The Curious Case of the Angry Non-Tenant
June 2, 2015 2:22 PM   Subscribe

My housemate's fiance changed her address to ours without telling any of us, is taking up a lot of space with her stuff in the kitchen and bathroom, and just left a nasty letter under my door. She is not a tenant. How do I handle this?

The lease expires in August. About a month ago, me and my partner noticed that my housemate A's fiance (call her B) was in the house a lot more often, and came and go as she pleased. This didn't immediately seem off, but then we started getting mail for a person I didn't recognize. We finally got an official "change of address" notice from the USPS, which is when I realized that the mail coming in was for B. I sent A a text asking about it (since I didn't have her contact info and she wasn't there at the time), but he didn't respond. On the day rent was due, I decided to send him an email indicating that if she was, in fact, living here, then we should discuss how rent should be re-split, as soon as possible.

A responded to this with a long email of excuses about how he'd planned on telling us after he'd basically asked B if she wanted to pay rent, despite the fact that she now lives here. They were planning on approaching us with the results at mid-week, after rent had been paid. A proposed that B effectively "buy out" our other housemate, C, who moved out this month and was planning on just paying double rent since our lease expires so soon. I decided not to fight it, but let them know that I'd need to know asap if they wouldn't be on the property next month, so that I could find a subletter to take over.

This afternoon, my partner came home to find a nastily-worded letter from B saying that I had no authority to "set deadlines" for when to start looking for tenant replacements or demand rent from her, and that I was being arrogant for doing so. She also attempted to call me out about poor upkeep of the bathroom (body hair, long strands everywhere, etc). However, none of the hair is mine (I'm Black; fallen strands of my hair are *never* straight, and all of the crap in the bathroom is), and I've simply refused to clean the stray dried urine that A left behind. With regards to the tenancy-related stuff, she is apparently not aware that my landlord asked me to manage my floor (with the ability to sublet), and that all utilities are currently in my name - for all intents and purposes, I *do* have the ability to request advanced notice of them moving out.

I've also never spoken to her in person before. She's always walked past me in blurs without speaking, even if I attempt to say hi, so this came completely out of the blue. I'd also been meaning to ask her about the fact that she'd crammed our freezer to the point where I can't fit more food in there, and has made room in the medicine cabinet designated as mine for her things. Her moving in was never a conversation we had.

I cannot take the nuclear option of telling my landlord: my partner, D, has lived here since we moved in and contributed to rent and utilities (this is the arrangement that A, C, D and I made explicitly before signing the lease). Although he does not receive mail here (we live close enough to his parents that it didn't matter), he's definitely a tenant, albeit an unauthorized one. But I'm also not sure how to deal with B. I already have trouble dealing with A: he yells and screams, has used intimidation on me, D and the landlord,* and I have really strong PTSD reactions to speaking to him at this point (because people yelling and screaming gives me flashbacks to my mother's abusive behavior - see previous questions).

1) How should I approach her (in person?)?
2) How would you frame a response to such a letter?
3) Should D and I simply attempt to move out this month?
4) Or should I reconsider telling the landlord? I don't want to do anything that could harm D, however, so it's not really on the table unless I can protect them.

Thank you.
posted by Ashen to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you and D could move out this month, then how could telling the landlord possibly hurt D? Tell the landlord, also be prepared to move. Don't even talk to B, pretend you never got the letter.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:31 PM on June 2, 2015 [14 favorites]


Well, she sounds like a terrible person, to start with.

What do you want out of the situation? Are you and D planning on staying past August yourselves? If so, could D be added to the lease at that time, or is there a restriction on the number of residents allowed?

Do you have the right to not renew A's lease? If so, would you choose to do so?

Does the landlord want A to keep living there, given that A has verbally berated the landlord in the past?

I would try to focus on what your best outcome is before deciding what to do. The landlord may be more on your side than you realize.
posted by pie ninja at 2:46 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am very confused by your arrangement. You manage your "floor" is that more than one apartment? If you have that power, why can't you put your partner on the lease? Who do A and B (and formerly C) pay rent to, and are they on a lease? Why is your name on all the utilities?

It sounds like maybe the power A holds to make your life unpleasant/force you to deal with B stems from the fact that your partner is there in some non-legal way or isn't on the lease. Can you fix that? That would give you negotiating power, especially if your name is on the utilities/you have a good relationship with your landlord.

