Our home was raided by the government. Any suggestions how to process?
June 23, 2016 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Our house was raided by the government a few weeks ago, which was incredibly traumatizing for me. More inside.

A few weeks ago, our house was raided by the federal government, with about 10-20 armed cops swarming our house early in the morning. They got in our house by kicking down a door. I was one of the first ones to be awakened, I think, because I was easily accessible (no real lock). After me being patted down, I was told this was an investigation for my landlord (Manuel). After asking me where his room was, agents proceeded to pound on his door, then kicked it in. Seeing all this, especially unexpected and practically at the crack of dawn, was very traumatic for me. They stayed at my house, apparently talking with Manuel and after searching everything (they searched his room, his car, and other "public"/shared areas in the house, but not others' rooms, thankfully), they let Manuel go (no arrest), but he's most likely now getting legal help. I don't know what the search was for - shortly after, I left the house and went to work, too shaken up to process everything, so ended up meeting another roommate, who was also shaken up, and we took the day off. Agents were at our home for a good four hours or so. It was just like the movies.

After this incident, I've been having trouble sleeping, and feel on edge. Almost every morning, I've woken up automatically early in the morning and looked outside to make sure there was no other raid happening. I have several thoughts running through my head:

a) Is he/our house still under surveillance? I've seen some unmarked white, windowless vans around our area lately, but we live in a very dense area (think a city, but not downtown), and a lot of construction going on also. It's possible those unmarked white vans are just part of the construction crew and that they could've always been there, and I just happened to notice them more after the raid. I don't see any people walking by or watching the house, though, to the best of my knowledge.

b) What if this eventually leads to Manuel's arrest, and they show up with his arrest warrant? Would this lead to another raid? Just the thought of another raid makes me feel incredibly shaky and anxious.

c) Even though me and all other roommates weren't directly questioned or even asked for our identification, would we somehow be 'pulled in' by this and directly implicated (as in, having to testify or answer questions)? None of us were involved at all in anything illegal, again, to the best of my knowledge.

d) What's the likelihood that those agents planted surveillance materials inside the house (hidden cameras, etc.)? Probably unlikely, but I'm not very clear with the law.

e) Would this be enough to break my lease? I've signed a lease for another year prior to the raid, but right now, our home doesn't feel like my home anymore at all. I want to move out; the problem is, everything is so expensive. I live in a city with a very high cost of living, and it's expected to keep going up. With my salary, I can't afford much more, and I don't want to downgrade my living standards to even worse, having to share a big house with 10 others - too risky. I may feel better after talking to Manuel and getting a feel for where things stand, though, but...

To make this more complicated, a close relative of Manuel passed away after the raid, so he's really not going through the best time right now. I was given the suggestion by my therapist to ask him what happened, and to see if he knows if our house is still under surveillance, to help me feel more at ease, and I plan to, only at the right time. Which now apparently probably isn't.

Obviously, you don't have the answers directly, but any helpful tips/good-to-know's would really help. This deeply traumatized me, given my history of being bullied and whatnot (which I am working through with my therapist). I know I did nothing wrong/illegal, so some tips/suggestions would really help me to feel better. I'm also not questioning the raid itself - it's the procedure the government has, and they did handle it quite professionally for the most part, but I'm trying to be proactive. I was shocked, because Manuel is a decent man who works hard and respects the law - from what I know. I've known him for many years, and while he does have his flaws, he means well most of the time. It could have been a big misunderstanding, for all I know. It was a completely unexpected whammy for me. I'm pretty much in the dark right now.

Thanks.
posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (81 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Honestly, without knowing what your landlord is being investigated for, it is impossible for us to comment upon your questions about continued surveillance.
posted by k8t at 1:27 PM on June 23, 2016


I'm so sorry. I know this is traumatizing.

With respect, you've been told many many many many many times to leave this landlord and this living situation behind.

I think if you want to be on the right side of the law, you should leave immediately. Manuel has serious problems and won't be able to come after you in court. You should just put it in writing that you are leaving on X date and bounce. If you think Manuel is a criminal (everything you've ever told us about him points to YES) then you should plan your exit (including setting up mail forwarding to a PO box ASAP) and then move out when he's not around.

I don't know what you are sticking around for.

Did you get the business card of any of the agents from the raid? Anyone who talked to you directly? I would not reach out to them, but know who to reference maybe if you get questioned again??

Yes. I imagine where you live/Manuel is now currently and was previously under surveillance. Of course. Yes. Guaranteed.

Child, run.
posted by jbenben at 1:29 PM on June 23, 2016 [67 favorites]


Sometimes, from past posts as well as this one, I get the feeling that you are made so uncomfortable by reaching out to people in your life for information and general input that you are simply unable to do so. The feeling of being frozen with the uncomfs?

If that is indeed the correct read, then you are doing the perfect thing to help yourself by seeing a therapist.

Ask can't really answer these questions for you, it just requires way too much back and forth. Much more than the format allows.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 1:30 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Are these the same people who wanted you to move into a bedroom with no windows and who just absolutely stress the shit out of you even when the household isn't being served a warrant by the feds? Just move out. No amount of money is worth this.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:30 PM on June 23, 2016 [60 favorites]


Also, I guarantee that if you ask Manuel what the hell happened, he will tell you he has no idea, it was all a misunderstanding, nothing to worry about it, etc, whether that is true or not, so it's not remotely worth asking before you leave.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:33 PM on June 23, 2016 [27 favorites]


To make this more complicated, a close relative of Manuel passed away after the raid, so he's really not going through the best time right now.

Doesn't matter. He needs to level with the household about what's going on, even if it's coming at an inconvenient time for him. The answers to most of your questions depend on what's actually going on and there's not enough information right now. However, he almost might not be a reliable witness. You should tell him that you need to get a copy of the warrant so you can understand the situation.

As someone living with a person interesting enough to law enforcement to warrant that kind of raid, they've done at least a background check on you at this point, though if they didn't bother to interview you or extend the search warrant to your room, they probably don't think you (or anyone else in the house other than his girlfriend) is involved.

