Murder in the Building. Roommate Needed.
February 17, 2014 11:13 AM   Subscribe

How do I find a roommate for my recently stigmatized apartment? My Boyfriend and I moved into an apartment with the knowledge that we would eventually rent out the second bedroom. It's in a converted house, with a shared stairwell. We live on the third floor, the landlady and her family live on the second floor, and the tenant on the first floor was recently murdered by his roommates. The roommates are in prison and were arraigned last Friday.

It's a sensationally grisly case.

We need someone to move in March 1st, we are offering the room for about $50 below market, and are only asking for first month and a deposit of equal amount.
Unfortunately the apartment already comes with a few drawbacks... a couple, two cats, and no washer dryer.

It seems uncouth to ask my landlady for a rent break, but folks are really squeamish.
The woman we had lined up to move in with us bailed giving a flimsy excuse. In addition the first floor doors, front and back entrance, are still off the hinges (from the police investigation), one of the doors has a hole in it, and the dead dudes stuff still lingers around..chairs, ashtrays, Christmas decorations.

Although the case is horrifying and sad I love where I live and don't want to move.
An added issue is that I am fairly picky about potential roommates. Of the seven people we recently interviewed there were three potentials, they all declined.

So, How do we find someone to move in with us while the murder is still in the news?

We have been advertising on Craigslist and live in the metrowest area of Boston.
posted by superior julie to Society & Culture (49 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Lowering by $50 may not be enough.
posted by winna at 11:19 AM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

$50 break isn't going to cut it. Clean out the dead guy's stuff or nag landlady to do it. Likewise with the doors. Then try a $100 break.

No one responsible wants to move into a place without doors, or a place that is messy.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:20 AM on February 17, 2014 [15 favorites]

Mod note: OP I think you mean "the tenant on the first floor..." Drop us a note via the contact form and we can fix.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:20 AM on February 17, 2014

Did you mean the murdered tenant was on the first floor? Or are there two apartments on the third floor - yours and his?

Also, obligatory - does your landlady know you are a subletting a bedroom in your apartment? Is this allowed?

I would recommend pushing the landlady to get the house cleaned up (i.e. remove dead guy's stuff) and to make any necessary repairs (doors, etc.). If she can't do that, offer to do it for her in exchange for a one-month's break in rent. It's in her best interest to get this done quickly too - so she can rent out that apartment to new tenants too.

Also - you may just need to wait the extra month for the news cycle to move onto something else - go dark for a week or two and re-list for a April 1 start instead. Sounds like you've lived this long without a roommate, one month more might just be needed.
posted by trivia genius at 11:23 AM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

I mean, even without the history, it sounds like it is not a good deal. Are you considering the market rent with no washer dryer and 2 flights of stairs?

And yeah, I would have a serious talk with the landlady about reducing rent at least until she gets the doors fixed (!)
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:24 AM on February 17, 2014

I wouldn't start looking until the repairs are made.
posted by brujita at 11:27 AM on February 17, 2014

I'm struggling to find it, but there was a post on the blue about assessor working out the FMV for notorious places (murders, haunted-rumors, etc). Would be a good starting point for rent discussions.
posted by k5.user at 11:27 AM on February 17, 2014

Mod note: Fixed wording of question, carry on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:28 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The broken doors, uncaring landlady, extra furniture, cats, and evidence (and smell??) of smoking would ALREADY be a deal breaker for me. I would reassess the entire situation and have it all cleaned before even thinking of looking for more roommates.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:28 AM on February 17, 2014 [18 favorites]

Sorry, but for a place with missing doors and regular police presence, $50/month isn't enough. You need to get the doors fixed (not clear if they are external or internal doors -- internal you might just need a bigger discount, external you need to give up totally until they're replaced).

You can offer a bigger discount until all the doors are replaced, for instance. But you might be wrong about what market price is for a shared room.

It isn't clear to me where the dead guy's stuff is, if it's in his apartment which you can just see into or if it is in public areas.
posted by jeather at 11:30 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes the landlords do know we're looking to rent the second bedroom out.

Usually bedrooms in this neighborhood go for 100 to 200 more than what we're asking.

