Eeny, reside here or not, meeny, miny, moe?
April 25, 2014 9:20 AM   Subscribe

My lease is soon expiring. I'm in kind of a delicate situation, and am a bit stuck on how to proceed. Details under the fold.

So, disclaimer first. I don't expect you to make my decision for me. That's on me. However, this is kind of new footing for me, and I'm a bit unsure on how to proceed, so any suggestions and thoughts would be helpful.

The facts:
I'm Deaf. My landlords (two of them) are Deaf, as well as all other roommates. I currently live with five other people in a house. Two roommates are moving away, and I'm at the cusp whether or not to stay here. The lease expires May 31st, if I'm to stay here, it'd be renewed for another year (12 months). I moved here a couple years ago, in August, lived in the basement in an open space, $475 a month (excluding bills). Last year, I moved upstairs in a private room (and a toilet shared between only two people), pay $550 a month. If I stay here, it's either the basement open space again (but this time, no roommate in the other area of the open space, so technically I still have privacy), or stay in this room, both at the same prices (basement open space, $475; here, $550).

I am currently unemployed and waiting to get back on SSI as a temporary solution until I get in a job. DC SSI pays only $721 a month, which is a bit meager (no supplemental amount unless you live in a MedicAid facility or adult foster home), but I should also be eligible for food stamps for a maximum of $190 a month. I'm furiously searching for a job.

The issues:
I'm unsure about staying in this house for a couple of reasons. First, the local subway (fondly known as the Metro) is a good 15 blocks away. I'm sick of hoofing it from the grocery store next to the Metro and walking a long distance home. That, however, is survivable, just annoying. Second, it's a bit expensive living here (but the tradeoff is that it's a really nice, renovated house, and is quite comfortable/peaceful. Third, I'm a bit worried that the next batch of roommates will not be as cool/nice/easy to get along with as the current batch. Having social anxiety exacerbates this issue a bit.

The lease expires at an inconvenient time, too. May and August is the best time of year around here for finding new places/roommates, so right now, my options are limited. I'm a bit afraid that April 30 will pass, I've committed to a decision, and boom! a better place opens up. I don't want that to happen. Caveat: I'm indecisive as hell, need to work on that.

I've spoken with my landlords about my situation - being unemployed, unsure where to go, etc., and we agreed on 3 possible scenarios - but my deadline to decide on all of those are by April 30.

1) Stay here another year, living in either room.
2) Stay here on a temporary basis until July 31, to give me breathing room and more time to decide on my living situation. I, however, will lose priority to live here by April 30 and will NEED to vacate by July 31. I will also have to move to the basement open shared space between June and July, so the next tenant who takes my current room will be able to move in. I'll have to share with someone living in the basement until then. (And, I hate knowing I still have to search for a place before August. No firm living situation there.)
3) Vacate the place by May 31st, firm deadline. (Very unlikely)

All of those options are making me feel a bit stuck. I've looked around the area, and don't really see anything else that's cheaper and on the same level (quality) as here. Caveat 1: I really would like to live with Deaf people. It's just what I need, and is my comfort level. I know this may seem a bit closedminded and will limit my options considerably, but I am not open to discussing living with hearing people. That’s just me. Caveat 2: I have parcopresis, and my situation with that has pretty much been worked out here (so far), and it would be hard to have to adjust to that all over again when I've gotten it under control here. However, having a few new roommates (including a potential couple) totaling up to 6-7 roommates all together may be a bit hard to adjust to, and I'm not even sure if I want to live in DC and be stuck yet another year - it's all kind of uncertain right now. What if I don't like my new roommates?

So. Right now, it's a toss-up between flat-out leaving (unlikely at this point), or staying. I was thinking the open space over, and saving $75 a month made it quite attractive (and I can always try to sublease if needed), but having the toilet almost to myself right now makes it much more attractive to live in the current room, especially given my parcopresis issues, and it being an open space, subleasing may be more of a challenge - while the current room would be easy to sublease. However, I'm afraid that $721 wouldn't be enough to live comfortably, when factoring in $550+100ish bills, even with food stamps. Living in the open space again would be workable, with partitions blocking my personal space, but I just don't know. Dealing with the parcopresis situation would probably be a bit hard, but would be adjustable eventually - it's not exactly a dealbreaker. It's more about comfort and not having to move all my stuff back down 3 floors, and I do have a nicer view in my current room. Bottom line: I’m comfortable where I am!

I did think of a potential solution. My landlords clean the general shared area about once a month. As I've always paid my rent/bills on time (early, even) and my landlords know and pretty much trust me (I hope!), as well as us having a good relationship up to this point, I was thinking about negotiating with them and seeing if they would be willing to reduce my rent to $475, while I stay in my current $550 room, then I take over the cleaning and clean the shared space once a week - I have time on my hands. That way, they don't have to worry about cleaning, and I save some money, too. Win-win situation.

I'm just so unsure! Again, I know this is not a situation where you can make the decision for me, nor am I expecting that, but advice or thoughts would be really helpful. Am I really thinking everything out carefully? Any suggestions on how to best negotiate? Anything else I might have missed? For all I know, I could find a job by this summer, and not have to ‘get by’ with SSI, but I also want to be prepared too, in case.

Thanks! I like the 'miny' part of eeny meeny miny moe, haha...let's see!
posted by dubious_dude to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You will never, ever be able to find a less expensive place to live in DC any closer to the metro than you already are. Get a bicycle if you feel the walks to places you need to go are taking too long. You will need to suck it up with new roommates, since that will be your reality so long as you live in DC-- it's either new roommates here or new roommates elsewhere. I would add also that since you are so attached to the Deaf community that it will be hard to find as established a community as exists in DC somewhere else.
posted by deanc at 9:31 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you are missing one option. Your lease should have a provision for breaking it early - usually a financial penalty somewhere around 1 month's rent. If your lease doesn't contain such a penalty, then there is likely a provision in your state tenant's law.