Legally this is not likely enough to break the lease so it would depend on whether or not he wants to come after you for the money if you simply leave without an agreement from him.
posted by Candleman at 1:35 PM on June 23, 2016


Something very similar happened to my boyfriend (his former landlord/housemate is currently serving 30 years in prison). Things roll off his back pretty easily, so he just stayed on, nbd, even after a second raid, even though the gov't confiscated his work laptop and cellphone on the first raid (just in case my bf was a conspirator), even after all of the really hideous information about the landlord/housemate came out and the guy was being held without bail, etc.

In that case, it was pretty clear that since my boyfriend was not a target, they didn't care about him after ascertaining that he wasn't the guy they were looking for. Most of their surveillance had been via computer anyway.

This was at a time when the economy was cratering and after the landlord was arrested, my bf just uh stopped paying rent and it took a couple of years before the bank foreclosed so the bonus my bf got for living in a place with really bad juju was a couple of years of free rent. I couldn't do it, but more than one man among our friends said "it's a guy thing" which I don't know whether or not it's true, but free rent is free rent, after all.
posted by janey47 at 1:36 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm only going to talk about the edginess you're experiencing, but you're feeling traumatized because you were traumatized. Even if it was cops, your house was still broken into while you were there, asleep. That takes time to get over. The same thing happened to me (drug addict, though, not cops), and it really just takes time. In the short term what helped me was some medication to help me sleep and earplugs so I wasn't startling awake at every noise and flooding with adrenaline, although that sounds counterintuitive. I should also say that I moved at the earliest possible opportunity since I was never able to feel secure in that apartment again after that.
posted by stellaluna at 1:40 PM on June 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


At first I thought maybe the "we've already told you to move out" response was a little bit harsh, and then I wondered if you were the person with the extreme toilet paper drama and now I'm saying: move out. Don't wait for the strength to ask for explanations, don't let yourself contemplate the feelings of your housemates, do not pass "go." Just move out. Literally, you'd be better off in an SRO in a shady part of town.

I also endorse trying to contact the agency who visited your former home, mainly so they don't waste time trying to find you if they need to talk to you. If they want to talk to you, bring a lawyer.
posted by SMPA at 1:42 PM on June 23, 2016 [18 favorites]


Also: give your notice in writing, via certified mail. No conversations, no text messages.
posted by SMPA at 1:44 PM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


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.

If this was him, then yeah, things do smell hinky. One doesn't just casually travel internationally for miles...
posted by Candleman at 1:49 PM on June 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


Correct: notice in writing today move out asap. You absolutely can and should feel delicate about your ***legendarily*** shitty landlordroommate potentially getting you arrested/detailed/killed, and you should go looking for a means to get some kind of emergent treatment before this has a chance to settle in as PTSD, but do it next week when you live somewhere else.

Manuel a) can kiss your ass b) clearly has far far far far bigger problems than tenants moving out c) would get laughed out of court for trying to uphold your lease if he even tried, which he won't, because the feds are after him.

Look, this is a wake-up call that you need to start looking out for yourself and stop living your life in terror of anyone who presents any sort of authority figure. Get out. Get out before someone even more dangerous than the government shows up for him.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:51 PM on June 23, 2016 [29 favorites]


This is at least your fourth question about this living situation, which sounds legitimately lousy for you and your mental state. In every one of them dozens of people have encouraged you to get out. Please just do it.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:04 PM on June 23, 2016 [17 favorites]


Do any of your other roommates want to move out? Maybe you can find a place together that is more affordable and safer for you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:07 PM on June 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


It seems like you may be in sketchy housing situations because of affordability issues. You're stuck in crappy housing because you can't afford something better.

Now's the time to reach out to local agencies and get yourself on some waiting lists, get section 8 vouchers, get advice, whatever. You may qualify for housing assistance, why not get it.
posted by brookeb at 2:09 PM on June 23, 2016 [21 favorites]


I was one of the first ones to be awakened, I think, because I was easily accessible (no real lock)

Depending on your location (U.S.?), is it even legal for you to be renting a room without any form of lock? Does your room have a window? If it's an illegal lease, you may be able to break it regardless.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:12 PM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


You could contact the agency or wave down a white van and ask them if you are safe living there but, seriously, you need to move. Start looking right away and, as soon as you find something, just go. Don't worry about breaking the lease or giving notice. It is doubtful that he would take you to court but, if he does, you may qualify for free legal counsel and no judge is going to side with him on this, not with everything going on in the world right now. You are in danger just by living with him. They don't raid and monitor the good guys. You need to leave.
posted by myselfasme at 2:19 PM on June 23, 2016


This may or may not make you feel better, but:

I watched a roommate get arrested once, the day before he was about to leave due to nonpayment of rent. Several days later, the cops came looking for him again, but all I could tell them was that he didn't live there anymore. Have no idea what it was for; I'm guessing drugs or stealing, which is always for drugs. (If Manuel owns a house with many tenants, perhaps he's business-savvy enough to commit tax fraud or embezzlement.) For about a second I was afraid as they surrounded my house, but then I realized that cops are really, really good at reading people, and being able to tell whether we are good guys or bad guys. They instantly realized I was a good guy, and were friendly and asking me questions about the neighborhood. Not once did I feel violated; in fact, I felt safe with them, because they were making me feel safer by getting rid of the asshole who stiffed me on the rent (plus, I fucking hate drug addicts, as they have made me feel very, very unsafe in Past Trauma).

Hopefully, once the cops realize that you're a good guy, they won't be disrespectful to you or your space. They might raid again; they might bug your place; but that has nothing to do with you. They don't care about you; they might even like you if you're helpful to them. But yeah, as everyone says, it doesn't sound like this kind of drama is going to go away any time soon, so you're better off looking for a new place if it traumatizes you that much.
posted by Melismata at 2:19 PM on June 23, 2016


cops are really, really good at reading people, and being able to tell whether we are good guys or bad guys

Trying not to derail, but this has NOT been the experience of many MANY people who've come into conflict with cops, especially people of color and other minorities, especially when building raids are involved. Google versions of the phrase "police raid shooting/mistake" etc.

