Tangled web woven with roommates. Ideas to untangle?
February 6, 2014 3:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the middle with a strange roommate/landlord situation. Any ideas on how I can gracefully get out of this unscathed, while making sure everyone is happy?

I have been living with 6 people since August 2012. For the first year (until August 2013), we all got along beautifully. Two of my roommates are also our landlords, which makes for kind of a sticky situation, but it's never been a problem, up to now. It's not relevant, but just wanted to throw it out there; we're all Deaf, and all guys (with one exception). When our lease expired, one roommate moved out, and another (one of the landlord's girlfriend) moved in.

After August 2013, the roommate dynamics began to change, and not for the better. A couple of roommates (including me) felt uncomfortable with the landlord's girlfriend, as she was bossy and often would dominate the kitchen, while telling us what to do in the kitchen. We all adapted, however. There were a few rough situations here and there, including one landlord, who got mad because he felt some of us were backstabbing him and his girlfriend, which wasn't true - some of us were just feeling uncomfortable. It was a bit of an ugly roommate meeting - in September 2013.

Note: that landlord is a hard person, generally, to get along with. I've known him since middle school, and he can be a very charming and nice guy, but also incredibly moody and sometimes hard to talk to. He, unfortunately, can be kind of a "bully" at times - ironically, he used to bully me in middle school (but we're way beyond that stage now). The other landlord is kind of a passive guy, doesn't often stand up for himself, but is generally a nice guy.

So, recently, things have truly took a turn for the worse. Landlord One has been more cranky than usual, and one time, I was in the living room when he and the other landlord was talking. I was just resting my head and casually sitting when Landlord One sharply asked me, with a very rude expression, to please not look at their conversation. I was very taken aback, as this was our common area, and I do pay rent, too, and I wasn't even looking at their conversation. I decided to let it go and treat it as an one-off.

Later on, he told me that I was one of the best roommates in the house (cleaning up all the time, etc), but said that one roommate was truly an awful roommate, and that he was very frustrated. I felt this was very unprofessional and definitely not acceptable, especially as he and said roommate were friends. I felt uncomfortable and somewhat intimidated to 'speak up' so just decided to listen to his rant.

Recently, said roommate went out of the country for a travel. He has been doing that more frequently, partly because he didn't feel uncomfortable at home and wanted the airline miles. During this recent weekend, both landlords group-texted all of us roommates, excluding said roommate, and asked "where is x roommate? serious question? did you see him leave?" - this made me very uneasy - why would they ask us and not include him on the text (he has an international texting plan). I may have made the potential mistake of sharing this group text with him when he got back last night, because I felt he had the right to know. He was outraged and wanted a roommate meeting.

I'm now afraid because I'm, frankly, the only obvious one who would have shared this group text with him. I asked him (said roommate) to keep this to himself, but he's enraged and had a funny feeling that the landlords entered his room, and I honestly can't blame him, but I'm also afraid I'm now in the midst of a potential thunderstorm. How can I get out of this? I thought about talking about the general tension in the house during the roommate meeting, then casually bringing up the recent text as an example, having said roommate interrupt me and ask 'what text?' and act dumb, thinking that the private group text excluding my roommate was part of the all-roommate text (it was also during superbowl, so that hopefully would help my credibility and have the landlords understand I just got mixed up and happened to bring it up, THEN said roommate would air his concerns about the private text excluding him. This way, I could save face and not 'get in trouble' for sharing that text.

I just wanted to help and share my concerns with said roommate, as I truly felt he had a right to know. Now, I'm afraid everything will spiral uglily, and I'll be blamed for sharing the text. But why do that in the first place? It doesn't make sense, nothing does. A beautiful roommate situation has became very ugly, potentially, and I need suggestions or solutions in how to get through this. Part of the problem is that said roommate is very...'who gives a bleep what others think?' so I'm afraid he may unintentionally 'out' me. I also HATE lying, but I feel I have to, to save face. I honestly didn't want to cause any drama, but I also felt that said roommate wasn't being treated right. I haven't told him about what Landlord One said about him behind his back (being the worst roommate).
posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
#1 - you're never responsible for anyone else's happiness.