A sounds like trouble, and B more so. Whatever strategy you have needs to be focused on disentangling from both of them. But I can't tell what your options are from your description.
posted by emjaybee at 2:46 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dear B, as we never discussed your moving into my house, you are here illegally. Please contact me at [phone] to arrange picking up your stuff. Thx, Ash

(Change locks, give new key to landlord, tell A she is no longer welcome, take it or leave it, and sublet C's space. You are not obligated to provide housing for people who just up and decide to move in. Threaten legal action. Do all of this before 30 days have elapsed, or she gets (some) rights of tenancy. For A to alllow this WITHOUT speaking to you and D first is downright sleazy and irresponsible. Maybe it is time for him to move on as well.)
posted by sexyrobot at 2:47 PM on June 2, 2015 [28 favorites]


Oh man, just realized that you posted this question. Is this the same landlord/apartment? If so, this is a ball of sketchy unstable living situation and it seems like A and B are the least of your troubles. If you and D can legally leave, that may be the best option for you here.
posted by pie ninja at 2:49 PM on June 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


If you're moving out in August, then what difference does it make to you whether C pays the rent or B pays the rent? If B moves out early, that's between B and C. If A moves out early, A is on the hook for rent (and A is on the lease). Frankly it sounds like A & B are quite settled and have given no indication that they want to move out in a month.

Personally I would rather deal with a cramped kitchen and bad vibes for a couple of months (or move out early) rather than waste energy on trying to evict some really nasty people.
posted by acidic at 2:50 PM on June 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


You don't approach her. She's not on the lease and if A doesn't have the same subletting rights that you do, then fuck her. She's treating you like you're A's servant and that behavior will not improve.

If you have subletting authority from the landlord, use it. Or have the landlord there if dealing with A is triggering. Of your landlord has you managing the property, he trusts you. Realize that. Help your landlord understand the predicament you're in and find a way to help A+B either treat you with respect or leave.

These people are abusive. If you can't reason with A, you need to remove A or yourself asap.
posted by boo_radley at 2:52 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some follow-up:

Re: My managing the floor: My landlord has given me permission to find subletters and plug them in at will; I'm an exception in that the lease forbids this explicitly. While the house is on the market, I am also the only primary tenant contact at this point. The property is a multifamily home; we all occupy one floor/apartment of it. I collect rent (and then deposit it in my landlord's account) and utilities (which no one else wanted to manage). A and C are on the lease with me. I don't have the ability to kick people out. I *could* put D on the lease as a subletter for C.

Re: moving out: we're very, very broke, so dropping a deposit on a new place would require quite a bit of begging of relatives on both our parts, and is thus not guaranteed. We could definitely afford the apartment if someone moved into A's room, so if we couldn't find cheaper alternatives we would just get another roommate.

But given the current issues surrounding the landlord's property sale (also my landlord is still unpredictable despite giving me this ability), if I tell him and he reacts by kicking A out for moving B in, A WILL counter with the fact that D has lived here illegally, and file a legal complaint.
posted by Ashen at 3:08 PM on June 2, 2015


It sounds like you don't really have great legs to stand on. You, A, and C all split the rent, right? Even though D has been effectively in many ways living there? Does B stay in A's room? If so, I'm not sure why you would have the right to demand B pay rent when D is not - that's between her and A.

Also, it's reasonable to think that it isn't her job to talk to you guys about moving in -that was presumably a discussion between her and A, and it was his responsibility to have told you - which it sounds like he offered her without talking about it, on the strength of the D situation.

This part all sounds like you have behaved kind of badly.

However, the second part, where A screams at you, seems clear. Treat these as separate issues - they are. If you don't want to deal with someone abusive, don't - but this has zilch to do with whether or not he has a right to move his fiance in.
posted by corb at 3:17 PM on June 2, 2015


You, A, and C all split the rent, right? Even though D has been effectively in many ways living there? Does B stay in A's room?

No. D pays an equal amount of rent and utilities as A, C and I. We explicitly agreed to split it amongst the 4 of us, well before moving in.

B sleeps in A's room.
posted by Ashen at 3:26 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


corb they stated that D does contribute to rent and to utilities. I completely disagree that they've behaved badly.

I would either move out ASAP even if it means begging family. Toxic living situations affect your life in a huge way and you should put yours needs first. Especially with PTSD.
posted by shesbenevolent at 3:27 PM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


From reading your previous askme that pie ninja linked to, your landlord sounds untrustworthy and sketch as hell. This on top of the fact that the property is in flux and could be sold at any time plus the fact that you have an abusive, scary roommate to deal with and his crazy girlfriend is bad, bad news. You should move ASAP and get those utilities out of your name. Even if it means borrowing from family -- or perhaps living with D's parents for a short time til you save up enough for a deposit. I'd have no problem letting my kid stay with me under such circumstances. Ask them. The way the situation is now is untenable, your property and your mental health are at risk. Good luck.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:30 PM on June 2, 2015 [16 favorites]


It wasn't clear the split was even; 'contribute' can mean a lot of things. In that case, though, I still think you're wrong to focus on B - this is A's problem and A's failure to communicate with her.
posted by corb at 3:31 PM on June 2, 2015


Your boyfriend's parents live near you. Please ask them if you and he can stay there for a month or two until you get back on your feet. If they say yes, turn off everything that is in your name and tell the landlord that you are resigning as his manager because he has failed to pay you for your services. Tell him that you will forgive him for what he owes you in exchange for him letting you out of your lease immediately.