The landlords are not uncaring, they are actually really responsive awesome people who are extremely busy. I'm thinking that maybe they still have to leave the stuff around till the police give a say so, but I'll ask.
posted by superior julie at 11:34 AM on February 17, 2014

Response by poster: Internal doors are off the hinges, sorry.
posted by superior julie at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2014

if the roommates were just arraigned last friday, they are technically not in prison yet, just being detained pending trial...

as long as the biological remains have been entirely cleaned up, i wouldn't back one penny down from the fair sublet rent in a competitive market. "yeah, somebody got offed here, but i don't expect it to happen again, any more than i would expect lightning to strike in the same place twice"*

*lightning frequently strikes in the same place, but it isn't your legal responsibility to explain
atmospheric electrodynamics to prospective subs.
posted by bruce at 11:37 AM on February 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

I doubt you will rent it before the public areas are cleaned up and doors repaired, even if there hadn't been a murder.

If the building's exterior doors are secure, you have a little less negotiating power in terms of pressuring the landlord to get things cleaned up faster or asking for a rent discount. If there is something in your lease about their responsibility to maintain public areas to a certain standard, you could gently point this out to them as a way to seek a rent reduction. More effective would probably be to offer to assist or coordinate some or all repairs and clean up and deduct the costs from your rent. This seems like the most concrete way to have any control over how quickly you can get your room rented.

If you wait until the murder has faded from the news and appearances around the building returns to normal, you should have less of a problem sticking to your original rent price. I would push it to an April 1 move in. Seems like you will save more money in the long run if you pay the full rent one month longer if it gives you the ability to ask a higher rent from your roommate in the longterm.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:46 AM on February 17, 2014

I agree with leaning on your landlord to do what they can to fix the visual crime reminders. Have you tried listing your room anywhere else like Apartment List (website and app)? It's a matter of numbers. You probably have to see more people than normal to find one who is a fit and can ignore the history. And you may miss the March 1st deadline (seriously the more the downstairs screams A Crime JUST Happened Here, the longer it will take) but Boston's rental situation is tight enough, you will find someone who wants to rent from you eventually.
posted by cecic at 11:52 AM on February 17, 2014

I doubt you will rent it before the public areas are cleaned up and doors repaired, even if there hadn't been a murder.

I agree with this and would say that the mess and disarray are likely a bigger problem than the news, assuming the rent you are asking for the space is reasonable for the neighborhood. We had a homicide in the apartment building where I lived in several years ago and the three empty units on my floor all were leased within a few months. A building down the block from me, where a fire in a single unit killed a woman, had no vacancies within a month of the clean-up from the contained fire.

In my experience, in major metropolitan areas, the rental value of a place where someone dies in a newsworthy manner is not really affected, except during the period of time when law enforcement or fire departments are actively investigating the site and repairs/clean-up can't be made. Once that's done, you should have no trouble renting at a reasonable market rate.

You might ask your landlord for a break while the place is in disarray, but she may not be able to afford it.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:54 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing all of the above.

The mess and doors off the door hinges are a dealbreaker.

Living with a couple, no laundry onsite are not in your favor, but the active crime scene is just.... nope.
posted by jbenben at 12:00 PM on February 17, 2014

Well.... "a couple, two cats, and no washer dryer" would probably turn me off and probably others. Most people don't like to live as the third wheel... and if they have pets of thier own or are allergic to cats - that will probably cut down the number of people interested. The washer and dryer - I've done it and dreaded it.... but now I only rent places that have washer/dryer hookups.

The murder itself, if I knew what happened, would matter until the men were convicted. Although, it would make me wonder about the safety of the neighborhood.

I think you can find someone.... especially maybe a temporary roommate - but I think it might take quite a while. At least until after the first floor is repaired.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:02 PM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

No amount of a break on rent would cause me to want to rent an apartment which still has the appearance of having been a crime scene. You couldn't pay me to live in a place like that.

Now, if it has been cleaned up and repaired, and is otherwise in a decent neighborhood, I don't think potential tenants would look into that (and even those who would search the news for crimes in that neighborhood would likely not be able to surmise the specific apartment building, except possibly from photographs). I've lived in Metro West and I would have no problem renting an apartment in any town considered Metro West (except possibly parts of Marlborough and parts of Framingham on the wrong side of the Commuter Rail tracks). But that falls under "is otherwise in a decent neighborhood."

