Dealing with unwanted guest
October 2, 2012 9:27 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with an unwanted guest/"unofficial roommate" living on our couch? Asking this as a strictly interpersonal relations question.

My roommates - who I get along with fine but am by no means friends with them - appear to be allowing a buddy who is mutually friends with all of them to crash in our living room for an indefinite amount of time. He was desperate for a place to stay and has nowhere else to go, so at first I was empathetic and am always glad to help someone get on their feet, but it has now been a month and it is starting to grate on me.

He has a part-time job, but gets home before me, so he is already settled in his "living space" (our common area) playing video games and whatnot by the time I get home. He's a nice guy, but it still sort of sucks not having a common space to eat/watch TV in because someone is sleeping or watching movies etc. It also sucks because I signed up to live in a house with 3 other people and not 4 so it feels crowded, though I am month to month and not on any official lease so it's not like I can go complain to a landlord (who appears to be non-existent - yes this is a shitty and slum-like living situation).

The main issue: I made the mistake of voicing my concerns/frustration to one of the roommates about their friend's situation here - Does he have any plans to move out? Does he plan on paying a rent any time soon? - as well as some of my frustrations about living in a slightly more crowded house. I may have also made the mistake of not vocalizing these concerns/frustrations in a super graceful manner. They apologized and said they'll "talk to him about it", and I guess they did because now couch guy won't even acknowledge me or speak to me when I come home or go get a glass of water in the kitchen. It makes living here slightly more hostile and it sucks to have to hole up in my bedroom immediately upon coming home.

What is the most tactful way to handle this? I wish I could tell him, "Hi, I'm going to eat and watch TV now because I live and pay rent here" while he is napping or gaming or generally hogging the common area, but it's not like he can retreat to some other room in the house - he'd have to just sit there while we resent each other.

I am already looking to move out. If your advice was going to be "move out asap" please save yourself the keystrokes. Hell yes I am looking to move out (the house is a mess in all sorts of other ways) - but what the hell do I do until then? Other than maximizing time spent outside the house, and being confined to the bedroom while at home - how would you carry yourself in this situation?
posted by windbox to Human Relations (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Fully 30 days?
Talk to the couch guy, and find out what's what.
It's even more uncomfortable than hating, for all concerned.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:35 PM on October 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Great! You're moving out! Smile and be friendly, and every time you see him, think "Thank you for helping me realize I need to move on." And go about your day as normal. At this point, continued resentment on your part is not helpful.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:36 PM on October 2, 2012 [11 favorites]

I would talk directly to the guy about it. Along the lines of, "Hey, I've noticed some tension lately and think a couple comments I made earlier might have been passed along to you awkwardly so I'd like to address it. I really don't mind your staying here, but since I do pay rent I'd like to have access to the common areas of the house when I come home from work to unwind, watch TV, etc. Is there a way we can make that work?"

Note the lie - since you're moving anyway, I think it's best to skate over the whole kick-him-out-or-make-him-pay bit and say that that's not your issue at all.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:36 PM on October 2, 2012 [15 favorites]

Beyond making him (the freeloader) awkward, apparently "the talk" didn't result in "the talk." Is there a roommate agreement or other document you can wave around to address the issue of when this guy is going to start paying rent or moving out? Absent this kind of pressure, if he's been there a month he'll be there for life. Presumably a part time job isn't going to lead to a more stable living situation, and apparently it doesn't bother him.

The only other thing that comes to mind other than that-which-must-not-be-named is - why should he hog the common space? Don't sit in your bedroom or avoid the place. Hog it right back. Sit down next to him, clip your toenails, change the channel, eat a liverwurst sandwich, etc. Make HIM have to decide whether to be awkward or hole up in one of his buddy's bedrooms.
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:36 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wish I could tell him, "Hi, I'm going to eat and watch TV now because I live and pay rent here" while he is napping or gaming or generally hogging the common area.

Uh, why can't you say those things? Part of being an adult is establishing boundaries and dealing with conflict.

but it's not like he can retreat to some other room in the house

Not your problem. He can just leave if he has an issue with it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:41 PM on October 2, 2012 [21 favorites]

I think this friend is in a gaseous state and his common-space usage is expanding to fill the available container of time. This could happen with any roommate, whether they were paying rent or not, if they had lots of time on their hands, so take care not to conflate the issues. I once lived with someone who worked from home and was ALWAYS in the living room and ALWAYS had the TV on and it kind of drove me nuts. The only solution for me (until I eventually moved out) was to occasionally ask for the common space. 'Hey, do you mind if I watch something'? 'Hey, do you mind if I sit and eat'? etc.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:56 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

but it's not like he can retreat to some other room in the house

Not. your. problem. This is his problem. He can retreat to some other friends' house, or move back with his parents, or ... or ... or ...
posted by zippy at 9:57 PM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you have a new defacto roommate then you should be insistent about lowering your rent 20% ASAP. If he is not paying rent then that is his problem and the problem of your other 3 roommates who should be taking up the rent slack - it's their problem. Perhaps if they were paying his way they would be less insistent about having him there.