Dubious_dude, move out of your sketchy-as-fuck illegal rental now. Today. This weekend at the latest. Take whatever you own of value and just go. If you absolutely cannot leave your stuff behind: Find a storage unit rental place that offers a free/reduced first-month rate, rent the smallest room unit they have (you can fit SO MUCH in a tiny storage space once you start stacking things vertically!), and start moving your stuff out ASAP. You can ask for free packing boxes at bookstores, liquor stores, etc. Then once your stuff is in storage you'll have a couple more weeks to figure out living arrangements before you have to pay next month's storage rent, but in the meantime you'll have GOTTEN OUT.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:39 PM on June 23, 2016 [34 favorites]


[Friendly caution: this thread needs to not be any kind of debate about police. Please keep it constructive and focused on what OP can do in their current situation.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:43 PM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dubious_dude...you NEED to move out. Manuel has neither been a good landlord nor a good friend to you while you've been living with him. You deserve a room with a lock and a room where you don't have to go through the bathroom to exit. And you deserve to not have a shady landlord who crams as many people as possible in his properties. And a better therapist.
posted by kimberussell at 2:47 PM on June 23, 2016 [16 favorites]


I looked back at the previous question other people mentioned above, and I notice that you said that you and your housemates are all deaf. I genuinely think that that puts you in more than normal danger if the federal agents carry out another dawn raid: if their instinctive trained actions are to expect responses to shouted warnings, and you don't react at all, you are in danger.

I agree with everyone above that you should get out as soon as you can.
posted by Azara at 2:50 PM on June 23, 2016 [39 favorites]


When I saw your screenname, I didn't even need to check--I remember your ask history very well and it sounds like a lot of others do, too. If you're thinking that people are being unnecessarily harsh, I feel for you, but it actually is necessary now. This living situation is untenable and I think you know that. I know you can afford it, but sometimes that isn't enough. I bet if you ask next week for housing resources in your area, all of us will be glad to help out however we can. This was a traumatic situation, and it's only the latest in a long string of bizarre incidents involving this residence. You need to live alone, even if it's somewhere small with a bad commute. I'm so so sorry, but we really do all want the best for you!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:55 PM on June 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


would get laughed out of court for trying to uphold your lease if he even tried ... no judge is going to side with him on this

As ever, please be very cautious with non-lawyers giving legal advice. He has not (as far as you know) been arrested or convicted and may never be. He may be totally innocent. As long as the front door was repaired, there may not be anything that would terminate the lease at this point. DC has a narrow range of things that allows tenants to break leases early. Legitimately not feeling safe is not the same as not being safe in the eyes of the law.

If this is still the same dodgy room where you have to go through a bathroom to get out to the hall, you may be in luck. "tenants must be able to get to the bathroom and bedrooms without going through another bathroom or bedroom."

I'm not saying don't leave, but be aware that you may be creating liability in the process.
posted by Candleman at 2:59 PM on June 23, 2016


Please for god's sake just move out, even if it's just to some efficiency/studio apartment --- you've got a history of almost continuous conflict with roommates, and now your landlord is probably about to encounter big-time legal troubles (and you do not want to get dragged into that, even as an innocent bystander).

I too, like several other people in this thread, knew without looking: 'oh gee, I bet it's dubious_dude again, amirite? Yep, it is!' Just move already, to someplace without roommates. You don't have to live in the middle of DC or within walking distance of your school, you can take Metro or buses and live farther out if need be.
posted by easily confused at 3:02 PM on June 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


10 roommates is better than this living situation. Like no question. I have had that many roommates before. It was *fine* and I am a classic introvert. This is not a good situation for you.

Life is going to keep escalating this message until you break free. Now is the time. Take the leap of faith. You will be fine. You will be so much better than fine that you will probably wish you'd done it sooner. You have got this.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:02 PM on June 23, 2016 [11 favorites]


Do you post here just to vent, or do you ever actually intend to take any advice offered you? This is frustrating as fuck to read, to be honest. Please consider some of these answers to you as some tough love, which you desperately need.

Why have none of the people living there asked Manuel why what happened happened? I do not understand this. It seems as if you all live like snails in shells and never interact with each other. You have every fucking right to know! Do you understand this? YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO KNOW. Right now. Today. How strange is it that none of you seem to be curious enough to ask? Or afraid to ask? Or....dreading it for...whatever reason? What kind of environment is this place in which you live? And why the hell has Manuel not told the people that he lives with WHY there was a raid??? How do you all just go on acting as if nothing happened? My mind is blown.

Are you afraid of Manuel?

You need to move. I don't know how many ways you can be told this. Gather some of the other people that live there and make plans to get a place together.

a) We would probably be able to guestimate this with more accuracy if we knew why the raid happened.

b) It could.

c) It's possible that you would have to answer questions or testify, yes. Again, doesn't it depend on the circumstances? Yeah, it does.

d) Not likely.

e) I think coming after you is the least of his worries. But you know how you could find out if he would do anything about it? By talking to him. Yep.

but right now, our home doesn't feel like my home anymore at all.
I'm really sorry. I am. Please make plans to move asap. I actually think about you sometimes and wonder how you are. Please move. And talk more in depth with your therapist. You've been traumatized and need help to work through it.
posted by the webmistress at 3:07 PM on June 23, 2016 [44 favorites]


MOVE. You've asked EIGHT questions about this dysfunctional household and your roommates over the past four years. I think you really need to ask yourself why you're not able to get out of this situation. You need to get out of there already.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:12 PM on June 23, 2016 [30 favorites]


You feel, and are, unsafe where you are living.

Trying to get certainty about your landlord's relationship with the law is a distraction, and nevermind that, you're not going to get certainty ever that things are OK. The agents who visited won't come back and apologize to all of you and say 'our bad,' they at best just won't come back. And at worst, they'll come back.