If you're not breaking lease to do so, I would strongly suggest you look for another apartment. Let your landlady worry about finding a tenant or tenants; that is her responsibility, not yours. Or, if you can afford to stick it out a few months until police presence dies down, and said police presence doesn't squick you out, then stay there. But usually people looking for roommates are doing so because they can't afford the full rent.

I wouldn't look for a roommate until repairs are made and police are gone.
posted by tckma at 12:08 PM on February 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

The space between the walls, nor the walls, nor the roof, murdered anyone. Advertize away. Silliness will not rent that room.
posted by brownrd at 12:09 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might want to consider AirBnBing the place for a bit to make some space between the crime and getting a more permanent roommate, giving the landlords some time to clean up. AirBnB folks won't care about no laundry and won't care about you guys being a couple (and you can let them know in advance about the cat) and if you're close to public transportation (I Googled and have a decent idea where you're located) and can price it competitively you can probably have it full 50-75% of the time if you decide that you want to.

You might also consider looking for short term "til the end of the school year" situation where you might be helping a student in an ungreat situation get into a better one for a few months. I know it's just super shitty timing but I'd ask yourself if pushing the move-in date for a month might be able to hgive you guys the time you need to make this numbers game work out. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 12:18 PM on February 17, 2014 [18 favorites]

In response to folks suggesting you should continue advertising and trying to rent right away, I agree that in the long run the murder should not effect your ability to find a tenant or charge a good price. BUT if you have to keep reposting your ad each week (because people visit and aren't interested because the first floor looks off or they are aware of the murder because it was just on the news the night before), potential roommates are going to notice that and think, "Hm, that ad has been posted for over a month or keeps being reposted. I wonder what's wrong with the place?" If it were me I'd just go radio silent and give it a try in a month or two weeks.
posted by dahliachewswell at 12:18 PM on February 17, 2014 [9 favorites]

Just so I have this straight, you have a two bedroom on the third floor, and you want to rent out a room in it.

The murder unit, is still looking pretty CSI, but it has nothing to do with the room you want to rent. Put pressure on the landlord to get that part of it cleaned up.

Just advertise it as it is, with an appropriate price. Be willing to do short term if you need to.

But if there's still shell casings and yellow tape and etc, that's a deal breaker.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:28 PM on February 17, 2014

Another thing - if you NEED someone to move in by March, you may have to lower your standards.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:30 PM on February 17, 2014

In addition the first floor doors, front and back entrance, are still off the hinges (from the police investigation), one of the doors has a hole in it, and the dead dudes stuff still lingers around..chairs, ashtrays, Christmas decorations.

Your rental is unrentable until this is taken care of. You need to discuss that with your landlady.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:33 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

You might also consider looking for short term "til the end of the school year" situation where you might be helping a student in an ungreat situation get into a better one for a few months.

We essentially just did this and it's working out pretty well. We gave a bit of a break on the security deposit and provided a bed and cooking equipment and such. Our price is about $200 below what a room typically would go for, maybe even lower, but we weren't sure how long we'd want someone here. It might be worth it for you two to have a lower-paying short-term tenant.

Sorry. I might have been a bit brusque before accidentally, but I really feel for you and hope you can work something out. This situation sucks.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:36 PM on February 17, 2014

If I were considering renting a place in which a messy death had recently occurred, I'd be most concerned about what sort of cleanup took place. Has a hazmat team been called? You can find them in the yellow pages under Hazardous Material Control and Removal. IME, in large commercial-type places the property management tends to not think it is their responsibility to pay for these services if there's someone else still in the unit, but if you have a personal relationship with your landlady maybe you can work something out with her. Then get the place tidied up, structural damages repaired, etc.

People die in their homes all the time. The current state of the unit is the most important thing.
posted by frobozz at 12:39 PM on February 17, 2014

Clean up the mess, then look for a roommate.

If you can't afford to live there for a month or two without a roommate, then you should consider moving somewhere else. These are extenuating circumstances, and I think it would be ok to move out under those conditions. I am not even remotely close to being a lawyer, and you might want to consider talking to one.

I personally wouldn't give a damn about moving into an apartment complex where someone had been killed if I didn't have to think about the murder that happened and if I didn't have any reasons to worry about it happening to me.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:41 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was able to find some of the media coverage. Just wow.