And yes, move out ASAP.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:00 PM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you have a new defacto roommate then you should be insistent about lowering your rent 20% ASAP

This is essentially what I asked - for him to pay his share. Apparently this has led to awkwardness.

While I realize that this somehow being an inappropriate request is ridiculous, and I am obviously searching for a new place to live, my question is more about what I can do in the mean time to deal with this living situation. I anticipate being here for a few more weeks or even months - I suspect this guy may not be able to find somewhere else to live for a reason, and it's because the housing market is really tight.
posted by windbox at 10:04 PM on October 2, 2012

I suspect this guy may not be able to find somewhere else to live for a reason, and it's because the housing market is really tight.

Of course the market is going to be tight when you're not willing to chip in money for rent or utilities. If this dude had any money and/or common decency, he would have already offered to chip in for expenses, but he hasn't. This guy is a freeloader and your roommates are suckers, plain and simple.

my question is more about what I can do in the mean time to deal with this living situation.

You've received plenty of good advice already. Use the common areas as you see fit without factoring Freeloader's feeling into the equation. He has no say until he starts paying rent.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:11 PM on October 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Having been both the dude on the couch, and your roommate, I suspect he may not be "angry" and avoiding you as much as he may feel awkward and not know what to say to you now. If you hide in your room and stop speaking to him it is going to make things worse, no matter where his head is. He may also be feeling a hefty dose of shame, because he can't be insensitive that many people, like a lot of metafilterians, assume that anyone in a bad situation is trash.

I suspect, especially if he's working part-time, that he hasn't got money to pay expenses here, and to also save up for an apartment.

This is a painful, but good lesson: this is something you discuss with potential roommates long before you move into a place. I would never live with someone who wouldn't let me offer a friend crash space for a month or two, or have guests without more than a heads-up. People are all OVER the map on this, so work it out before you move in. Sounds like you have no lease and can move out, so this one's lucky.

As for how to deal with the situation now: be normal, pleasant, and patient. Ask politely if you want to use the tv, or the couch, or the game console or whatever. "Hey, dude, I'm having a romantic movie night, is there any way you could hit the library for a few hours?" Start looking for a new place, or calmly and politely have this conversation again, and instead of demanding money, ask for a plan involving a time. When will he be in his own place and how is he taking steps to resolve this. Be prepared to offer concrete resources like a list of affordable craigslist rooms, and be prepared for the roommates to think you're a douche, whether or not that's justified. Like I said, this is a touchy issue and people are all over the map on it.
posted by thelastcamel at 10:31 PM on October 2, 2012 [15 favorites]

Have a group meeting about this. Not a meeting with one roommate, but a meeting with all of them, including freeloader. (That way you don't come across as talking about him behind his back.)

During this meeting, be scrupulously polite yet ask very pointed questions. Some phrases to use:

"He's a nice guy, and I don't want this to come across as a personal attack on him."

"Although I don't mind helping out, the initial time period it was implied that he would stay was X days, and it has now been Y days. (turning to freeloader) Since you now have a job, would it be unreasonable to discuss a firm move date?"

"If you don't mind me asking, what are your plans? Where are you currently looking for a new apartment? Is there anything we can do to help?"

"Since you seem to be residing here by any legal definition, would it be fair for us to ask you to help us with the rent?"

The goal is to make him realize that this is not a permanent place to stay, but to do so without seeming like a jerk to your other roommates. (The freeloader will think you're a jerk anyway - this is the nature of such people.)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:42 PM on October 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

Any chance this all a ploy by your roommates and Couch Guy to make it so that you leave so he can take over your room and all of them can live happily in Slum Land?
posted by miles1972 at 10:46 PM on October 2, 2012 [9 favorites]

Ask politely if you want to use the tv, or the couch, or the game console or whatever.

They don't have to be a dick about it, but anyone who pays rent shouldn't have to ask permission from a freeloader before using common area belongings.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:49 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

We have no idea what this guy's situation is so it's not really healthy or productive to speculate.

What you can do is tell him you're going to use the space when you want to use the space. If he turns it into a problem, then that's on him, not you. If you think he could turn it into a problem, talk to him about this stuff in front of other people. Be as nice as possible.