You are in a shitty situation. Get out of it. Living with boyfriend's mom will not be ideal but, it has to be better than living with two crazy people in a home that can be sold out from under you and a landlord that allows anyone and everyone to view and photograph your personal living space.
posted by myselfasme at 3:43 PM on June 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yeah, ask your BF's parents if you can hang out there for the next couple of months while you scrape up money and look for a better place. Your current living situation is no good for you.
posted by tel3path at 4:05 PM on June 2, 2015


Regarding moving in with my partner's parents: not an option, sadly. They were insistent on him moving out previously. In fact, we just spent an afternoon there taking all of his stuff out of their house.
posted by Ashen at 4:16 PM on June 2, 2015


Run run run run.

Any time you end up "managing" a house like this you become the person everyone hates even when you're in the right. You're not actually the landlord even if you're deputized by them, and you basically just exist to be the seawall for drama of the landlord. Unpaid. With no rent discount or anything.

Fuck that.

I've been in a similar position, and just, no. You should pretty much just tell them all to have fun and tell the landlord you're moving out, even if it costs you money.

If you can't move, i'd honestly say kick them both out for not following the rules and just wait and see if they retaliate. Or if the landlord even cares. Just straight faced tell the landlord that they moved someone in who isn't on the lease who changed their address to the house and are pulling this, and that you're kicking them out. No more no less.

This is sort of a two wrongs don't make a right thing. It's one thing to break the rules, it's another thing to break the rules and be an asshole. Just because you're doing it too doesn't make this some people in glass houses situation.
posted by emptythought at 4:20 PM on June 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


This is a mess. You're in the middle of a crap landlord and crap tenants. Why are you putting emotional/time investment into any of this? Extricate yourself (along with your partner) as expeditiously as possible, ideally while recovering your security deposit if you have one to help with the deposit on your next place. It seems like you've been having a rough time; you don't owe these people anything.
posted by Wretch729 at 5:07 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


In light of your further clarifications, I agree straight up with emptythought. Put your next apartment's security deposit on your credit card(s) if you have to; just for yourself (if your partner wants in, he'll have to cough up his portion of the security deposit on his own, but gtfo now ---- even if that means temporarily separating from your partner), you are in a very vulnerable position and the longer you stay there, the worse your options become. Do not sign a new lease with this shitty landlord. Sorry, darling; BAIL! ASAP.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:47 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


This doesn't seem to have any good answers but for you to leave. Did you get discounted rent for managing the apartment? If not, check your legal rights...that may be your shield against any legal issues that arise about D's tenancy. By letting D move in yoy kinda set a precedent that A could do the same, that B (does that stand for bitch?) Needs to pay up. Tell them its cool if she stays but if she does she needs to pay it A needs to be willing to pay double. Also, get the utilities out of your name. Hell if they give you trouble cut the utilities off for a night or two, leave and let A And B handle that.

Lastly, you may have to confront her. ..don't back down on this even if it's tough. What she did was cowardly and disrepectful and if you let this continue or if you waver they'll only push you more.

Just out of curiosity what did they do to intimidate you and what did your partner say about that?
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 8:15 PM on June 2, 2015


Outrageous Cherry has some excellent advice here: Get out while you can.

To your enumerateds:

1) Approach her — them — calmly, matter of factly, after you've talked to the landlord. You say you can't kick anyone out, but right now she's there illegally. Your partner has already been there and paying rent, so he's likely got tenant rights. She's got none. While you don't have much power here, you have more control than they do and you can maintain that by not letting them piss you off. Paraphrase Bartleby the Scrivener — "I'm sorry, that won't be possible." If they get mouthy, tell them that's not an acceptable way to speak to you. Set your boundaries and hold the line.

2 — Don't deal with the letter at all. That's not the issue, and frankly, if she doesn't like the way the bathroom is kept who gives a shit because she doesn't live there and doesn't pay rent. She has no claim and no vote in how your house is kept, and presuming that she does isn't the mark of someone you want living with you. Feel free to tell her to fix her shit first before getting up in yours. Same goes for her fiance.