It's more expensive in the short-run and landlords probably think it's dickish, but it is usually an option.
posted by muddgirl at 9:32 AM on April 25, 2014

In your situation, I would definitely stay in your current house. I'm not Deaf and don't know DC, so perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems to me that finding another all-Deaf household with a vacancy, in the span of a few months, would be a big challenge.

Your proposed cleaning solution sounds good, and there's no harm in mentioning it to the landlords, even if they don't take you up on it, since you seem to get along with them well.
posted by daisyk at 9:37 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I believe that after 1 year in dc your lease automatically goes to month-to-month, which gives you some flexibility.
posted by rabidsegue at 9:42 AM on April 25, 2014

I think the chances of finding a new apartment in DC that (a) fixes the location problem (b) is cheaper (c) is shared with Deaf roommates (d) not a shithole (e) doesn't have a whole new set of downsides that cancel out whatever gains you might make (crappier roommates, higher people/bathroom ratio, shitty landlord, maintenance issues, etc.) are, like zero. That "better place" is just not going to open up, sorry.

I'd stay where you are, and given your income situation, I'd move back into the basement room. On such a low income, the difference between having $71 left over after rent + bills and having $146 left over after rent and bills is huge. If you can work out the cleaning deal with your landlord, I'd recommend you STILL take the cheaper room and see if you can get it for $400, because $146 is still not a lot to live on.
posted by drlith at 10:37 AM on April 25, 2014

As to the bathroom privacy, that would be something you have your own value on (for me, it would be worth it, for example).

As to new roommates, moving would lead to the unknown. But if you stay, and like the owners and who they have chosen before, chances are they would choose good people again. Which seems a bit safer to me.
posted by Vaike at 10:51 AM on April 25, 2014

I would stay in your current house because, even with several new roommates, there are less unknowns that you will have to adjust to than if you moved to an entirely new place. (And it sounds unlikely that a new place that meets all your criteria and is as well kept-up as your current place will be near-impossible to find.)

Also, try not to feel "stuck" by signing the one-year lease. People move in the middle of leases, you get a subletter or pay a fee, it happens. (And it might be worth exploring the relevant local laws regarding tenants rights to month-to-month agreement after a certain length of lease.)

Definitely propose your cleaning idea to the landlords, the worst they can say is no.

Staying in your current room sounds slightly better than moving to an "open" area especially with the new roommates in the mix (you'll only have one new person to get used to sharing a bathroom with) but not the end of the world if you decide to move downstairs to save money. If the landlords agree to the cleaning arrangement, I would definitely stay upstairs. If not, it's a toss up.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:07 AM on April 25, 2014

There's another thing that I kind of forgot to mention. The landlords and I are also friends; as in, we do things together. One of the landlords, I've known since middle school. That's why the situation is a bit sticky, and I want this situation to have the best possible outcome.

Any ideas how to negotiate for a discount with a weekly cleaning? The shared space is big, but easily cleaned (roommates keep it clean already) and would take 1-2.5 hours to complete, I'd think. How should I frame it best?
posted by dubious_dude at 12:43 PM on April 25, 2014

I think the idea of offering to trade the cleaning for a rent reduction is a good one.

"I'd like to continue living here, but you know my financial situation is very tight. Would you be willing to reduce my rent to $450 per month if I took over the monthly deep clean on the shared spaces?"

I suggest $450 as an opening offer only because it gives you a little room to negotiate the exact reduction.

They may consider that monthly cleaning to be their opportunity to check up on their property, so they may not be open to this idea, but it's a totally normal kind of arrangement to have, so it isn't something you should be concerned they'll be upset by. Lots of landlords in multi-unit buildings have one tenant who gets a rent rebate for being the fix-it guy, or for mowing the lawn, or whatever.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:21 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like jacquilynne's framing of the rent/cleaning question. For reference, I take out the garbage bins each week for our apartment complex (and take them back in after the garbage trucks have come) -- probably a total of 20 minutes of work per week -- and get a $25/week reduction in rent for doing so. I think this type of arrangement is totally normal, and so even if your landlord says no, they will not think you are crazy or weird just for asking. :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:29 PM on April 25, 2014

They are your friends but you are also in a financial relationship. They made a financial, not a personal, decision that they could only allow you to remain on month-to-month rent until July. You can make the financial, not personal, decision to back out of your lease at some point in the future, following all the necessary penalties for doing so.

These kinds of decisions and conversations are inherently awkward, and having social anxiety doesn't help, I know from personal experience. But please don't let awkwardness lead you to limit your options or make bad financial decisions.
posted by muddgirl at 2:43 PM on April 25, 2014

Not to threadsit, but one main concern I have is that in my mind, they may counteroffer my $475 offer to $500. I do agree that beginning the offer at $450 is a good idea, but after running this idea by my roommate (who will soon leave), he said it was more likely they (landlords) wouldn't take the idea very seriously. My landlords are cool, nice people, but they ARE money-minded, too (both majored in Business) and as a result, tend to think of the dollar for the bottom line. I really want to stick to $475. Any good ideas how to stand firm with the offer, and convince them? (If it helps, I've lived here for 2 years, always paid rent early, led trash responsibilities for roommates, and was complimented more than once by my landlords for being a good roommate and even was told I was one of the best roommates there.) I don't know if being told those things was on their 'agenda' to convince me to stay, but they truly seemed genuine. I'm also afraid of being told "no" and feeling disappointed/let down.

Ahh, here I go, overthinking everything like always! I'm not the best negotiator as well.
posted by dubious_dude at 4:09 PM on April 25, 2014

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