You live there together until you don't - this will not be years, it will not be for the rest of your life, it's a temporary inconvenience. Sometimes shit happens.
posted by heyjude at 11:06 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is the worst. I had this same problem with an old roommate's boyfriend. After a 12+ hour workday, it makes you sort of hate anyone sitting on your couch watching Family Guy all day who lives with you for free and isn't paying any bills.

While, "Just do what you would regularly do, and be like 'I have to watch Breaking Bad now, so kindly turn off your video game,'" is solid advice, I understand how it may not be something you're comfortable saying.

If you pay any joint bills though, like cable or electricity or water, I would absolutely bring this up and let your roommates know that if their friend can't pay for these things, they need to be willing to split up the extra cost between them.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 11:25 PM on October 2, 2012

If the housing market is so tight, he'll love to take your place when you move out. Part-time job? I'm old and crotchety, but maybe you don't get video game privileges until you're working full time. Maybe you moving out will give him the kick in the pants toward adulthood he needs, since it's apparent your other housemates aren't up to the job.
posted by rhizome at 12:02 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm amazed at the harshness of some of these responses- assuming that this guy is a freeloader and that he has the option to go somewhere else is resentment-building and not neccessarily true. I've been the person crashing on my friends couch, and it's not exactly fun. You have no privacy, you constantly feel like you're intruding, and you know that you're in the way, but you don't have another choice; if you could go somewhere, you'd have gone there. We don't know enough about this guy's situation to just assume he's a jackass.

He might have an agreement with the other roomies that he's not expected to pay while he saves up for a new place. First and last can take a while to get together, especially if you're only working part time.

That said, OP is paying for use of the space and isn't getting it. Because of this, I think it's reasonable to pay less rent. I also think a group discussion is in order to clear the air. More importantly, the other roomies have a responsibility to discuss this kind of major decision with the OP at the time the decision is made- it's disrespectful for them not to, and that's a discussion you should have with them.

If this person is such good friends with the others, maybe he could share a room with one of them?
posted by windykites at 4:05 AM on October 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

You can either just hole up in your room until you find your new place or, when you get home, tell him that you are going to use the common areas to watch tv now. He can retreat to another place -- there are parks, and public libraries, and coffee shops.
posted by jeather at 5:01 AM on October 3, 2012

Rarely do things happen in life without some level of confrontation. Better to learn this skill now, and you are in an ideal situation to do so.

Confrontation does not always = aggression or violence. In fact, successful confrontation requires sustained pressure towards a diplomatic, desired outcome.

Psyche yourself up, watch a movie that shows how to do this, listen to music that increases your confidence - and then go up to him and tell him what's wrong, and the resolution you need.

This skill will serve you well forever.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:11 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

He might have an agreement with the other roomies that he's not expected to pay while he saves up for a new place. First and last can take a while to get together, especially if you're only working part time.

This might be the case. And it wouldn't be unreasonable or absurd. Except that there's another roommate, the OP, who has not been brought in on this hypothetical agreement. Bringing us right back to "very rude."
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:37 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd skip over the big picture for now. He's sleeping on the sofa, your rent is not going to change, you're looking for a new place. Let it be, there's not much to discuss.
Look at the things that are annoying you. He's keeping you from sitting on the sofa, watching TV, etc. This is the part that takes finesse.
As vegartanipla says, just tell him you hope nothing you said got passed on to him as a personal attack; you think he's a nice guy, but you were just frustrated with the situation. Then continue with a specific plan: "I was hoping to watch Ghostbusters tonight, but I need the TV to do that. I don't want you to feel like I'm kicking you out of the only space you've got, you're welcome to join me. If that's really not good, we can do it tomorrow, but it's just awkward because my work hours are shifted from yours, so I'm never home when you're not here."
Don't mention "I pay rent so I deserve..." - that's just rubbing his nose in things he can't do anything about. He knows you pay rent. He knows he doesn't.
posted by aimedwander at 5:52 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to eat and watch TV in the living room, just do it. It really is that simple.

If he is already watching a program, say, "Hey, Futurama is on and that's my favorite show, can we watch that?" There's no need to pull rank about the fact that you live there and he should not unless he's a dick when confronted with such a request, which is unlikely.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:53 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

How would you treat the guy if he was paying rent?

Then do that. I mean, I would hope you'd still enjoy the common areas, and be able to say in a amiable way, "Hey, I'm gonna watch ____ at 9, have you ever watched it?"