Pay attention to your discomfort, honor it, and then move out if at all possible.
posted by zippy at 3:26 PM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wait wait wait wait wait. Federal agents raided your house by kicking down your front door in search of your landlord, and you're worried that living with ten roommates is "too risky"? You've got to be kidding.

Dude, seriously. You need to leave as close to "this instant" as humanly possible. It's not even an issue. Get the hell out of there and worry about the lease later. This isn't a "should I leave or should I go" situation. The toilet paper thing was a "should I leave or should I go" situation. This is a situation where you need to start looking for new housing, today. I know it seems like the devil you know is better than the one you don't, but no, it really isn't, not when federal agents are literally breaking down the front door. You need to leave already.

Btw, I can almost guarantee you that this isn't "a big misunderstanding," at least not by the feds.
posted by holborne at 3:34 PM on June 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


Thanks for the responses so far. No, you guys aren't being harsh.

a) cops are really, really good at reading people, and being able to tell whether we are good guys or bad guys

When I first woke up, I was probably in a state of shock, so I'm not sure what I looked like, but I probably looked guilty only because my eyes were probably bugged out and I was pale. So, I'm not sure how I looked. Of course, I knew I did nothing wrong, but it was early in the morning, and I was just waking up after about two hours of sleepless sleep.

b) I notice that you said that you and your housemates are all deaf. I genuinely think that that puts you in more than normal danger if the federal agents carry out another dawn raid: if their instinctive trained actions are to expect responses to shouted warnings, and you don't react at all, you are in danger

Fortunately, they had interpreters present with them for the raid, so they apparently knew beforehand that we were all deaf.

c) I did mention this in my previous AskMes regarding my living situation; we have another landlord, so there's two of them. Let's call him Paul. I don't know if Paul would drag me to court or try, but he's a supplement to Manuel, so I'll be fighting against two landlords, should I want to break the lease.

This also may sound childish, but it's even more sticky because I'm friends with both of them on a personal basis. I don't want this to destroy our friendship, but at the same time, I want to look out for what's best for myself, and moving out probably would be that thing.

d) I looked online for Section 8 vouchers... looks like even the waiting list is closed. I'm on a salary south of $45k a year, so I'm not even sure if I would be eligible. Can anyone point me to other resources? I'd google, but I'm not at home right now.

e) If I ask Manuel for a copy of the warrant or ask what happened, what should I do if he balks or says no? Can I see the warrant via FOIA or some kind of request?

f) As to why nobody asked, etc., unfortunately, I do think all of us are a bit nervous about making Manuel upset or mad. Like I explained in my previous AskMes, he can be a bit aloof or rude at times - it may seem weird that I defended him, but he CAN be a good guy and he does have his caring/good moments, too. It's tricky because I knew him since middle school. I know. It is what it is.

g) I initially wanted to keep this vague, but to give you a bit of a better insight: the only thing I really know is that it may have had something to do with him selling used goods online. He sometimes buys things then sells them at a higher profit. That's all I know, and I'm not sure how it'd trigger a federal investigation. He did not elaborate or share further details.

I hope this does not sound like I'm making any excuses or anything. I really am taking in your suggestions and input, and I DO want to move out. I wanted to provide a better picture to get more specific answers. Thanks again, and yes, tough love is what I needed.
posted by dubious_dude at 4:13 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, and sorry for the threadsit, but I did ask another roommate if he wanted to move out with me. He declined so it looks like it's only me.
posted by dubious_dude at 4:17 PM on June 23, 2016


If I ask Manuel for a copy of the warrant or ask what happened, what should I do if he balks or says no?

Then you have your answer on whether there's any way the situation can be salvaged.

Can I see the warrant via FOIA or some kind of request?

Possibly. It may or may not be sealed.

the only thing I really know is that it may have had something to do with him selling used goods online. He sometimes buys things then sells them at a higher profit.

Unless those used goods are drugs or guns, then that is not likely to be the truth.

If there is another raid, I would not be surprised if the scope is expanded to include everyone's rooms.
posted by Candleman at 4:28 PM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


If I ask Manuel for a copy of the warrant or ask what happened, what should I do if he balks or says no? Can I see the warrant via FOIA or some kind of request?

Who cares? Just get out. You need to remove yourself from this shitstorm already.

I'll be fighting against two landlords, should I want to break the lease.

One of your landlords just had his home raided by the government. I think taking you to court for breaking your lease will not be high on his priority list.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:31 PM on June 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


In your shoes, 1) I'd contact the Office of the Tenant Advocate to ask their advice/learn about your rights as to whether or not you can safely break your lease/find out about possible assistance programs and 2) get out of there ASAP.

Do you have a couch you can crash on for a couple of days so you can get your head together away from this crazy apartment where you no longer feel safe? If so, do that. If not, then just take really good care of yourself. Maybe get some lavender oil if you're not allergic or sensitive--it's great for helping me calm down. Camomile tea, also good.
posted by smirkette at 4:35 PM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh, and link to OTA: http://ota.dc.gov/
posted by smirkette at 4:36 PM on June 23, 2016


Stop hanging on to middle school. You can still be friends, but dude you gotta cut the umbilical cord
posted by stoneweaver at 4:44 PM on June 23, 2016 [23 favorites]


I don't want this to destroy our friendship

An armed police team broke into your house in the middle of the night because of something this guy did. This absolutely should destroy your friendship.

His caring/good moments are manipulating you into ignoring shit like this because you've demonstrated, over and over again, that you will let him do that. Please stop letting him manipulate you. Please let this destroy the friendship. Nothing of value will be lost.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:35 PM on June 23, 2016 [33 favorites]


His caring/good moments are manipulating you into ignoring shit like this because you've demonstrated, over and over again, that you will let him do that. Please stop letting him manipulate you.

