key.

I worked for a private landlord for a year and we did have keys at the outset, but tenants certainly did not furnish us with a new key every time they changed their locks!

I worked for a senior services agency for a year. We were located in an apartment building with the landlord in the building. He did not have keys. I'm sorry to say that we had people die in their apartments, and having the police break down the door was a standard thing.

Here is a 2006 NYT article that says, per a housing attorney, that tenants must furnish a key to an extra (deadbolt) lock on request.

My advice to the OP: check your local laws, quietly install a deadbolt (a good idea in any case), and watch carefully if the landlord gets pissy a/o demands a key. I realize that rental mores may be different in other places, but still. If a clean and sober LL insisted on a key to a deadbolt, that for me would be the red flag, not a meth user who goes about his business.
posted by skbw at 7:13 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Did he actually use the word "addict" or is this your own editorial paraphrase? Drug users generally don't use the terminology of addiction except a) ironically or b) f they are currently in treatment or seriously considering going into treatment.

As others have pointed out, there are some high-functioning meth users who present no immediate danger to people who are living in the same building.

If the situation makes you uncomfortable, then go ahead and move if you can afford it, but do understand that you are most likely moving purely for "comfort," that is, the avoidance of unexamined and perhaps irrational fear.
posted by La Cieca at 8:03 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

@skbw: must be a regional thing, because I've rented 5 apartments in the last 10 years and landlords have always had keys. I know two landlords personally, and they have keys. Installing your own deadbolt would be a violation of the lease, especially if you didn't hand the landlord a key.

Around here though I've never rented or toured an apartment complex with a "super" or "prime tenant". The most indirection you get is sometimes a property manager.
posted by sbutler at 8:36 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Every lease I've signed has had "changing the locks" as the first or sometimes second thing on the list of things you're not allowed to do. It ranks well above putting Drano down a drain, and is right next to "don't let the utilities go into arrears and get shut off." My landlords have always had the master key, and my keys have always been imprinted with "DO NOT DUPLICATE."

In fact, just a few weeks ago I had to call my landlord to ask if they could please go turn the stove off, because I accidentally drove to Cincinnati without remembering to do it. Took them about four minutes to take care of it.

Definitely a check-your-own-lease-and-jurisdiction thing.
posted by SMPA at 9:13 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've always installed my own locks in apartments, ever since I came home and smelled the landlord's fading presence and had it confirmed by my neighbors, who caught him coming out (and making comments about my sexual orientation). I've done this regardless of what the lease says (which sometime, but rarely forbids lock-changing), and it's never been an issue. If any landlord has noticed it, they've been too embarrassed to say anything because I've never given them cause to enter an apartment. And then I just hand over the new keys afterwards.

It sounds like you are comfortable in your place and might be hoping you don't have to leave. Like others have said, just keep an eye on things and adjust according to your comfort level. Make sure your rental insurance is up-to-date and make sure your neighbor isn't likely to blab that you guys knew something about it should you ever have to use the insurance.

I wouldn't worry about it. In my experience a crazy landlord is a lot more worrying than one who does drugs, all other things being equal.
posted by thelastcamel at 10:15 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd recommend getting a new place when you can. I lived below some tweakers for awhile and it was pretty obnoxious. The main thing was the noise. God, the noise! They were up and at 'em pretty much all the time. Vacuuming, vacuuming, endlessly tidying up. And also having random screaming matches and plate-throwing events at 3AM. Or throwing the entire contents of their apartment out the 2nd floor windows. Followed by yet more vacuuming.

Oh, and they folded my laundry for me on more than one occasion. Which included helping themselves to some of my undergarments.
posted by medeine at 10:57 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

A stable person of 51 years seems more likely someone taking advantage of a drug's effects than an addict. It's called "self medication".
posted by Goofyy at 8:06 AM on October 3, 2012

I used to be a landlord. If there is any chance he is manufacturing meth, you are at risk of fire and serious environmental health problems. Sketchy visitors & addict on premises = you(and apartment and car) are at risk of being ripped off and/or assaulted.

Be ridiculously thorough about securing your apartment door(deadbolt & chain), windows, sliding door/s and exterior. Trim bushes that could hide a perp and make sure there are motion-activated outdoor lights. If there's a fire escape, make sure it's not providing easy access to your home for an intruder.