Yeah, if he's a dick about it, then you've got a bigger problem and it's either escalate and or back down, neither of which will make for a very congenial living environment til you move out. But hopefully the guy is aware that he is a guest and will behave accordingly. He can't know if something bothers you til you tell him.
posted by lemniskate at 7:29 AM on October 3, 2012

I can address the "confrontation" about using common area things (like the TV). I'm the type of person that will mindlessly have the TV or radio on pretty much all the time if I'm home dicking around by myself, but 90% of the time its background noise. When I had roommates I had no idea this bothered them, because instead of just asking if they could watch something, they holed up in theri rooms and built up some crazy before it exploded. Just ask to watch something or use whatever entertainment appliance you want to use. theres a not insignificant chance that:
1. He won't care becuase he's just using said device out of boredom, habit, and being teh only human in the space.
2. He might actually enjoy something else to interact with (like...another human) in the space.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:30 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd talk to him directly and then start using the common area for exactly what you've paid to do with it: play games and watch movies while he's sleeping, ask him to change the channel or turn off his game, etc. Be polite but make it slightly uncomfortable and inconvenient for him to remain. He is the guest overstaying his welcome there and there is no reason for you to tiptoe around the house YOU HELP PAY FOR.
posted by dozo at 7:45 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

What does your lease say? Most leases specifically prohibit overnight guests.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:52 AM on October 3, 2012

I've been in this exact same situation. It kinda sucks and honestly, if everyone else is cool with it, I think you're stuck or you have to move out. Given that you live month-to-month, I think its a viable option and obviously you and your roommates don't have quite the same views on boundaries and charity.

However, it kind of sounds like your main beef is with boundaries being crossed and the freeloader not making any contribution; ie. it would be a more palatable situation if you had $50-$100 taken off your rent each month while you're accommodating him. On the boundaries thing, he needs to understand he doesn't have a bedroom; he doesn't have "private space" like you all do. He lives in SHARED space, and you (as a paying tennant) have more of a right to that space than he does.

If the TV / video games / couch belong to your friends, then again, you're kinda stuck. If the TV, couch, gaming system, or anything else he uses belong to you, please have the cajones to take them back when you want them. When I was in that living situation, the TV and Xbox belonged to me, and I said "you guys can use them all you want when I'm not around. I'm off work on Sunday, and am going to be playing my Xbox from 10am until 8pm. Deal with it."
posted by el_yucateco at 8:10 AM on October 3, 2012

I'm old, and I hate nonsense.

I don't understand why Bed and Breakfast Man isn't paying rent or utilities.

One would assume that if he does indeed work, that he would need to contribute to the household. Why wouldn't he?

There's no free ride anywhere.

But that's another topic for another day, your question is, how do I deal with this until I can find a better situation.

I'm with those who say request a house meeting to discuss this.

No reason not to be civil, and couch-dude should be in on this.

Start off by stating the facts, "Couchie has been here for X time. I get that sometimes people get into emergency situations, and that's cool, but this is feeling permanant to me. It affects me because the cost of utilities is higher due to a 25% increase in the use of the utilties, I've lost the use of my favorite common area and now there's an awkwardness because I've said something about it. I have a right to know what to expect going forward. Couchie, what's your plan? Will you be contributing to the household expenses? How much? Will you be moving out and getting your own place? When? Is there something going on here that I don't understand? If so please explain."

Listen to what Couchie and the roommates say. Make a proposal, "I think Couchie should pay X towards utilities. I think Couchie should be out by XXX."

Even better, "I'm looking for a new space, and I plan on moving when I find it. Couchie, how about YOU move into my room, pay the rent and utilities, and I'll stay out here for free until I find a place?"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:45 AM on October 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

I would sincerely hate this and it would make me feel like I was going insane. I think it's awkward anyway so you might as well have an awkward conversation. Just say ' I guess Tim told you I thought you should pay rent. It's kind of weird that I feel awkward coming home from my JOB which I use to pay my RENT and feel like I can't watch tv comfortably. You can see where I'm coming from right? So what should we do about this?' Then he might say 'I don't know' and you can just think 'thank god I'm moving out soon'.
posted by bquarters at 8:46 AM on October 3, 2012

I also thought this was an idea to annoy you and take over your room.

That said, he might be ignoring you out of embarassment, not malice.

You are not at fault here - they are all out of line.

Sorry you gotta deal with this.
posted by jbenben at 11:25 AM on October 3, 2012

Does he at least contribute to the household by keeping it clean and maybe cooking for you guys? I'd also start just only contributing 25% of the utilities and cable and your friends who allowed freeloader to move in can make up the difference. You never agreed to the situation so the financial burden is on them.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:53 PM on October 3, 2012

I was the guy on the couch...except I left before everybody woke up (came back after everyone went to work), came home an hour after everyone got home with some small gift or gesture. I also cleaned up the kitchen and bathrooms three times a week and never took over the TV or stereo.

At the very least he needs to make himself useful and not a burden, but clearly set a date that he must be gone.
posted by couchdive at 5:13 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

The 25% was based on assuming you have two roommates, plus freeloader. If you have more roommates, the percentage would be less.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:02 PM on October 3, 2012

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