Just to be clear, how exactly is he manipulating me? Can you clarify on that? Thanks.
posted by dubious_dude at 6:00 PM on June 23, 2016


He is just nice enough to you to get you to overlook the fact that he is both a terrible landlord and a terrible friend. He does not look out for you and he takes advantage of you by, for example, renting you an illegal room because he knows you won't call him on it. He does not rent you this room because he is a good friend who really cares about you and has your back, he just knows that you don't want to "destroy the friendship" so he can use you to get a really compliant tenant who will pay the rent in a timely manner and won't call him on his bullshit.

You are afraid to talk to him about a really terrible situation because he has made it clear that he will not accept your feedback but he WILL accept your money for a room that isn't a legal room. He is completely in control of this relationship and has set all the boundaries about what you can and can't say or do. He has manipulated you into accepting his unacceptable behavior and not talking to him about it by making it not worth it to call him on anything and giving you the bare minimum of praise/support/friendship for doing exactly what it is he wants in every situation. He is using you and is not a good friend.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:09 PM on June 23, 2016 [56 favorites]


As to why nobody asked, etc., unfortunately, I do think all of us are a bit nervous about making Manuel upset or mad. Like I explained in my previous AskMes, he can be a bit aloof or rude at times

Here's one way he manipulates you (and others) - he is aloof or rude often enough that you are fearful of asking perfectly reasonable questions of him. Then he is nice enough at other times that you forgive him for it long past the point it is sensible.

I suspect this is at least somewhat because you two have known each other for so long - after this many years he knows exactly how to push your buttons to get the reaction he wants. And he has no incentive to stop doing that, because it's working for him.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:12 PM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


[Sorry, hit post too soon]
Knowing someone for a long time does not make them your friend. Friends care about the well-being of their friends. If he won't even acknowledge that a police raid happened in your home and that it might have been upsetting for you, he's not showing much concern for your well-being.

If I did something that caused the police to raid my house, and I was a landlord to random strangers, I would be profusely apologetic, would explain what happened and why and whether I expected it to happen again, and would offer to let them out of their lease. This guy is supposed to be your friend, and he's done none of those things.

There are many people in the world who will be much better friends than this guy, and others who will be much better landlords. Go find them.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:24 PM on June 23, 2016 [16 favorites]


One of the biggest reasons you have said, over and over and over, about why you "can't" move out or live without roommates is, you "can't afford it". Now you're saying you make $45K/yearly --- dude, I'm paying a mortgage right across the river in Alexandria on a lower income than that: hell YES you CAN afford a place by yourself. The heck with roommates who you say take advantage of you, the heck with shady landlords who rent you illegal (read: unsafe, because of the lack of emergency exits) rooms, the heck with the toilet paper drama and the cops breaking down doors and raiding the place: MOVE!!!
posted by easily confused at 6:32 PM on June 23, 2016 [29 favorites]


Friends care about the well-being of their friends. If he won't even acknowledge that a police raid happened in your home and that it might have been upsetting for you, he's not showing much concern for your well-being.

THIS. Manuel is NOT your friend. He's taking advantage of you, and others. He doesn't seem to care that his roommates are traumatized because your damn house got raided by the cops? This guy is a shitstain.

And if he's trying to tell you that poor widdle him is in trouble for Ebaying or some stuff like that - you don't get in trouble for selling stuff online unless it's either illegal to sell (like drugs) or he's selling stolen goods. People don't get in trouble for reselling stuff they get at garage sales, ffs!

Manuel is a Sketchyburger with Sketchup. Move. And get a better therapist, who can work with you on your issues of learned helplessness, or feeling you don't deserve a safe living situation.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:45 PM on June 23, 2016 [18 favorites]


Just throwing this out there as a possibility: you may be thinking (subconsciously) that this is the best you can expect from people who can accept your deafness. Please know that you can find other friends in the Deaf community who aren't jerks with a tendency to go completely aloof at the first sign of interpersonal conflict. For years I thought, basically, "all deaf kids except my cousin are mean," and it turned out that this just happened to be the culture of one very small group of kids.

Anyway, please don't feel like this is the best set of people you'll be able to find. It's easy to feel like that about childhood friends, especially if you're different - I let Mormon kids in Ohio treat me like crap because the alternative seemed to be having no one talk to me at all. This is a problem you can escape from now, as an adult, much more easily than you could as a teenager.

But also: worry about these issues later. Right now, be packing.
posted by SMPA at 6:47 PM on June 23, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don't know if Paul would drag me to court or try, but he's a supplement to Manuel, so I'll be fighting against two landlords, should I want to break the lease.

There is only 1 lease agreement that you have to be concerned about breaking. Who cares what Paul/Manuel think? Your home is no longer a sanctuary, that is all that matters.

Every ounce of energy you waste on this is one less ounce that could (and should) be directed towards working with a tenants' organization to break your lease, looking at Craigslist listings, visiting potential roommates, etc. Stop worrying about what these people think, whether you're under surveillance, etc.
posted by invisible ink at 6:50 PM on June 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


Just fucking move already. You've written about this situation multiples times and it just keeps getting worse and worse. I don't even know how that's possible. You're only answer is to move. Take control of your life, your anxiety and your living situation and just move. You keeping asking the Internet questions that they answered like 4 questions ago. Find a cheaper place that's further away and more peaceful. Make new friends, move to another, I don't know just get the fuck outta there. Forget the legal stuff, I don't know if it matters in the long wrong and thinking about it just seems to make you anxious. Sometimes the best way to find your footing and stand on your own is to just do it
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 6:57 PM on June 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


Also, you don't even have a bedroom. You have a room with a bed in it, but it's not a bedroom. How could someone like Paul or Manuel sue you for something illegal like that?
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 6:59 PM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Police reports in DC are free and may be done over email.

Your room doesn't have a window, so it's not a bedroom and your lease is unenforceable. Even so, the story they gave you basically got you to pay the same amount for a much shittier room. Why not just do a 6mo lease? Some friends.