Make sure you have lots of *working* smoke detectors (kitchen, bedroom/s, hallways), and easy paths to exit in a fire.

Then, if things are going okay, consider staying. If things get weird, you'll have grounds to break your lease, and should. Pot, booze or heroin addictions may be somewhat manageable. Meth and cocaine make people crazy(er).

on edit: If you are susceptible to addiction, consider removing yourself from the situation.
posted by theora55 at 9:11 AM on October 3, 2012

nthing the concern that your landlord may soon be hosting a meth lab.

Frankly, the sketch factor is up to 10 when meth is involved. It's like living among the walking dead, with them being all skeletal, tooth rotted and covered in sores.

For now, I'd install a deadbolt and secure the windows. I'd also start looking.

I wouldn't want to live anywhere near anyone who had a meth habit. The people are unsavory and if they take it into their heads to cook, that's a huge, other can of worms.

If you smell something like paint thinner, get out and call the cops.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:22 AM on October 3, 2012

I think we can safely say that depending on locality (state/city/country) you may or may not be able to install extra deadbolts, and your landlord may or may not have the key to your place. You know your situation - your lease will pretty clearly state it if you can't install extra locks and if your landlord can enter your place.

That said, regardless of what extra security measures you can take, I'd move. Am I discriminating against someone who abuses drugs or alcohol? Yes. Am I ok with that? Yes. I've been around enough serious users - and I consider anyone with sketchy people hanging around, missing for days on end, etc as a serious users - to not want to be around them, to not want to rent from them, to not want to deal with it. They have the right to use, and I have the right to not want to deal with it.

I don't know in the overall if meth users are better or worse than people who seriously use coke, or alcohol, or pot, or whatever. I do know that serious users/abusers of this stuff have a much different priority system, and that they often don't match with my priority system, up to and including where boundaries are at, and what is ok vs what is not ok. I've had people try to justify stealing cash as ok 'because they intend to pay it back', for instance. For a non-user, this sounds ridiculous. For a serious user, they really mean it and don't see the issue. Hence my statement: priorities and boundaries can be in much different places.

Also nthing: your landlord may be fine. The people who hang around with him don't seem to be fine. It's not just your landlord you need to take into account, it's all the creepers that come with the territory.
posted by RogueTech at 9:56 AM on October 3, 2012

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
Thanks for all the opinions. I really appreciate them.

FWIW, I'm far more worried about Jim's physical safety than my possessions. Having my stuff stolen would suck, but having my landlord overdose or be assaulted would be far worse.

Jim did indeed describe himself with the word "addict," although I doubt he's using frequently. The pattern seems to be that there's one weekend a month when he holes up in his place and seedy strangers come over to party/hook-up, and then a few days later I see him looking like hell.

Since this was a big question, I'll confirm he does have a key to my apartment. I also have a key to his. (And medeine - yes, Jim has folded my laundry before.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:11 PM on October 3, 2012

You sound like a good person, OP, to be worried about Jim's physical safety. Your instincts are good.

My advice, though, for any successful tenancy is to keep it clean (so to speak) and stick to business, which, in this case, may mean not thinking too much (ideally not at all) about his problems. Seedy strangers? Not your problem. Overdose? It sounds harsh, but it's not your problem either. At 51 he knows what's up.

I don't mean to sound like, Oh, I am so old and wise, but large swaths of my building are composed of seedy strangers. Hell, some of my roommates have been seedy strangers. Someone with nice clothes and no track marks, runny nose, or sketchy aroma can be JUST AS DANGEROUS as your average flannel-wearing seedy guy. More so. Your roommate's all-American sister visiting from college, sleeping on the couch, can steal your stuff a lot easier than some old dude with problems of his own.

Hell, you might want to consider moving if you could see yourself getting too involved or caring too much. Leave it be. Really. Try to enjoy a good apartment.
posted by skbw at 3:41 PM on October 3, 2012

Another angle. If Jim has a drug problem big enough to get mentioned, he may be a genuinely good person and wish you all the best, but he's most likely not concerning himself too much with your issues. So don't you lose any sleep over his.
posted by skbw at 3:44 PM on October 3, 2012

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