The advice above is right on. Living with a couple (even an awesome couple), and with cats, and on the third floor... That's a steep deal, even without the events downstairs. The murder actually happened in the building, which is even weirder than just knowing that someone who lived there was murdered.

While the landlady is making sure that the downstairs gets cleaned up, there's a lot that you can do to get your space rentable: deep clean everything down to the floors and walls, declutter, repaint if you can, etc.

Can you look into having the home blessed or having a spiritual guide come in and cleanse the house? I'm not religious at all, but I do believe that bad psychic energy can impact a place and resonate for months if not years, so I do my own little ritual with sage and scents and quiet. It sounds weird, sure, but it makes a difference.
posted by mochapickle at 12:42 PM on February 17, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your input. It's been helpful. The CL posting mentions our cats, that we're a couple, and that laundry is offsite. It might just be my charming personality that drives people away, but I'll definitely speak to the landlord about cleaning up the first floor. Money is super tight, but I'll see if I can find a way to make it work for the upcoming month.

I already reposted our add, but I will, on the astute suggestion of someone upthread, wait a three weeks before starting the next cycle.

Air bnb and short term lets are a great idea too. The room has a huge ugly ass couch that someone could use as a bed.

on preview
posted by superior julie at 12:48 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: also the dudes were served with an eviction notice at the end of last month, so they are not going to move back in. The owner spoke about renting the apt out to her daughter's family. I also offered to help her look for tenants. It's in everyone's best interest that we get someone good to move in downstairs.

Moving out would not be a good option financially. I only work part time. My boyfriend lost his unemployment back in December and now works full time but makes less than he did on unemployment. His credit is non existent and mine is okay, but still no one wants to rent to people with two cats and no solid income.
posted by superior julie at 12:57 PM on February 17, 2014

I know the focus is on the crime but, as someone who has rented a room before, the one scenario I would absolutely avoid (and have declined) would be moving in as the third wheel to a co-habitating couple. Reasons why are many, and valid concerns, no matter how cool and fair and considerate you both are, and how stable the relationship, etc. It's definitely doable, but you're already less competitive than you would be if you were renting out a third bedroom as two uncoupled people. So keep that in mind. You're not comparing apples to apples even without the CSI unit detritus on the first floor.
posted by blue suede stockings at 12:59 PM on February 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

Mod note: Comment deleted. Folks, don't link to the story, please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:59 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agree on the posts above: if I saw any apartment that had the lower unit doors ripped off, I doubt I'd want to look at the other unit. I wouldn't want to live somewhere so volatile. (Well, I probably would look to be polite, but my mind would already be made up to say nope.)

I would also look into what you legally need to disclose, even after the news cycle moves on. In San Francisco, you need to tell prospective renters if a suicide or murder took place on the property until three years have passed.
posted by sfkiddo at 1:00 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Entire apartment renovated, and several hundred dollars cheaper than the going rent is the only way I'd look at it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:01 PM on February 17, 2014

I'm sorry for your situation. I've lived in buildings where people in other apts were messily arrested after serious crimes, and I know it's very hard for the innocent other tenants.

That said, you mention airbnb -- I hope you're not saying you would rent this room to unsuspecting airbnb users without mentioning the conditions downstairs. You cannot do that until everything is fixed and normal (most importantly, it's not right ethically -- but in practice, you also woudn't survive as a host and would have to repay most or all of what you earned to airbnb if they had to find alternate accommodations for your freaked out guests).
posted by kalapierson at 1:42 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

$50 is not much of a break on rent. If you love where you live so much and don't want to get stuck with the full payment, I think you need to slash closer to $200 off. To say nothing of living with a couple with cats and no laundry units, if I came to look at a potential apartment and it was literally a crime scene investigation and the doors didn't close, I'd have to be really constrained by my budget (or insane) to consider it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:09 PM on February 17, 2014

Having googled the crime, if I did happen to find out as a prospective tenant (which could happen, sadly, as your address is linked to at least one news story) I'd be way more concerned that one of the accused was registered as a Level 3 sex offender (Level 3 = violent & likely to reoffend) and your landlord was willing to rent to them.
posted by animalrainbow at 2:14 PM on February 17, 2014 [16 favorites]

I just came here to say what animalrainbow said -- it turns out one of the murderers was a level 3 sex offender (the worst level). Your landlady's judgement cannot be trusted and there is no way in hell I would live there or move there. I think you're going to want to see who ends up moving into the unit where the murder took place.