#2 - now is definitely the time to move. Complicated living situation with not one, but two landlords (along with one of their girlfriends) living in common in a house is a recipe for disaster unless folks are super cool and great at communicating needs and expectations.

On the subject of the house meeting - I'd just own the fact that you shared the text pre-emptively. I would state that I felt very uncomfortable with the landlords trying to find out a housemate's whereabouts without asking them directly. Turn it back on them and ask THEM why they texted you without reaching out to him.

But yeah, move out right now. Life is way too short to deal with this kind of stuff in your home.
posted by arnicae at 3:49 PM on February 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is way too much drama for you to continue to live there. And based on your previous questions, you really need your own place with your own private bathroom anyway. Your focus should be on finding a place you can afford to rent on your own.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:59 PM on February 6, 2014

Own up to your actions. "Yes, I shared that text." Don't get sucked into some ridiculous argument about why you should or shouldn't have or make up some oh-oops-haha story about doing it accidentally. There was nothing wrong with you sharing that text, it's not a state secret and you're under no obligation to make it one. You shared it. It's done and your part in this is small beans in the larger picture of your internationally-roaming roommate's issue(s) with the landlords. Stay out of that part, that's none of your business.
posted by jamaro at 3:59 PM on February 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

Also, Landlord #1? Is still a bully. Tell him to piss off if he comes after you.
posted by jamaro at 4:05 PM on February 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

"I shared that text, the landlords seemed worried about the absent roommate's location, I knew where said roommate was, so I facilitated this communication."

You didn't do anything wrong and you shouldn't let the landlords hold things over you like that or make you feel guilty about it.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:12 PM on February 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

You've done nothing wrong, but you are on the steep downslope of everything going to shit - you should move asap, you're not going to be able to navigate between all of the offending parties. I can't speak to the cultural politeness or impoliteness of you watching other people's conversations, but it's really not fair that you can't feel comfortable in your own commonspace.
posted by Think_Long at 4:29 PM on February 6, 2014

Get the hell out of this.

And in the future, never ever ever live somewhere where the landlord lives on site, in the same unit you do.

It's one thing if it's like an apartment building and the owner lives on the top floor, or some representative of them. It's another thing to live in a house where the owner/landlords kid/some bossy friend of theres who is essentially a manager lives in a room.

Living with a couple is also a thing people tend to understandably try and avoid, and living with a landlord+ it being a couple sounds like a fucking nightmare.

It's a recipe for disaster and ultra-drama.

I also don't think you did anything wrong or overly shit-stirring by showing them the text. If anything you're cutting across the drama by not being another one keeping it from them. A group text from a landlord to tennants about a tennant that doesn't include them is incredibly unprofessional and bullshitty.

It's up to you whether you pretend to "gaff" about bring it up. I wouldn't, but i'm also not a conflict avoider. If they seriously wanted to kick me out for sharing something that involved him with him then it would cement my position of wanting to get out ASAP.

Either way i'd move, but i wouldn't pussy-foot around the text thing. I'd just go "yea, i thought this was weird so i showed him".

The only thing i would NOT do is:

I haven't told him about what Landlord One said about him behind his back (being the worst roommate).

Yea, don't do that. That IS shit stirring. It's one thing to go "Hey, he sent this weird message asking where you were instead of directly asking you" since that's deflating passive aggressive BS. On the other hand, saying "ohhh, so and so said something shitty about you" is absolute middle school pot stirring drama BS.

See the difference, i hope?
posted by emptythought at 5:03 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you're right -- ugliness is coming up for sure. But it was coming along anyway. I don't know if I would have shared the text, but I do know that, regardless, drama and discord seems to be the default state of the house you live in.

Don't lie. It's just going to blow up in your face - your story is not believe and trying to duck acknowledging that you shared the text has will actually make it look like you ARE trying to stir up drama. (Frankly, it wouldn't shock me if the landlords were expecting you to share this just to make this whole thing even more dramatic. Either way, they win. As usual, it seems.)
posted by sm1tten at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2014

you're still being bullied, because you have no boundaries. you pay rent for that kitchen too, don't ever let anyone tell you what to do in it. you had a perfect right to copy the absent roommate on the "private" text, own up to it, stand tall, don't cower. when someone is signing in a common area of your rental and they tell you not to look at their conversation, sign back "excuse me, what the fuck did you just say to me?"

also, move out, but do it on your terms alone.
posted by bruce at 6:07 PM on February 6, 2014

Response by poster: A few things. Thanks for the answers.