If the raid was for drugs, the government might take the house anyway.
posted by rhizome at 7:15 PM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Your room doesn't have a window, so it's not a bedroom and your lease is unenforceable

Actually, they were about to offer that room, but it was postponed, due to construction taking longer than expected. So, it's now still in my original room with a window until next year.
posted by dubious_dude at 8:52 PM on June 23, 2016


That is a distraction.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:11 PM on June 23, 2016 [11 favorites]


I am skeptical that the raid was over him selling stuff for more than he bought it for, that a relative of his died, and that he is your friend.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:14 PM on June 23, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don’t know how many posters you need to tell you so before you seriously consider moving out of that place. So I’m adding my two pennies. Get out of there and move on your own.

I am not, and by very far, an anxious person but even I would consider moving out if I suspected my landlord was doing something shady (selling used goods online must be code word for selling stolen goods) that could impact my well being.
posted by Kwadeng at 2:27 AM on June 24, 2016


dubious_dude, I hope that the next time you jump in it's to update that you've found a place to live.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:29 AM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


There's a phenomenon in certain species of ants in which they start following each other in a large circle. Each ant knows to follow the ant ahead of it, and if the lead ant starts following the last ant, none of the ants know where else to go, and none of them are aware that they're making no progress. So they keep going in a circle until they all die of exhaustion.

I mention this because it seems to describe two things about your current living situation: first, that you don't see any options other than what's right in front of you, and so you feel like have to keep going in the same direction; second, that continuing to go in the same direction will not get you anywhere. You may not be in a literal death spiral, but you're going in circles and wearing yourself out. Nothing is going to get better until you change your pattern.

I know several things in your life are keeping you on rails right now, and that all the advice to move out probably sounds as realistic as living on the moon. I know from experience that breaking out of familiar, well-ingrained patterns is extremely challenging in the best of circumstances, and your particular circumstances are only making things more difficult. But change is not impossible.

Maybe you can't break completely free from the ant death spiral right this moment. But you can start moving towards the edge, bit by bit, until you finally catch sight of something that isn't another ant's ass. Maybe it's a different therapist, a different job, a different group of friends. It could take a long time. But you have to do what you can, and the sooner you start the sooner you'll get there. And Manuel, and Paul, and possibly everyone else you're living with, are ant butts. You will get nowhere trying to stay in line with them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:26 AM on June 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


Serious question: I've been doing apartment searching in DC, and many of their applications require landlord reference. If I were to apply, how would it work if I moved out, and got a bad reference from Manuel and Paul?

Fortunately, the living situation I am in now is not connected to my credit (they didn't do background checks or credit checks on me; it's just a signed piece of paper), but if they were unwilling to break the lease, what would my options be? I'm going to contact the OTA link someone gave me, but if anyone has any ideas how I can successfully break the lease AND still get a good reference without being screwed over, let me know.

As for the selling stolen goods, etc., not that I am completely defending Manuel, but I really doubt he intentionally sold stolen goods. He's not a thief. Maybe he bought stolen, used items and re-sold them without knowing it, but I'm positive it was unintentional. I don't know - that may not even have been the case at all or the reason for the raid. Just theorizing. You can say I have "Stockholm Syndrome" when it comes to Manuel - yes, he has issues, he has his quirks, he can be a jerk sometimes - but would he do something so criminal? Probably not. He's always struck me as a honest guy, someone who was always on the right side of the law. However, it could have been deceiving for all I could know. Some people can really surprise you.
posted by dubious_dude at 6:45 AM on June 24, 2016


if anyone has any ideas how I can successfully break the lease AND still get a good reference without being screwed over, let me know

You have a signed piece of paper, not a real lease. In any case, give them 30 days notice IN WRITING and you have any family member say they were your landlord. Why would you ever mention a landlord who offered you an illegal room and whose door was broken down by the Feds??

not that I am completely defending Manuel, but I really doubt he intentionally sold stolen goods. He's not a thief.

While you're looking for your new home, you should find a therapist. It's unnerving how deeply you're drawn into this clusterfuck drama. Cut the cord. Get out already. Stop defending and thinking about these people and go live your life.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:21 AM on June 24, 2016 [19 favorites]


You may also be able to find normal, sane group living arrangements through your community/university/the internet that would not involve a landlord reference, especially if one of your former roommates is willing to vouch for you.
posted by AndrewInDC at 7:31 AM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Moving is a pain and expensive and a process, but finding a sublet for a month or a week or whatever sometimes requires just a deposit and the first month. I get it, having cash in hand for those kinds of things can be really difficult, but having a safe space is a priority. Get personal references, get work references-- landlords rent to first time renters all the time, they know how this works. If they ask about this current one, tell them you were living with friends-- would they be okay with a personal reference? Then get one of the other roommates to vouch for you. You may be living an a less than ideal space for a few months, but let it be your space.

You don't have a lease, you can back out. You can break up with these friends. If you're not able to talk to them about what's going on because they will push back or be a jerk, they are not friends.
posted by thefang at 7:34 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I rent in DC and I've found that it's rare for landlords to actually call your references.
posted by capricorn at 8:09 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]




but would he do something so criminal?

Dude, start living up to your user name. They don't send 10-20 agents to bust down someone's door for accidentally selling a few stolen goods on eBay. He may or may not have actually done something, but whatever they think he might have done is big and bad.

Have you checked with your university's housing office? There may be students that are locked into a year long lease but have gone home for the summer that could could sublet from for a few months and then use that as the reference for the next place.

The layout is very weird, as in him having his room behind a door, then another door next to his room leading into a bathroom, then INSIDE the bathroom, another door leading into my bedroom.

If this is still the room you're in, then you may be able to break the lease easily, but keep in mind that no one here that has spoken up (myself included) is qualified to offer legal advice. There may be specific things you need to do in a specific order - please seek the assistance of the OTA rather than just relying on what people say here.