But if you want to stay there, you may have to accept that a lot of good, sane people are not going to live there, especially as long as it's obvious what happened there. You may need to wait quite a while. I know I'd google it immediately. And I know this because a murder took place in the complex I am living in now and I found that out BEFORE I agreed to rent here. In my case, it just seemed very remote that something like that could occur again or the property managers could've stopped it, since a fight broke out at a party and someone was shot. (Neither the murderer nor the victim actually lived here.) The fact that the landlady rented to a serious sex offender is a little different and preventable.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:19 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone for your advice. It's been a really shitty and stressful situation, and yeah the sex offender. He wasn't on the lease but the news reports aren't really going to mention that and it still reflects so badly on building management. The whole thing is nauseating. But I really appreciate everyone's point of view. Sometimes it's easy to forget that cigarette butts on the porch and old christmas trees in the back yard are a dealbreaker for some. Let alone more horrific occurrences.

If I went down 200 on the rent I would be asking for 400 a month, which while super low, may be our only option for a quick sublet.
posted by superior julie at 3:09 PM on February 17, 2014

Would you be willing to move into the downstairs apartment if it can be cleaned and repaired quickly? You may be able to convince the landlords to give you a rent price you can afford with your current income because that's the apartment that's going to be super hard to rent out. It's a bit of a long shot, but it may be worth considering.
posted by quince at 5:36 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Living where the murder occurred wouldn't bother me (much); I wouldn't expect a rent break for that. Unfortunate things happen. If the room is clean and otherwise up to standards, I would have no problem moving in.
posted by michellenoel at 7:27 PM on February 17, 2014

One news story said that one person is being held pending a hearing on their "dangerousness." I'd be concerned about that. You may want to be clear with prospective tenants that the accused men are never going to be moving back in.
posted by salvia at 8:29 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

In case my answer wasn't clear, I'd be concerned that they might be released on bail. (This may be totally unlikely. But it'd be my first question.)
posted by salvia at 1:41 AM on February 18, 2014

Putting aside the murder and the cleaning/repairs that still need to be done: take a good look at your competition. Looking around Craigslist for similar rooms in the area, I can find several that are $50 above your asking price but have free laundry in the building, or include at least some utilities, or have only one roommate, or are closer to transit options, etc.

Don't go down too much on the rent: when I see a listing for significantly cheaper than similar listings, I immediately wonder what's wrong with it. But slashing another $50 will make it more competitive without looking suspicious. You may also want to consider asking for only half a month's deposit.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:23 AM on February 18, 2014

you should do the above mentioned things to improve the situation then list again at a lower price, because it sounds like anyone who agreed to this would be a little desperate or a little crazy or both.
posted by zdravo at 9:35 AM on February 18, 2014

Counter to a lot of people in this thread, I wouldn't back down too much on price. I do agree on waiting a month to cycle out of the news AND fix up the lower level of the apartment (hopefully management takes care of this in that time, and definitely pester them), but decreasing rent too much is going to drive a lot of people YOU don't want to live with to you. If you've researched what the room is worth given the other conditions and constraints then that's a fair price IMO. You are disclosing the living situation (couple, no w/d, cats) and people who would bulk at that are going to weed themselves out anyway.
posted by rawralphadawg at 7:01 PM on February 18, 2014

What is your landlord's financial situation? They lost renters and now have a unit to repair. I don't know if you have told them what you have told us about the rental issue but they now have a cash flow problem as well. If it were me as the landlord I would be totally freaked out.

Perhaps you could help everyone out by working on some of the needed repairs for a break in your rent or find out if they are waiting for them get through victim assistance if that is available...although I don't know what covers this kind of damage. (And YouTube shows how to do just about any repair)...Good luck. This goes in the weird things that have happened category. So sorry for all of you.
posted by OhSusannah at 2:25 AM on February 20, 2014

Response by poster: I found a roommate, for the original price listed. He did, however, request a significant (70%) cut in utilities. In addition he's straight out of grad school with no full time job. He will only be here for 3 months (we have a contract and everything). I told prospective subletters about the murder before scheduling a time to meet. So I guess everything worked out! Thanks all!
posted by superior julie at 10:16 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

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