-My lease expires in June. For sure, I already plan to move out by then. I'm looking to mitigate the tension between now and June. I'm stuck with the lease until then.

-What baffles me is that for the first year (August 2012-13), we had exactly the same living situation (2 landlords, 3 tenants) and never had an issue at all. We got along almost perfectly - exchanged funny texts with GIFs almost everyday, did dinner together sometimes, etc. It was just when one tenant left and the landlord's girlfriend moved in when everything changed, slowly but surely. I'm not sure if it can be blamed completely on the landlord's girlfriend, but it makes no sense how this living situation has changed so much since I first moved in, and with only two people moving out/in. It's kind of scarily a "Dr. Hyde/Mr. Jekyll" kind of situation, although not THAT bad. This just is making zero sense.

-I guess coming clean about sharing the text is a better idea, but I don't want both landlords mad at me. I know, it seems a bit wimpy, but I'm guilty of being sensitive and caring too much what people think :( I also have social anxiety, so the thought of coming clean at the meeting makes me feel extremely anxious :\

-I don't understand why Landlord One treated me that way ("don't look at our conversation!") one day, then later on, said I was one of the best roommates. Again, makes no sense.
posted by dubious_dude at 6:25 PM on February 6, 2014

It's a sick system. Trying to figure out how it makes sense is one of the things that keeps you locked in it.

What would be the cost of breaking the lease now? If you have social anxiety, living in that kind of situation will intensify it for sure - anyone who lived in a place as volatile as yours would end up wanting to avoid people.

If you don't want to have the conversation, send an email/text owning up to showing him the group message.

But really, start looking for somewhere else to live, like, today.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:26 PM on February 6, 2014

First, having a couple live within a shared house really messes things up big time. I live in a shared house as do most of my friends, and most of the houses I know or lived in, had a clear and spoken rule, that if two people within the house were ever to become a couple, one of them would have to move out. Just to say, it is totally not weird that having a couple live with you greatly impacts the group dynamic. And one of that couple being a landlord, that lives with you… that’s a scenario that doesn’t have great potential of positively impacting your living situation. I would definitely move out as soon as your lease expires (and not live with landlords/couples again).

My advice is, deal with the necessary drama heads on and avoid the unnecessary drama.
For example, letting know you shared the text with absent roommate may indeed cause some trouble, but it is necessary to come clean about it. In fact, if you do not come clean about it or do the oops-haha thing (this sort of thing never works out in my experience, but I’m not a very good actor) it has potential to create more drama than if you just own it. In this case, you did the right thing by showing the text to absent roommate and landlord did the not so good thing by excluding him.

Your landlord talking badly about absent roommate is something you do not have to share with absent roommate, because it would create more drama than it would solve. Just try to not engage in such conversations with landlord. You could say ‘Hey, I’d rather not talk about absent roommate like this’ *change of conversation* or if saying that really scares you, just change the topic of conversation: ‘Okay, so what are your plans for this weekend?’ Or if you’d also be uncomfortable changing the topic so abruptly, just make an excuse and leave. Say you have a meeting and need to rush or something. Key is, don’t engage in these conversations, they can be really anxiety-inducing, especially after, when you’re unsure what to do with the information given.

I also really hate tension and drama like this. What I do, I always try to be nice to everyone, even the assholes (be formal if you have to, just don’t be not nice to them), don’t engage in unnecessary drama but speak up when I feel things are unfair. By being nice and not engaging, you distance yourself from the drama, you don’t have to take sides and nobody could have a case against you, because you are not the one being mean.