If you are able to get out of the lease by doing that, you can also use that to help mitigate if your landlord (Paul) won't give you a good reference. Have you been paying by check such that you can demonstrate a history of paying on time for several years by pulling up your bank records? Just explaining that you discovered that the room wasn't up to safety code (leave out the raid) and that's why you broke the lease may be enough to make good landlords comfortable with you.
posted by Candleman at 8:48 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


You might benefit from spending time creating (or refining) a budget. You've mentioned in past questions that you're paying $500/month in rent (plus utilities), making payments on $40K of student loans and seeing a therapist. With $45K salary, you should still be able afford your own place. There are good online tools, e.g., You Need a Budget available for free. If you get a better handle on your costs you can evaluate trade-offs, e.g., live near Metro and rent car occasionally vs live further out and own a car. That will give you more of a sense of agency and help you make decisions. For example, I think you're a copywriter. That's a good platform for making some outside income, either through online sites (where being Deaf won't pose any barriers) or through your network of not-for-profits.

It's time to take charge of your life.
posted by carmicha at 9:04 AM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


The layout is very weird, as in him having his room behind a door, then another door next to his room leading into a bathroom, then INSIDE the bathroom, another door leading into my bedroom.

Yeah, your current bedroom sounds like it is actually meant to be a nice dressing room. Some of them do have windows.
posted by moira at 10:23 AM on June 24, 2016


Yeah, your current bedroom sounds like it is actually meant to be a nice dressing room. Some of them do have windows

There's also a closet in my bedroom, as well.

I've contacted OTA and will wait to hear back from them. Let's see what assistance they can offer me. I made sure that they won't snail mail anything, because only my landlords have access to the mail; and also hope they won't contact them about the illegal nature of the bedroom (if it is, indeed, illegal instead of grandfathered in). They seem like more of a mediation kind of agency, though, not enforcement. Let's see what happens.
posted by dubious_dude at 10:31 AM on June 24, 2016


I feel like you aren't listening to everyone who is telling you to move immediately. Do not spend another night there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:58 AM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


only my landlords have access to the mail

Come on, man. Your landlord has control over your mail??! Why are you ignoring the tsunami of advice saying to get out already?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:35 PM on June 24, 2016 [23 favorites]


Dubious_dude: your reluctance to leave or change your situation, your defensiveness on behalf of people who are hurting you, your fear of confronting or offending those people—these are all patterns of a person trapped in an abusive relationship. Because that is what your relationship with Manuel and Paul is. Just because they aren't hitting you or having sex with you doesn't mean that they aren't emotionally and financially controlling and abusing you. Physical disabilities and mental health problems increase a person's risk of being abused because it further isolates them from help. Your so-called "friends" have you so isolated that you don't recognize how bad your living situation is and how badly you need to escape.

Only you can decide when you are ready to leave. But leaving is what you need to do. You're not safe, and it's not going to get better if you stay.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:09 PM on June 24, 2016 [27 favorites]


Even if Manuel is just a good dude caught up in an unfortunate misunderstanding, you are not obligated to sacrifice your mental or physical wellbeing just so he doesn't have to look for a new housemate. The whole point of a lease is so everyone knows in advance what happens if something comes up that complicates the landlord/tenant relationship, because relying on but well they are my pal who really did me a solid in renting to/from me leads to unhappy situations that continue on much longer than they should. Even if the lease is fully binding (which, for reasons people have pointed out, I kind of doubt, but like Candleman says, only a lawyer who knows the laws in your area and has gotten to read the lease and ask you their questions about your situation will be able to say with any certainty), there are ways to resolve that which don't involve living in a place that is aggravating anxiety issues and making you fear for your safety. It's not the end of the world to spend a few weeks looking for a subletter, or working out some way to compensate Manuel and Paul for lost rent. If they can't deal like adults with someone wanting to move out after a police raid, then they shouldn't be renting (and especially not to their friends.)
posted by Krom Tatman at 3:40 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


At this point I think you'd get better and faster legal advice if you went to a shelter or domestic violence organization tonight or tomorrow at the latest. I know you probably think you aren't allowed to use those services because you don't believe this is domestic violence but they will have the information you need there and they will prioritize getting you out of that situation into a safe one.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:05 PM on June 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Stop caring about these people because they clearly don't care about you. People break leases ALL THE TIME for WAY LESS than this and their landlords do absolutely nothing. There is no way that these people will pursue you in court because there is no way they would win, they would be spending a lot of money for nothing, and they have so many more problems to deal with right now.

Why do you feel like your only option is to stay in what is a legitimately traumatizing home environment? This won't get better. Your posting history shows that, even! You deserve better than this! Why are you putting up with such terrible treatment?

Maybe you can't see it now but a month after you leave you will be like "oh my god what was I thinking staying so long". Do future!you a favour and get out before it gets worse (how much worse can it get? do you REALLY want to stay and find out?).
posted by buteo at 7:31 PM on June 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


He's always struck me as a honest guy, someone who was always on the right side of the law.

Fortunately, the living situation I am in now is not connected to my credit (they didn't do background checks or credit checks on me; it's just a signed piece of paper)


Honey do you see how these two things don't add up? All of the rooms you've described to us in this and previous questions are not legally zoned to be bedrooms. The lease you're describing doesn't sound like it's particularly up to code either.

I am really, really concerned for your safety given the severity of the raid you're describing. I've lived in buildings where people were growing and manufacturing drugs and were raided-- think on the scale of, like, a studio apartment in a larger building being converted to a grow room for 50 pot plants by the manager and tenants. These raids, and other drug raids I've witnessed or heard about over the years, did not involve the presence of 10-20 armed federal agents breaking down doors. The raids that happened to families of my highschool friends, which actually did involve them busting down the door with a SWAT battering ram and arresting people with bona fide drug/gang connections, still did not involve 20 cops making a sweep of the apartment. I don't know what Manuel is really in trouble for, or what these 20 armed officers expected to find, but with that kind of manpower, I can promise you they're not coming after him for boosting stolen goods on ebay. I can also tell you that if they knew the entire household was Deaf, and proceeded accordingly, then this is absolutely not a misunderstanding of any kind. If that had been the case, then, like Azara pointed out, you and your housemates would all have been in tremendous danger from the agents being used to verbal communication. That didn't happen, though, did it? That didn't happen because they know exactly who Manuel is. They have had him and your house under surveillance and investigation for quite some time. Yes, you are currently under surveillance right now. GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE OF EVIL BEES. YES, TO ANSWER THE SUBTEXT OF YOUR QUESTION, THE FBI IS WATCHING YOU POOP.