3 — YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN.

4 — You say you've had permission to add subletters. D's your subletter, and frankly, he's been there long enough that he's got tenant rights. Your landlord sounds like a fuckwad anyway, so while you shouldn't be an asshole to him intentionally, his feelings are not your concern. You an' D can do you two, and the landlord can fuck off.
posted by klangklangston at 9:05 PM on June 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think I experienced each of the issues you describe, OP, back in my desperately broke days. Only, each one was typically limited to a single rental situation, not rolled into the utter cluster you are dealing with. Good grief, and I'm sorry.

In each situation, I tried to ride it out in the hopes that things would improve. Because I was desperately broke, I was desperate to appease my various tormenters. I voluntarily acted as buffer for the landlord, voluntarily tried to maintain the balance in a convoluted web of people tacitly allowed but not legally leased, tolerated (and participated in) escalating passive aggressiveness, and all that. After all, I couldn't afford to leave! Looking back, the cash penalty paled in comparison to the long-term effects of daily stress and repressed rage.

I mean, I'm feeling a stomach cramp coming on, just reading your ask, and my experiences are more than a decade behind me.

So, yeah, I get that moving out will be difficult, but I'll join others in strongly recommending leaving at the end of your lease period. Or, if you can find a creative way to finance it, paying your way out now. There's almost certainly no way to "win" this one, if your account is accurate. As uncomfortable -- and for me, this sort of thing is painfully uncomfortable -- as it feels, this is the time to call in favors with friends and relations. One friend may not be able to host you in the interim, but they might have room for some of your belongings; another may have a couch available, and a relative could have some odd jobs that can help you build up a bank for the next (hopefully better) place.
posted by credible hulk at 10:02 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


My landlord has given me permission to find subletters and plug them in at will; I'm an exception in that the lease forbids this explicitly. While the house is on the market, I am also the only primary tenant contact at this point. The property is a multifamily home; we all occupy one floor/apartment of it. I collect rent (and then deposit it in my landlord's account) and utilities (which no one else wanted to manage). A and C are on the lease with me. I don't have the ability to kick people out. I *could* put D on the lease as a subletter for C.

I hope your landlord has been paying you for the property management services. But seriously, Legal Services of New Jersey offers a legal services hotline at 1-888-576-5529 and an online application.
posted by Little Dawn at 10:25 PM on June 2, 2015


Another valid point against the "but you did it toooo!" argument is that the manager usually gets special privileges. And yes, you're the on site manager/super/etc. They often get to park in the spot no ones allowed to use in the side yard, get to put their shit in the storage room/basement space other people don't get to use, and yea, usually get to do stuff like have their family member or partner or whatever stay over.

"So? I'm the manager" is a pretty valid response to that stupid NO-U.
posted by emptythought at 5:08 AM on June 3, 2015


I'll update this thread if anything significant happens, but our plan is to make D a subletter and get it in writing, look for a new place and secure funding once we do.* If A gets violent/tries to destroy stuff or B leaves more notes, I will ask them both to leave. B, I found out, can be forcibly removed by the cops at any time since she hasn't bought out C, won't pay rent and no longer counts as a legal guest (the keys and accepting mail). But I don't want to start trying to kick her out because I am terrified of how violent A will get, and I don't want to call the cops unless he does.

I do not plan on engaging either of them in any way that I can't record and use later as evidence. I honestly just want to quickly move out and lay low until we do, because of the amount of stress this is placing on D and he just doesn't want to deal with it anymore.

*Would a GoFundMe even work for this kind of situation? If anyone has any ideas for ways to quickly fundraise besides begging family, please MeMail me.
posted by Ashen at 3:49 PM on June 3, 2015


You could move out, but why should you be forced to. You have the law on your side. Use it. She sounds like she's illegally trespassing. I'd totally call the cops. If A goes batshit violent, great, the cops are on their way anyway, they can have two for the price of one. File a restraining order against both of them and good riddance, hopefully that will take care of it. Happy days!
posted by Jubey at 2:42 AM on June 4, 2015


Anyone who is concerned for their safety or the safety of others because of a family member, partner, spouse, household member, etc., can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to provide confidential crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hotline operators are specially trained and can provide resources, help with options to stay safe or just listen. Local organizations may be able to help with finding free or low-cost legal assistance and may have legal advocates available to help with court paperwork and navigating the court process.

Womenslaw.org is a project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence that offers a variety of resources, including an email hotline for questions about how to find help, legal information for every state and information about finding a lawyer for domestic violence cases.

via the MeFi Wiki Get a lawyer page
posted by Little Dawn at 7:46 AM on June 4, 2015


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