On last piece of advice that really helped me in similar situations: Only care about what nice people think of you. If landlord acts like an asshole, it doesn’t matter what he thinks about you sharing a text with absent roommate. He’s the one being an asshole, not you. And if absent roommate is your friend, wouldn’t it be more important what he thinks of you? That’s why it’s okay to have shared the text and it’s okay to come clean about it. When worrying of what other people think of you, it’s about what your friends think of you, not what assholes think of you. (They’d think bad of you regardless of your actions, that’s why they’re assholes.)
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 4:13 AM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are 'being sensitive and caring too much what people think' here as well. It really isn't that big of a deal. People have bad days. People make mistakes and say stupid things. Try not to over think it all too much. If they ask about the text, say, "Yes, you were asking about him, I figured he could answer your questions better than me." If the meeting gets too uncomfortable, stand up and calmly say that you are not into drama, and excuse yourself. You do not have to stay at any meeting that makes you uncomfortable, no matter how great the rent is.

From what I have read, I think that you are probably thinking about all of this way more than any of the others are. Free yourself. Think about something else. Don't try to analyze other people's actions but do pay attention to how they make you feel and why you feel that way. It will make living there a lot easier.
posted by myselfasme at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2014

Did anyone ask you, explicitly, not to tell the out of town roommate that they were asking after him?

You have nothing to "confess" to or "come clean" about.

Jeez- if anyone comes at you accusingly, laugh it off and tell them nobody asked you to sign a secrecy agreement and tell them to grow the fuck up.
posted by vitabellosi at 1:47 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

It was just when one tenant left and the landlord's girlfriend moved in when everything changed, slowly but surely. I'm not sure if it can be blamed completely on the landlord's girlfriend, but it makes no sense how this living situation has changed so much since I first moved in, and with only two people moving out/in. It's kind of scarily a "Dr. Hyde/Mr. Jekyll" kind of situation, although not THAT bad. This just is making zero sense.

Yep. I feel this is a shared experience of anyone who has lived in a share house where there's an established person, and then they move their partner in. It never ever goes well. The one time i've seen it sort-of work ok is when it was two couples splitting a two bedroom, and even that had issues that wouldn't have existed otherwise.

Some people seem to deny it, or hate to admit it, or just get all rose colored glasses about it(and ESPECIALLY the people in the couple who have a vested interest and likely really believe that "it'll be super fun and nothing will get worse, only better!)... But yea, i've never ever seen someone moving their partner in being a positive thing.

I've seen 3 "colony collapse" situations like this, at least. I've seen one place actually recover back to being awesome after one or both of the people moved out, too.

-I don't understand why Landlord One treated me that way ("don't look at our conversation!") one day, then later on, said I was one of the best roommates. Again, makes no sense.

Because they're a flip-flopping drama llama. That is seriously, the most charitable way i could put it. It's impossible to resolve in your head or wrap your mind around because they are not a rational actor. As guster4lovers said, this is a sick system. You're dealing with the kind of person who will do 5 about faces in one day, and then be apalled when everyone just doesn't turn right around with them and their whims/rapidly changing opinions. I've lived with people like this, too.

Trying to make sense of it is a fruitless path, just try and stay out of the line of fire until you can get out.

As for admitting to sharing the text, honestly i think the key way to think about it is that by not admitting that you're going to create an even more stressful situation in which they're angry and suspicious of you and everyone else wondering who "leaked" it. It really is a minor thing, regardless of how they're treating it, and i like the "what, is this a state secret?" sort of presentation. They will likely try and paint you as the one "creating drama", but if you have it in you that would really be the time to go "No, actually, i'm shutting it down. Talking about someone behind their back when you're in a position of power in this house is textbook drama-stirring".

Assuming you paid last months rent when you moved in, if you moved out now you'd either have to pay the fee, or the remaining rent unless you could find a replacement person. Were they all planning on staying in this house after june? It sounds like it, if they're the landlords. If you could find a replacement person who was willing to stay after june you could likely move out as soon as you had a suitable replacement, unless they wanted to be pricks and not let you.

It's worth noting though that in a lot of places it's illegal for them to collect money from you for rent or moving out if they re-rent the space within time you have paid for. So yea, i'd discuss the possibility of replacing yourself with someone else and not having to pay some big fee, or remaining rent.

Personally though, i REALLY wish that when i was in situations like this that i myself had the wherewithal at the time to just go "Here's a couple months rent, go fuck yourselves" and i had gotten out.

Nothing ever went back uphill from this point, it just became a dark gulag of drama and tiresomeness that several times ended up with holes smashed in the wall, and not by me.
posted by emptythought at 2:18 PM on February 7, 2014

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