I'm sorry. I just. Jesus christ it's like an anxiety dream about showing up naked to school came true in your real life, you know? The parcopresis apocalypse happened, and you survived it. I seriously wish I could hug you. I am just astounded that literally your worst nightmare of people listening to you go about your daily life and then barging in through the door came true, in an incredibly traumatic and actually life-threatening way, because your shitty landlord is also a criminal who has been knowingly endangering you and everyone else in your household by renting to you from his base of operations. But you know what? You did survive this mini apocalypse and catastrophic triggering of all your past bullying issues. And now you need to continue to survive, and get the hell out of this toxic living situation. Honey, please, move out. Manuel and Paul are not going to sue you for breaking their shady lease. There are ways around the previous landlord reference. If you still live close to Gallaudet there are social and support groups there for you to try branching out socially from what sounds like, at this point, a toxic family situation-- you've been around this guy since early teenhood? Dubious_dude, I know this is really hard. But you are an adult and you got this. Good luck.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:02 AM on June 25, 2016 [31 favorites]


It doesn't matter if Manuel and Paul are good guys or not. You need to move. You might face more legal difficulties for staying, depending on what the hell was behind the raid. For your own sake: move.
posted by RainyJay at 6:12 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


To build on RainyJay's comment above, a rational person would move immediately. Don't risk additional scrutiny from law enforcement--which now seems to think you have nothing to do with Manuel's alleged criminal activities--by behaving like a co-conspirator. Get out. Sever all ties.
posted by carmicha at 7:05 AM on June 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh and if I and my roommates were Deaf, I'd assume the FBI's surveillance included hidden cameras so they could see you sign to each other. If that idea freaks you out, move.
posted by carmicha at 7:10 AM on June 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


I once had to leave a guy that I lived with and I felt so bad about it that I made all these excuses about oh I don't want to break my lease and oh I don't want to have too much trouble finding a new place and oh no he is a nice guy he just hit me a few times and doesn't let me eat food and I'm scared all the time and Jesus, fuck, none of the bad stuff came true after I left but the longer I stayed the worse it got.

The longer you stay the worse this gets. Stop making excuses. Ask yourself, really ask yourself: why do you actually want to stay? What are you afraid of? Do you think that you are not worth a safe living environment? Do you think that you deserve this for some reason? Because you don't, but you are trapping yourself into living in such a bad situation that it is frankly becoming a bit unbelievable every time you post a new question.

There has only been one answer to your questions about your living situation since you started asking them. Your need to move out is not going to change. You need to move out. I know, change is scary. Not as scary as the fbi watching you, though. You're in hell right now, but you have the keys to walk away. Don't be your own prison guard. I promise you that if you walk away nothing even half as bad as what you have already experienced will happen. Debt is preferable to this. Having to live with ten people is preferable to this. Literally any other living situation is going to be better. So why won't you give yourself permission to leave?
posted by sockermom at 3:16 PM on June 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


I want to add: what is holding you to this expensive city? When people leave abusive relationships - this is an abusive situation, no doubt in my mind as a survivor of abuse - sometimes they have to move far away. And it sucks, and it is heartbreaking, and it is hard, and painful, but damn - damn, being free is worth it. Do you have the ability to go get a job somewhere else? In a less expensive city? You should really be considering literally every option that you can consider, even ones that seem extreme.
posted by sockermom at 3:20 PM on June 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


This also may sound childish, but it's even more sticky because I'm friends with both of them on a personal basis. I don't want this to destroy our friendship

This doesn't sound childish. It sounds delusional. This guy is doing something that got your house raided by a SWAT team!

Look, the consensus was that this was a terrible living situation even when it seemed like these guys were just bullies and terrible landlords. Now one of them is under criminal surveillance?! This is not in any way remotely normal.

Have you told your parents what happened? Why are they not helping you find a new place to live immediately? Or is there something abusive in your family history that makes you prone to stay in a situation that is so clearly dangerous?
posted by MsMolly at 9:36 PM on June 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


Dubious Dude-- How's it going?

Although the advice you're receiving may feel harsh, I hope you're reading people's emphatic tone for what it is: your MeFite buddies are concerned about your situation.
posted by carmicha at 11:21 AM on June 26, 2016 [14 favorites]


Bread for the City is at 1525 7th Street NW, and their free legal clinic has walk-in hours on Mondays from 1pm to 3pm. That's Monday, as in tomorrow. From their website:
During walk-in hours you can speak to an attorney or non-attorney advocate about problems with your landlord or subsidized housing providers, family law (custody, child support, divorce), domestic violence and public benefits (like SSI/SSDI). This is the best way to access our services for advice, referrals, and consideration for representation.
The situation you are in is very, very serious. You owe it to yourself to seek out every single resource available to you to fight for the best possible outcome for yourself, not to let worry about infinite hypotheticals paralyze you from trying. Please listen to the unanimous advice here, and do not wait for a perfect solution to present itself, because in this case it certainly will not. You deserve peace, privacy, and safety -- and these are not things that Manuel/Paul can offer you now, or at any point in the future. You can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS.
posted by argonauta at 6:43 PM on June 26, 2016 [11 favorites]


It seems like the only answer that we can give is asking back, "What is in your heart that is keeping you there?". And that's a therapist one-on-one intensive session job.

This isn't a logistics issue, or a "give me permission to break my lease cause I feel bad issue" or a "this is my first apartment and I have no idea what to do next" issue. There are an infinite number of inconveniences or excuses that you can keep pushing to the forefront as reasons that you absolutely must stay that sound acceptable to you.

People's actual advice here isn't what it sounds like you need right now. And the tough thing is that you are the reason you're still there. I sincerely wish you the best of luck getting to a point where you are a priority in your own life, and I hope you keep this thread updated.
posted by amicamentis at 10:00 AM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


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